-The Bucs had probably their most complete game of the season against the 49ers. All facets of the ball stepped up to do their job. The defense managed to hold San Francisco to just nine points, putting up an impressive effort at the goal line to deny the 49ers a touchdown in the third quarter at the half-yard line.. The offense protected the ball as well, moving up and down the field with four straight scoring drives spanning from the second to the fourth quarters. They were up three scores by the end of the game and were able to focus on controlling the clock as they forced San Francisco to burn through all of their timeouts as the clock ran down. Special teams did their part, namely kicker Cairo Santos, who was perfect on the day. He hit two field goals from 41 and 39 yards, and all three of his extra points in the Bucs 27-9 route of San Francisco at home.
-The Bucs saw an improved pass rush behind four sacks, which Head Coach Dirk Koetter said didn’t even tell the whole story. The line was able to get after San Francisco quarterback Nick Mullens early and often beyond what shows up in the sack column and wearing him down throughout the game. Mullens final stats saw him complete 18 of 32 passing attempts for 221 yards and only one touchdown, while throwing two interceptions. He was sacked four times for a loss of 27 yards collectively. The four sacks came from four different Bucs players. Defensive end Carl Nassib got the first in the first quarter, followed by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy on back-to-back plays in the second quarter. Rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea rounded it out in the fourth with a sack of his own, his second of the season. Including the sacks, the Bucs had a total of nine hits on the young Mullens, keeping him uncomfortable and unable to make anything happen. In fact, the 49ers got in the red zone just twice all game, having success on just one of their trips.
-The cherry on top of the big defensive effort from the Bucs were the two takeaways that came in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay finally took the ball away on a Ryan Smith interception in the end zone on first down at the Bucs’ 26-yard-line. It was the third-year corner’s first interception of his career and broke an eight-game streak of zero takeaways for the Bucs’ defense. The Bucs didn’t capitalize on the scoreboard, but were able to take over four minutes off the clock and force San Francisco to burn through all three of their timeouts. The next 49er possession resulted in another interception to seal the game by safety Isaiah Johnson, also the first of his career. With no turnovers on offense, it meant the Buccaneers won the turnover battle 2-0 in the win.
-Couple big individual notes to highlight here:
Wide receiver Mike Evans eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark against the 49ers. While that by itself is impressive, especially considering he’s done it in just 11 games, there’s much more to it for the Bucs’ ‘X’ receiver. He’s reached the 1,000-yard mark every season he’s been in the league, now totaling five, which makes him just the third player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. That’s right, NFL history. He’s in the company of Randy Moss and the Bengals’ A.J. Green with that accomplishment. Quarterback Jameis Winston said after the game how proud he was of Evans for reaching the milestone, and doing it with five games left on the season, at that. Last season came down to the wire, with Winston recalling the throws he was forcing to Evans so he could reach 1,000 yards. Evans ended 2017 with 1,001 yards receiving, thanks to his quarterback.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul accounted for one of the Bucs’ four total sacks, putting him over the double-digit mark on the season. He now has 10.5 sacks through 11 games and is the first Buccaneers player with over 10 sacks since Simeon Rice had 14.0 in 2005. The sack came in the second quarter right after San Francisco had been called on a false start at their own 31-yard-line. On first-and-15, Pierre-Paul dropped quarterback Nick Mullens for an 11-yard loss right before the two-minute warning. They say sacks come in a flurry too and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy followed it up with another sack on second-down to force the 49ers into a third-and-30 situation. I don’t think I need to tell you they didn’t convert. Pierre-Paul has been the picture of consistency for the Buccaneers’ defense so far this season. He added another quarterback hit to his stats before the game was over.