Defense Stands Tall as 49ers Beat Buccaneers 31-17 in Season Opener

Photo credit: nbcbayarea.com

By: Joe Lami

The Niners defense forced four turnovers on Sunday, more than half of their 2018 total, as they earned their first victory of the season 31-17 over Tampa Bay. The defense carried the weight in the win, outscoring the offense 2-1 in the touchdown department.

San Francisco’s new-look defense appears to be running on full steam by the time the second half rolled around where they would see two pick-sixes from Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. The updated front seven created chaos for Jameis Winston, picking up three sacks on the Bucs’ QB.

Winston struggled, finishing 20 of 36 for 194 yards and one touchdown.

Rookie Joey Bosa picked up his first career sack while getting three QB hits, and three tackles. Bosa was fooled early in the contest by Winston in the pocket but said postgame that it was a great learning experience.

While the defense deserves praise, the offense still has a ways to go. Jimmy Garoppolo was good enough to earn the win, throwing 18 of 27 for 166 yards, a touchdown, and a pick-six. His favorite target was George Kittle who carried the most of the weight with eight catches for 54 yards. He would’ve scored a touchdown early in the first quarter, but it was called back via penalty.

Penalties cost both teams dramatically, taking away a combined five touchdowns. The Niners were whistled 11 times for 87 yards, taking away three touchdowns and killing multiple drives.

The Niners rushing attack was mediocre, fueled by Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, and Tevin Coleman. Mostert got the blunt of the workload in the second half trying to put the game away. He finished with nine carries for 40 yards, while Breida got 15 carries for 37 yards.

Coleman’s 49ers’ debut was cut short, as he went down with an ankle injury after getting six carries for 23 yards. He’s scheduled for an x-ray on Monday.

Garoppolo’s lone TD came on the opening possession of the second half, finding Richie James Jr. from 39-yards out down the left sideline. It was James’ first career score.

Sherman earned his third career pick-six immediately following James’ score, giving the Niners a 20-7 lead. It also marked his first interception in the red and gold, as the former all-pro was shutout last season.

The unsung hero was backup linebacker Mark Nzeocha, who blocked a punt and had an interception. Nzeocha entered the game when former Bucs’ linebacker Kwon Alexander was ejected for targeting Winston.

Witherspoon’s first career touchdown put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, making it 30-17 with 2:01 remaining.

The victory is a huge morale boost for San Francisco. Much of the off-season was dedicated towards adding to the pass rush and forcing more turnovers. They did just that in the win. The Niners will now extend their road trip, with a matchup against the 0-1 Bengals next Sunday at 10:00 a.m. PST.

San Francisco 49ers podcast with David Zizmor: How the Foster release will impact the 49ers going into next week’s game

photo from sfgate.com: Hillborough County Sheriff’s photo of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ruben Foster on Sunday who was released 12 hours after mug shot was taken after being charged with domestic violence

On the 49ers podcast with David:

#1 San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ruben Foster was arrested on Saturday night for domestic violence in Tampa and was released by the team immediately where does this leave the team. If Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was any indication the team for sure were embarrassed by this latest incident and did it impact them in their losing the game?

#2 Apparently, there was a October incident that never took a life of it’s own that was investigated by Santa Clara Police, but the charges were dropped. In the Tampa incident Saturday a neighbor at the 49ers’ hotel heard Foster and his girlfriend arguing and called police. It was reported that Foster hit the phone out of the girlfriend’s hands and pushed her in the chest.

David Zizmor does the 49ers podcasts each Tuesday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

49ers Cut Foster, Lose to Bucs 27-9

Photo credit: @49ers

By: Joe Lami

Sunday marked the most incompetent game of the season for the San Francisco 49ers as they lost their fifth straight road game 27-9 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers now stand at 2-9, clinching their fourth straight losing season, with five games remaining. The poor outing coming off of the bye week wasn’t the story though.

Before the game Sunday, general manager John Lynch announced Linebacker, Rueben Foster has been cut. The announcement occurred all while Foster was still in a Tampa jail following an arrest Saturday night for domestic battery after an incident at the team hotel.

The 49ers clearly showed their zero-tolerance policy with Foster with the separation. In the off-season, Foster saw legal trouble and was arrested for domestic battery at a home in Los Gatos. After a long legal battle, the charges were eventually dropped after the accuser admitted in court she lied to ruin Foster’s career.

At that time, the 49ers made Foster promise it was the last time and to cut ties with the accuser. But on Saturday night, it appears she may have returned. According to The Athletic and the Tampa police, the party involved had a tumultuous on and off relationship with Foster.

She wanted to press charges after she claimed to have had her phone slapped out of her hand. The Tampa police also revealed she had a one-inch scratch on her collarbone.

Foster, a 2017 first-round pick, has been released on $2,000 bail. His NFL career is now in jeopardy as he faces up to a year in prison if he’s found guilty of the charge set forth.

Regardless of his guilt, the release was going to be inevitable because of the promise he broke with Lynch and the 49ers. Lynch later admitted that this was a team decision to help shape culture.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Sunday a second incident occurred in October between Foster and the victim. The 49ers were unaware of the October incident at the time of release.

The result of Sunday’s contest may be caused by Foster’s situation, or maybe the team finally has quit on the year. Regardless, Sunday’s contest may be the worst following a bye week in franchise history. The 49ers were awful from the start of the game. Unable to do anything, struggling on third down, converting 1-of-8; the 49ers couldn’t move the ball.

Nick Mullens has sunk back to mediocrity and continues to have issues with throwing the ball down the field. Mullens finished 18-of-32 for 221, one touchdown, and two picks.

Tampa Bay native, Matt Breida, put on a show in front of friends and family. The only 49er able to do anything ran for 106 yards on 14 attempts.

Jameis Winston earned the starting position again this week and threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns.

Tampa Bay won the battle between the two worst teams at taking care of the football. The Bucs defense forced two interceptions while sacking Mullens four times with consistent pressure.

With five games remaining, the 49ers sit at 2-9, appear to be a sure lock at the top pick in the draft.

Four Keys to a 49ers Victory Against the Buccaneers

Photo credit: @NBCS49ers

By: Joe Lami

The bye week has come and gone for the San Francisco 49ers, but they still have winnable games ahead, including this Sunday against the 3-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay has been a similar train wreck. Inconsistency at the quarterback position has doomed them with Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick sharing the duties.

Winston will get the start Sunday after winning his job back (yet again) after Sunday’s comeback win against the Giants. But he hasn’t been great, completing 65% of his passes for 1,380 yards and eight touchdowns. The problem has been taking care of the ball, with 11 interceptions and five fumbles.

Here are my four keys to a 49ers victory against the Buccaneers:

Takeaways
With Tampa’s inability to take care of the ball, it’s time for the defense to shine. San Francisco has the league’s worst takeaway total thus far, with just five on the season. This week needs to be the turnaround week for a mediocre defense that can’t make the play to get them off the field. Tampa Bay has given the ball away league-worst 29 times.

Tampa’s defense also doesn’t get takeaways either, with just six on the season. Their -23 differential is the only the one worse than San Francisco’s -15.

In a game that’s sure to be sloppy, winning the turnover battle is a must.

Injuries
Coming off of the bye week gives San Francisco a fighting chance to finally get healthy. Matt Breida has been battling a nagging ankle injury all season long and could have a great second half to the season if he can remain healthy. He was not listed on the team’s injury report as of Friday.

Reuben Foster also saw limited practice earlier in the week and could make a key return to the middle linebacking spot for the 49ers, after sitting out since Week 9 with a hamstring issue.

Pierre Garcon didn’t practice on Wednesday but remains hopeful on making a key return.

Game Plan
Nick Mullens will be making his third career start on Sunday. In his debut, he torched the Raiders en route to an easy win. However, he struggled more against the Giants, throwing 250 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. The key difference was the game plan.

Against the Raiders, he was making quick and timely decisions. Most of the play calls had him managing the game and not taking huge risks. Against the Giants, they tried to take more risks down the field and it didn’t work. Receivers couldn’t get open for him and he was unable to move the ball effectively.

Return to what worked against the Raiders on offense.

The defensive play calling has also been suspect under Robert Saleh. The 49ers hardly blitzed against a Giants team two weeks ago that was averaging four sacks surrendered a game. They thought their front four could bring enough pressure, but that didn’t work, sacking Eli Manning only once.

Tampa Bay is another struggling team. Be more aggressive on defense. Make the Buccaneers make some plays. The 49ers secondary isn’t good enough to create coverage sacks. Don’t get beat because you’re scared, get beat because you went down swinging.

Also, adapt. It appears both coaches are terrible at adapting in-game and can’t recognize what’s being given to them. This season may be lost, but when the 49ers have a team talented enough to win games, adapting mid game is crucial.

Get Going Early
The early body clock games have seemed to always have been a nightmare for San Francisco. Since 2015, the Niners are 3-13 for the 10 am PST kickoff. Two of the wins have come under Shanahan, but only when he had Garoppolo. A fast start is necessary for a team that has always struggled with the early kickoff.

San Francisco 49ers podcast with Joe Lami: Tomlinson hasn’t missed a snap for the last two seasons; 49ers, Bucs–two last place teams battle it out Sunday

sfchronicle.com photo: Laken Tomlinson #75 of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field after defeating the Oakland Raiders 34-3 in their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium on November 1, 2018 in Santa Clara, California.

On the San Francisco 49ers podcast with Joe:

#1 49ers left guard Laken Tomlinson is nothing short of incredible– dedicated hard working, practices hard, plays hard, but most significantly, Tomlinson has not missed a single snap this season–all 666.

#2 Tomlinson will be entering this Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay, playing all ten consecutive games and playing in his second season without missing a game.

#3 Tomlinson said he wants to be there for his teammates and not disappoint and support his teammates.

#4  Tomlinson also ranks third in the NFL for rushing per game at 133.6 per game.

#5 The 49ers (2-8), last in the NFC West, are in Tampa Bay this Sunday playing the NFC South’s last place Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7).

Joe does the 49ers podcast each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Raiders no longer flying under the radar

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — It’s been a renaissance season for the Silver and Black in 2016.

At 7-2 and getting a chance to get healthy during their by week, Oakland is looking to finish the season off strong in what the team is hoping will end in a playoff appearance for the first time since 2002, also, the team’s last Super Bowl appearance.

Oakland has the fifth-ranked offense led by a quarterback that plays more like a 10-year veteran in third-year pro Derek Carr, a running back with a knack for touchdowns in Latavius Murray, and a stud wide receiver combo headlined by Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.

Carr is having a career-year as one of the elite passers in the league, ranking fifth in passing yards (2,505), tied for third in touchdowns (17),to go along with just three interceptions this season.

Oakland’s signal had a game for the ages in Week 8, throwing for a career-high 513 yards (breaking a franchise record held by Cotton Davidson, who threw for 427 yards in 1964), and four touchdowns in the Raiders wild 30-24 overtime victory of the Buccaneers in Tampa.

Carr became just the third quarterback in league history to pass for 500+ yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions joining Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle and Ben Roethlisberger according to the Elias Sports Bureau to accomplish that feat.

His 500-yard passing game was just the 20th such game in NFL history.

Carr’s performance earned him the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, joining teammates in punter Marquette King (AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 7 against Jacksonville), and linebacker Khalil Mack (AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 9 against Denver) to garner player of the week honors.

King punted five times (for 273 yards) and placed four of those punts landed inside the Jacksonville 20-yard line. King also had a punt sail 60 yards in the air.

Coming into the game, Murray didn’t have a game in which he rushed for  at least 60 yards until the fourth-year running back from Central Florida saw the third-ranked Broncos defense, who rank 29th in the league against the run by allowing 128.6 yards to opposing offenses.

Murray ran rough and hard against Denver, rumbling for 114 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns while being named the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week for his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

Murray’s eight rushing touchdowns are tied for second with Arizona running back David Johnson for the league lead among running backs, only trailing New England’s LeGarrette Blount and San Diego’s Melvin Gordon, who have nine rushing scores a piece.

Oakland’s defense has played better in recent weeks, particularly the last two weeks holding Tampa Bay and Denver to 270 and 299 yards of total offense respectively after giving up nearly 400 yards of total offense per game through the first seven games of the season.

Now that Mack has found his groove at getting to the quarterback, Oakland’s pass rush has seen major improvement.

Mack was unstoppable against the Broncos, registering two sacks, a forced fumble and recovery (all on the same play) in Oakland’s 30-20 victory over Denver that vaulted the Raiders to the top of the AFC West.

Mack also earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors against the Broncos last year in Week 14, tying a franchise record held by Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long with five sacks (all in the second half) in the Raiders’ 15-12 win in Denver.

After a slow start in which Mack only had one sack through five games for Oakland, the ferocious linebacker from Buffalo has recorded six sacks in his last four games bringing his season total to seven sacks after finishing with 15 a season ago.

No longer are the Raiders flying under the radar with the home stretch of the season in the windshield.

With their next three games at home (with the exception of Week 11 matchup against the Houston Texans in Mexico City at the Estadio Azteca, and in Oakland against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12 and the Buffalo Bills in Week 13), the Raiders could strengthen their position in the AFC with more wins for a fan base that is hungry for a winner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland Raiders-Tampa Bay Buccaneers preview: Raiders look for Florida sweep in Tampa

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP photo: Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio goes out for a third quarter hand shake with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during their visit with the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday

TAMPA, FL — With already four wins on the road this season, the Oakland Raiders have a chance to go 5-0 on the road if they can knock off the Buccaneers in Week 8 at Raymond James Stadium Sunday.

Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. ET/10:05 a.m. PT.

The 33-16 Week 7 victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville was a satisfying win for the organization and for head coach Jack Del Rio, who was fired by the Jaguars after nine seasons. Del Rio was booed by Jaguars fans while leading the Silver and Black on to the field.

After missing two games with turf toe, running back Latavius Murray returned to the starting lineup and gave the running game a boost by scoring two touchdowns on the ground. Murray led Oakland with 59 yards on 17 carries.

Quarterback Derek Carr continues to be one of the best passers in the league, after completing 23-of-37 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown to wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

After catching just two passes on four targets for 10 yards in Oakland’s 26-10 loss to the visiting Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6, Crabtree bounced back with eight catches (on 11 targets) for 96 yards. Crabtree hauled in a 2-yard touchdown catch to give Oakland a 20-6 lead shortly before halftime and the rout was on.

Oakland’s defense forced two interceptions and forced a fumble against a Jaguars (2-5) team that like Oakland, came into the 2016 season with high expectations but have turned into one of the more disappointing teams in the league.

Jacksonville finished with 344 yards of total offense, picking up most of those yards when the game was out of reach. It was the least amount of yards that Oakland’s 32nd ranked defense has surrendered this season.

Instead of traveling back to California then turning around to return to Florida, the Raiders (5-2) for the first time since 2001, remained in Florida and trained at the IMG Academy in Bradenton in preparation for Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay (3-3) is an intriguing opponent for the Silver and Black, who shouldn’t overlook this team heading into next week’s showdown with the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football in Oakland.

The Buccaneers traveled to the West Coast and thrashed another bottom-feeder in the San Francisco 49ers 34-17 in Week 7.

Running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who was picked up on waivers from the Chicago Bears, has filled in nicely for oft-injured starter Doug Martin with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.

After recording his first career 100-yard rushing game in a 17-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 5, Rodgers ran roughshod over the Niners for a career-high 154 yards on 26 carries. Oakland will need to stop the run early or Rodgers could have another breakout performance.

Tampa Bay found itself down 14-0 early before exploding for 27 unanswered points and piling up 249 yards on the ground. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston tossed three touchdowns and 269 yards on 21-of-30 passes and an interception.

Even without veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, Tampa Bay has some play-makers that can pose problems for Oakland’s defense.

Against San Francisco, wide receiver Mike Evans caught eight passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, while fourth year wide receiver Russell Shepard hauled in five passes for 77 yards including a 19-yard touchdown catch from Winston right before the end of the first half.

Evans is tied with Crabtree for the league lead with six touchdown catches this season.

Backup running back Peyton Barber’s 44-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter iced the game for Tampa Bay. Barber finished with 84 yards on 12 carries.

One match up to watch out for will be between Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper and Buccaneers rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

Cooper lit up the former Florida cornerback with 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns in Alabama’s 42-21 victory on Sep. 20, 2014 in Tuscaloosa.

 

 

 

Ball bounces 49ers way in 33-14 win over Tampa Bay

Image

By Morris Phillips

It’s the one thing million of fans, 106 football players and 48 coaches gathered and paired on any given Sunday can’t control.  Given the effort, passion and countless film study that goes into a NFL game, it’s confounding and frustrating to all involved.  And while you may get used to it, it doesn’t get any easier to endure.

Yes, it’s the unsolvable mystery of the bouncing football. On Sunday in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the football took a cruel bounce on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs suffered through a rough first half in which the defending NFC champs controlled the football and the scoreboard, leading 17-7 at the break.  But with a much better third quarter, Tampa Bay trailed just 20-14 after Mike Glennon connected with receiver Tim Wright on the first play of the fourth quarter.

But instead of continuing their surge, the Buccaneers collapsed while the 49ers and the mysterious bouncing ball took over.  Incredibly, Tampa Bay would have the ball for just 105 seconds in the fourth quarter and go on to fall to San Francisco, 33-14.

The 49ers continued their march to the playoffs, winning their fourth straight and improving to 10-4 with two games remaining.  The Bucs failed to continue their late season surge—they had won four of five after opening the season with eight straight losses—and fell to 4-10.

But back to the critical play; the Bucs trailed 23-14 after the 49ers responded to Tampa Bay’s surge with a 17-play drive and a Phil Dawson field goal that gave them a two-score margin once again.  That meant the Bucs needed a big play to regain momentum.  So Head Coach Greg Schiano dialed up the reverse on the ensuing kickoff, but watched it go horribly wrong.

“We were going to run a reverse if the opportunity presented itself in the right way,” Schiano recounted.  “It didn’t, yet we still ran it.  We made a mistake.”

“I don’t think anyone planned for it to go that way… that wasn’t the way it was supposed to work out,” Eric Page—who handles both punt and kickoff return duties for Tampa Bay—said.  “It was going smooth in practice, and we knew it was going to be open.  When I looked back, I thought he had the ball… then I saw him fall.”

“Him” was rookie Russell Shepard, who took the handoff from Page, going left to right.  While the play may have worked in practice, in the game, 49er Kendall Hunter had it sniffed out and was in perfect position to tackle Shepard after only a few strides.  Shepard—without having a chance to completely secure the ball—tried to make a big step in attempt to elude Hunter.  But he plant foot slid, and suddenly he was on his way down, face first.  That’s when the football, operating with a mind of its own, popped up directly into Hunter’s hands.  The 49ers’ backup running back then saw his momentum take him and the ball into the end zone for the back breaking score.

Shepard, who was waived by the Eagles at the end of the pre-season, then picked up by Tampa Bay, where he’s stuck for the entire season, became the goat.  But afterwards, he wasn’t shirking responsibility or placing blame on the power of the randomly bouncing football.

“I’ve got to secure it,” Shepard said.  “I have to be able to secure the ball.  Unfortunately, at a tight point in the game, it happened.  I have to give our offense an opportunity to come out and have a game-winning drive.”

Colin Kaepernick continued his strong play since the return of Michael Crabtree with a 19 for 29 performance, 203 yards and touchdown passes to Crabtree and Vernon Davis.  Repeatedly in the first half, Kaepernick dropped back to pass, but used his legs and strong arm to make plays.  First, Kap scrambled and threw for a 17-yard pass play to Crabtree that picked up a first down along the sideline.  Then another scramble bought time and Kaepernick found Crabtree for a 4-yard touchdown that put the 49ers up 7-0.  Later in the half, the third-year signal caller showed off his arm on a 52-yard pass and score to Davis.

“It was a heck of a throw,” Coach Jim Harbaugh said of the big pass play.  “We had really good protection on the play, but the way Vernon extended and ran that ball down, I mean it looked like Willie Mays running down a long fly ball to center field.”

Glennon didn’t have much early success and didn’t get hardly any touches in the fourth quarter.  In between, he was passable, finishing 18 for 34 for 179 yards.  But Glennon felt the pressure from the 49ers’ front four, getting sacked four times.  The Bucs’ run game didn’t provide much support either; two backs combined for just 39 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Former 49er Dashon Goldson got an opportunity to face his team of the previous six seasons but didn’t have much of an impact.  Goldson was in on five tackles, but didn’t have any of his signature run support plays against Frank Gore, who finished with 86 yards rushing on 22 carries.

Gore went over 1,000 yards rushing on the season with the performance, the seventh time he’s reached that milestone in his nine-year career.  Gore joins an elite list of 20 littered with Hall of Famers who also achieved seven 1,000-yard seasons.  The incredibly durable back also made his 42nd consecutive start against Tampa Bay, the longest such current streak in the NFL.

Davis’ touchdown catch was the 52nd of his career, and he became the first tight end in NFL history to register two, 12 touchdown-catch seasons.  Davis also made a touchdown catch for the fifth consecutive week even as the ending—into the wall at the rear of the end zone—wasn’t much fun.

“I didn’t know their wall was right there,” Davis said.  “As soon as I looked up, the wall was right there.  It just knocked the wind out of me a little bit.”

The 49ers return home for the season finale and possible final 49ers’ game at Candlestick Park on Monday night, December 23.  After that, the 49ers conclude their regular season in Glendale against the Cardinals on the following Sunday.

 

49ers looking to make it five straight wins

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 10:00am the San Francisco 49ers (9-4) will be taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9), at Raymond James Stadium. The 49ers are in second place in the NFC West, two games back of the Seattle Seahawks. The Buccaneers are in third place in the NFC South, and are out of playoff contention.

Last weekend San Francisco won their fourth consecutive game, beating the Seahawks 19-17, in possibly their biggest victory of the season. The 49ers came back three different times, ultimately putting the game away on a Phil Dawson field goal with 26 seconds left in the game. Dawson had four field goals on the evening, including kicks from 48 and 52 yards out. Colin Kaepernick wasn’t great, but he did just enough. He completed 15-of-29 passes for 175 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Anquan Boldin led all receivers with six receptions for 93 yards. After losing badly to Seattle earlier this season, San Francisco made the necessary adjustments, and leaned more on their running game. Frank Gore rumbled for 110 yards on 17 carries. As a team they ran for 163 yards.

The 49ers are unlikely to catch the Seahawks for the division crown, but it was still a huge win. It allows San Francisco to build some confidence and continue to build their momentum as they look to clinch a playoff spot.

This week the task at hand should be considerably easier. Tampa Bay has some talent, but are a team in turmoil looking to rebuild their identity. Coach Greg Schiano is likely on the hot seat, as he leads them through another disappointing season. Rookie QB Mike Glennon was handed the keys to the offense part way through the year, and for the most part has been solid. As is to be expected from a rookie, however, he is still going through some growing pains. At running back there are down to their third stringer after a rash of injuries to Doug Martin and Mike James. Bobby Rainey, the new starter, isn’t a world-beater but has some explosiveness. Vincent Jackson is the only reliable receiver on the squad, but is a legitimate deep threat. As a unit they are ranked 30th in the NFL in points per game, and 31st in yards.

It is their defense, which while not great, has been good enough to keep them in striking distance. Linebacker David Lavonte has been phenomenal, and leads the team in tackles (117) and interceptions (5), and is second on the team in sacks (6). And of course the imposing cornerback Darrelle Revis will be blanketing the 49er receivers. Statistically he isn’t have a great year, and in general hasn’t been the same recently, but is still always a threat. Their defense has allowed the 11th fewest points, and 12th fewest yards. Their primary weakness is against the pass, where they are only ranked 17th.

The 49ers are at their best when they are utilizing a run-heavy offense, regardless of the opponent. That shouldn’t change against the Bucs, but Kaepernick should have a slightly easier time making plays without the stout Seattle defense barring down on him. Particularly with Michael Crabtree back, who should only shake more and more of the rust off with each game he plays, their passing attack could get more explosive moving forward.

Crabtree has been limited in practices this week with a minor ankle injury, but it is not believed to be related to his Achilles tear. He is expected to be fine for Sunday’s matchup.