By Jerrell Richardson
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9)
Head Coach: Greg Schiano
Players To Watch: Vincent Jackson, Bobby Rainey, Lavonte David, Dashon Goldson
The 49ers win over the Seahawks was huge. Not only was the win necessary for San Francisco to remain in control of their own destiny, but it also felt good because it was against a team that they truly hate. What they have to be careful of is being too satisfied with the win and overlooking their next opponent.
On paper, there is no way the Buccaneers can hang with the 49ers, but that’s why this is a classic trap game for San Francisco. Tampa Bay’s record is less than impressive, but all four of their wins have come in the last five games, and the one defeat during that stretch was to the Carolina Panthers. Even with Tampa Bay playing their best football of the season, they will be brought back down to earth Sunday.
The fact remains that San Francisco is the better team, and if they remain focus on the opponent in front of them will win their fourth straight game.
When Tampa Bay Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
Offensively, by the numbers, Tampa Bay is one of the worst teams in the league. They are ranked 31st passing the ball, and 20th in rushing. However, they did have to deal with the loss of their starting day running back, Doug Martin, due to an injury, and also have a rookie quarterback so their struggles are to be expected. For the time being, the team has figured something out, and in recent weeks Tampa Bay has been winning football games.
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has had his moments, throwing 15 touchdowns to only seven interceptions, but he still looks like a rookie quarterback. Helping Glennon through his growing pains is wide receiver Vincent Jackson. The former Charger has been the team’s lone consistent bright spot this season and an outright stud with 61 catches for 963 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson is going to be a tough cover, but is going against a 49er secondary that is ranked third in the NFL defending the pass. Expect San Francisco to double Jackson and take him out of the equation leaving the rookie quarterback with no superstar to bail him out.
The Buccaneers are going to need to a big game from running back Bobby Rainey, who has filled in for Martin. Like Glennon, Rainey has had his ups and downs. Last week he racked up 127 rushing yards, and earlier this year against the Falcons he tallied 163 yards. However, in between his big games he struggled against the Lions and Panthers.While most backs struggle to run the ball against those two teams, the same goes for the 49ers who are ranked 10th against the run and figure to make running the ball difficult for Rainey.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
The Tampa Bay defense has played well this season. They have been tough to run against, ranked just ahead of San Francisco in this category. The reason for this is linebacker Lavonte David, who is having a career year. He is fifth in the NFL in total tackles with 117, (right behind NaVorro Bowman, who has 120) and as ridiculous as it sounds, is tied for the league lead with five interceptions. While David and company figure to clog up the middle of the field, the 49ers need to stay committed to the run to sustain a balanced offensive attack.
Although San Francisco is still ranked at the very bottom of the NFL throwing the ball, they are now at least respectable. While Mario Manningham has been silent, Michael Crabtree has not, since the two recently returned from their injuries. With Anquan Boldin already established with Colin Kaepernick, Crabtree back in the mix, and a healthy Vernon Davis, the 49ers have three players to scare defenders.
The Tampa Bay defensive backs are led by former 49er Dashon Goldson, who will be fired up to face his former team. But as a unit the Bucs secondary is average at best, ranked 17th against the pass. Goldson is a physical safety who will look to make his presence felt, but after having a modest performance against the best secondary in football a week ago, the 49er receivers have to be confident heading into this match up.
Pressure on 49ers
Despite their important win last week, it will all be for nothing if the 49ers can’t take that momentum and come out with the same intensity this week. The Bucs season was over before they even won a game, but their team, along with Dashon Goldson, would love to play the role of spoiler for the 49ers. All the pressure for this game is on the 49ers, but this was the case last week when they took on a much better team and responded. The offense is still somewhat of a question mark, but with the play of the defense, San Francisco will only strengthen their hold on their playoff spot after this Sunday.
For more 49ers news and updates, visit 49ers Central.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.