As originally posted here.
Time: 4:05 p.m. ET
Location: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
Weather: Sunny with High of 67 ⁰F and Low of 57 ⁰F
Two young teams atop of their respective divisions battle it out when the scrappy Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) travel to San Francisco to play the equally resourceful 49ers (3-1). The Bucs hope to win their fourth straight coming from a short week beating the Indianapolis Colts Monday night 24-17 in hopes to keep up with the New Orleans Saints (3-1). The Niners are coming off stunning win rallying against the Philadelphia Eagles (1-3), 24-23.
The last time the two teams met, the Bucs shut out the Niners, 21-0 last November. The Niners are looking to return the favor.
Keys to this matchup.
Blount vs. Gore
Tampa Bay running back LeGarette Blount has been pounding the ball away paving the way for the Buccaneer ground attack establishing himself more comfortably with each game. Blount rushed for 127 yards on 25 carries closing the game out with the go-ahead touchdown against the Colts late in the fourth quarter with 3:15 to play. Most of those yards came in taking advantage of a battered and tired Colts defense during that fourth quarter.
San Francisco running back Frank Gore ran for the same amount of yards but on 15 carries averaging 8.5 yards per carry. Similarly, he helped finish off the Eagles with 3:00 to play when he scored the game-tying 12-yard touchdown leading to the go-ahead extra point. Gore’s touchdown capped off the Niner comeback against the Eagles after being 20 down in the middle of the third quarter.
The Bucs made some key plays blitzing Colts quarterback Curtis Painter resulting in a combined 3 sacks from tackle Gerald McCoy and end Michael Bennett. Bennett was able to recover a fumble as a result from one of the sacks. They also held Colts running back Joseph Addai to 41 yards on 11 carries.
The Niners defense produced three turnovers against the Eagles (two fumbles and an interception). The second team fumble from Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin with 2:06 left ended up deciding the game. They also held leading NFC rusher Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy to 18 yards on nine carries.
If both defenses keep their running games in check it could come down to the quarterbacks.
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman may have not developed into a stat machine like the elite quarterbacks in the league, but he has developed the clutch abilities like one. Freeman’s improvisational skills have allowed him to develop receiver Preston Parker into a formidable presence. Freeman threw for 287 yards and one touchdown against the Colts but only three touchdowns and four interceptions for the season.
Similarly San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith looks to finally be developing into the no. 1 overall pick the Niners selected him for as he had his best game of the season against the Eagles throwing for 291 yards and two scores. He threw four touchdowns and one interception for the season.
Both rushing defenses are sound–the Niners ranking 4th giving up an average of 74 yards a game and the Bucs ranking 11th with 101 yards a game. However both passing defenses are atrocious with the Bucs ranking 21st at 267 yards a game compared to the Niners ranking 27th at 284 yards a game.
Both defenses will give up big passing plays so it will be up to who can better exploit that, Freeman or Smith. It will certainly be a test of wills between young teams and their young coaches in (Buc coach) Raheem Morris and (Niner’s coach) Jim Harbaugh. Slight edge to Harbaugh and company based on what Curtis Painter did last week against the Bucs. Smith is a bit more polished and they are certainly not the same team the Bucs shut out last year. Though with Freeman’s abilities, it’s either or really.
Niners 24 Bucs 21