In the 33-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the San Francisco 49ers showed all of the talk of a potential letdown after huge win last week was just that…all talk. The 49ers’ special teams and defense led the way in the victory. Kicker Phil Dawson made four field goals and Kendall Hunter recovered a fumble by returner Eric Page that sealed San Francisco’s fourth straight win.
The Buccaneers got within six points on the first play of the fourth quarter, but the 49ers answered by scoring ten points in six seconds to go up 30-14. The scores included a 21-yard field goal by Dawson and the fumble recovered by Hunter and ran back for a special team’s touchdown.
Despite how close it was in the beginning of the fourth quarter the Niners were in control early in the game. San Francisco headed into the locker-room at half time with a 17-7 lead and only allowing 98 total yards to the Bucs.
On defense, San Francisco dominated quarterback Mike Glennon and running back Bobby Rainey, limiting their offense to just 183 total net yards. Glennon was sacked four times, with outside linebacker Aldon Smith recording half of the sacks. Rainey only gained 27 yards on the ground even though he had 11 rushing attempts.
As of this posting, the 49ers inched closer to the playoffs with the win and a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Niners need the Arizona Cardinals to lose against the Tennessee Titans to clinch a playoff berth in Week 15.
Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets (GGNs):
(Game Gold Nuggets Scale)
Total Yards: 376
Passing Yards: 189
Rushing Yards: 187
MVP: QB Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick finished the game 19-of-29 passing for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Where Kap was most dangerous was extending plays with his legs by running outside of the pocket. He rushed for 42 yards on four carries, but he did not always decide to tuck the football and run.
On several scrambles by Kaepernick he found the open receiver after the coverage broke down. The Niners QB led an 11-play, 62-yard drive that lasted nearly seven minutes on the first possession. Colin rolled to his right and found wide receiver Michael Crabtree – who made some nifty moves in the end zone to get open — near the sideline for a four-yard touchdown and an early lead. It was Crabtree’s first TD score since the Super Bowl.
In the middle of the second quarter, Kaepernick hit wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a 25-yard pass that converted a 3rd-and-15, eventually setting up a 47-yard Phil Dawson field goal. The only way the play was made possible was because of Kaepernick scrambling to the outside after the pocket broke down. He threw a perfect pass to Boldin under pressure and throwing side arm while on the run.
Kaepernick’s second touchdown pass also had him rolling out of the pocket to extend a play. This time Kap ran to the outside to wait for Vernon Davis to get open for a 52-yard TD strike. Davis showed off his great route running skills and speed on the TD catch. Davis, who also has a touchdown in five straight games, became the league’s only tight end ever to record two separate seasons of at least 12 touchdowns; he registered 13 TDs in 2009. The touchdown gave the Niners a 17-0 late in the second quarter.
Jim Harbaugh said after the game, “Kaepernick really put on his cape.”
A big reason why Kaepernick had to scramble so much was the offensive line struggling throughout the game. Offensive guard Mike Iupati missed his fourth straight game. The Bucs’ pass rush was relentless all game and the 49ers’ O-line looked like they could not handle the speed of the defense. Even All-Pro tackle Joe Staley had problems blocking Tampa Bay’s defensive front seven.
One area San Francisco’s offensive line did a good job was in the running game. Frank Gore had 86 yards on 22 carries on Sunday, giving him 1,017 yards this year. In Gore’s career, he has now rushed for 1,000 yards in a season seven times.
The 49ers’ offense only received three GGNs because they could not score a touchdown despite getting to Tampa Bay’s 28, 25 and 3-yard line.
Total Yards: 183
Passing Yards: 144
Rushing Yards: 39
MVP: Aldon Smith
San Francisco’s defense neutralized Tampa Bay’s offense for much of the game, only giving up a total of 183 net yards. The D forced Mike Glennon to go three-and-out on the first two offensive drives. On the first five possessions by the Bucs, they punted after stalling.
Before Glennon was able to lead his offense on their first scoring drive, the 49ers only allowed two first downs. On the Buccaneers’ 80-yard TD drive, they converted five first downs. The drive ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wideout Vincent Jackson, who was able to beat the coverage of cornerback Tarell Brown. Brown was playing in for the first time in four games after dealing with injured ribs. San Francisco’s defense played as if they were already in the locker-room for halftime.
On the other scoring drive allowed by the Niners defense, they allowed the Bucs to go 92 yards in 10 plays on their third possession of the second half. Glennon’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Tim Wright put the game close at 20-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Aldon Smith was a big reason why the Niners D received 4 GGNs. From my count, Smith had at least six hurries on the quarterback and could have finished with more sacks, he but missed Glennon by inches on a few plays. He finished with two sacks to go along with four tackles.
Patrick Willis had a game-high six tackles and rookie safety Eric Reid recorded his fourth interception of the season.
MVP: Phil Dawson
Phil Dawson was not only the MVP of the special teams, but arguably the MVP of the game. Dawson booted field goals of 47, 43, 21 and 35 yards to help the 49ers towards a victory. The kicker has made a franchise best 24-straight field goals and is 27-for-30 this season.
The play of the game for the 49ers was when running back/special teamer Kendall Hunter picked up a muffed kickoff return and headed two yards into the end zone. The score gave San Francisco a 30-14 lead. Returner Eric Page was trying to hand-off a reverse on the kickoff for some reason, even though the game was still close.
Overall, Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff called a great game and drew up a solid game plan that exploited Tampa Bay’s flaws.
One reason why the coaching only received 3 GGNs was because of the time management issues in the beginning of the game. On the first offensive possession by San Francisco, Harbaugh had to call a timeout because the play clock was running out. Also on the drive, on third down, Kaepernick was called for a delay of game penalty as he was trying to audible the play.
Anytime a defense holds an opponent to under 183 total yards and two scores, you know overall they had a good game. One area defensive coordinator Vic Fangio should keep an eye on is playing against the no-huddle offense. Fangio’s defense showed to be vulnerable to the 2-minute style offense. On the Bucs’ two scoring drives they were able to move down the field easily with a hurry up offense.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman called plays that allowed Kaepernick to gain confidence and get in a rhythm early in the game. Kaepernick completed his first five passes. When Kap gets rolling early, there is no stopping him in the air or on the ground.
San Francisco returns home this week to face the Falcons on Monday night. See the team finish a push to the playoffs by getting your 49ers tickets here.