The offense stayed balanced.
The Buccaneers put up big passing numbers again, surpassing 300 yards through the air with quarterback Jameis Winston throwing two touchdown passes on the day. But what’s even more impressive is the fact that the Bucs did it as part of a balanced overall offensive attack in which Tampa Bay ran 31 rushing plays. As a result, the Bucs’ offense had control of the ball by a hefty margin, possessing the ball for 34:09 versus San Francisco’s 25:51. It’s no surprise running back Peyton Barber shouldered a majority of the load with 18 rushing attempts but it was quarterback Jameis Winston that had the next-highest with seven.
Winston did a good job of getting it done with his legs to keep plays alive, stepping up to evade pressure. He took off for a 15-yard gain In the second quarter when the Bucs found themselves in 49er territory on first-and-10. It was a play action play that the 49er defense didn’t bite on, instead breaking through on the outside, forcing Winston to abort his pass attempt because of the incoming pressure. Both center Ryan Jensen and right guard Alex Cappa looped back around to block as Winston scrambled the rest of the way across the line of gain and then some. The drive resulted in the Bucs’ first field goal of the game.
Add in 31 rushing yards from running back Jacquizz Rodgers and the Bucs were able to hold onto the ball longer, therefore also keeping the defense fresh for their stellar performance on the day.
The pass defense is improving.
The Buccaneers struggled early in the season, allowing opposing quarterbacks to get by through the air and perhaps not bringing enough pressure to make them uncomfortable.
The Buccaneers have held the last three opponents to under 200 net passing yards, which is good for the team’s longest streak since 2014. It comes at a time when just one player in the secondary would be considered a veteran, and two starters are rookies. They are playing their part, along with an injury-depleted linebacking corps, but it’s what the Bucs are doing up front that has made all the difference. The 49ers were held to 194 net yards passing and the defense registered a total of 11 quarterback hurries and 19 total pressures of 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens on Sunday. Four sacks were part of that effort, the Bucs’ second-highest single-game total this season. The 27 yards San Francisco lost as a result of those sacks count against the overall passing yardage, pushing the 49ers under 200. The sacks also came from four different players, making it hard for the San Francisco offensive line to know who to account for in protection. Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner had said earlier in the week it would be important to make Mullens uncomfortable and the previous stats would suggest that’s exactly what the Bucs did.
The rookie and the vet.
Rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea had his best game as a Buccaneer on Sunday. He recorded four tackles, three of which were for a loss, and a solo sack for his second on the season. He’s the first Buccaneer rookie to record three or more tackles for loss since 2012, when linebacker Lavonte David did it late in the season. Head Coach Dirk Koetter has talked about the sheer power Vea is able to couple with his athleticism and it certainly showed on Sunday as he made those three trips into the backfield.
His biggest exclamation point came on first-and-10 as the 49ers were at the Bucs’ 37-yard line. The Bucs brought five as Mullens handed the ball off to running back Jeff Wilson. Vea was able to immediately burst through the A-gap, taking San Francisco right guard Mike Person with him as he wrapped up Wilson for a three-yard loss with Person still on his back. It was a monstrous play and showed exactly what Vea is capable of – which is overpowering veteran offensive linemen one-on-one and trapping shifty backs before the line of scrimmage.
Meanwhile, veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been quietly consistent for the Bucs over the past few games. He notched himself a sack of Mullens in the second quarter, which wash his third consecutive game now with a quarterback takedown. Over the past four games, he’s had 4.5 sacks, which ties for the second-most in the NFL during that span. His 6.0 on the year tie him for fifth-most by a defensive tackle this season.
Something that doesn’t show up on your average stat sheet? Quarterback hurries, of which McCoy had five in the game. That means he accounted for nearly half of the Bucs’ 11 in the game, making him a huge reason why Mullens was kept uncomfortable throughout the game.
By now, you know that wide receiver Mike Evans is just the third player in NFL history to surpass 1,000 yards in his first five seasons (or you should if you read quick thoughts, or any of the stories on Buccaneers.com immediately following the game yesterday). But there were quite a few other things that were impressive about Evans’ 116-yard performance on Sunday.
It was his second consecutive game with 100 or more receiving yards and he now has six such games on the season. That’s good for the second-most in a single season in team history and we still have five games to go, guys. His 1,073 receiving yards this season are the fourth most in the NFL and the most by a Buccaneers player through 11 games in franchise history. His five 1,000-yard seasons for the Buccaneers not only go down in NFL history, but team history as well, extending his own Bucs record of consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns.
Top Photos from Buccaneers vs. 49ers - Week 12
View Team Photographer Kyle Zedaker's top photos from the Buccaneers' Week 12 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Highlight-worthy individual performances
-Tampa Bay newcomer and defensive end Carl Nassib opened hunting season on quarterback Nick Mullens for the Bucs’ defensive linemen by registering a sack and forced fumble on the 49ers’ first drive of the game. It was the first forced fumble of his career (unfortunately recovered by San Francisco) and sack number 5.5 this season. He’s had at least a half sack in the past four games and also managed two quarterback hits on Sunday, giving him 11 for 2018.
-You should already know by now as well that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was also one of the sack contributors on Sunday, giving him 10.5 sacks on the season. He now becomes the first Buccaneers player into double digits since Simeon Rice had 14.0 in 2005. Pierre-Paul is on pace for nearly 16.0 sacks this season and has been the picture of consistency for the Bucs' defensive line.
-Tight end Cameron Brate scored the Bucs’ first touchdown of the game on Sunday. It was the 21st of his career, passing wide receiver Vincent Jackson for the ninth-most receiving touchdowns of any player in Bucs’ history. Since the start of the 2016 season, Brate has 18 touchdown catches, which is tied for the second-most in the NFL among tight ends during that span. He sits one behind league-leader Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs.