By Tom Krasniqi
Over the last month or so, the Bucs have turned their play around. In particular, the defense is starting to make plays to close games out. As a result, the Bucs have won 4 of their last 5 and they’re feeling good about themselves.
The Bucs have beaten two teams with a winning record—the 7-6 Lions and the 7-6 Dolphins. Solid teams for sure, but not elite. On Sunday, the Bucs get a crack at one of the better teams in the league—the 9-4 San Francisco 49ers come to Raymond James Stadium for the final home game of the season.
If you want other teams in the league to step up and take notice, a win over the Niners would certainly grab headlines. Head coach Greg Schiano knows it will be a physical game.
“They’re a run-first team. How do you cover big chunks of yardage? Throwing the ball, right? They will grind it out,” Schiano said. “They enjoy bullying you up and down the field. That’s part of their shtick, so we’ve got to match it hit-for-hit, play-for-play and kind of what we like to see ourselves as. I think it’ll be an exciting game.”
The Niners are riding a 3-game winning streak and they are indeed a smash-mouth football team. They’re 6th in the NFL in rushing offense (133 rushing yards per game). Running back Frank Gore is nearing another 1,000 yard season and quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a big guy who can run and throw. Since 2011, the 49ers are 11-0 when Gore rushes for 100 yards. The Bucs must contain the run game in order to have a shot. The Bucs rush defense has been very good. Last week, they held the Bills to 67 yards rushing. For the season, the Bucs are 8th in the NFL in stopping the run.
Defensively, the 49ers are about as good as there is. They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. Their passing defense also ranks 4th overall as they give up an average of 204 passing yards per contest. To sum it up, the Niners are an elite team.
No one in the Bucs locker room is buying into the idea of a “signature win”, but there are some who believe a win on Sunday would be a major accomplishment. A win would also be damaging to San Francisco’s playoff hopes. Right now, the Niners have the 6th seed in the NFC, just one game up on 8-5 Arizona and two ahead of Dallas and Chicago.
“A win is a win. I don’t really look into a signature win. I mean it would be special if we win because they’re one of the top teams in the NFL, but at the same time a win is a win,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “We’ve got 16 weeks to perform and try and get to the playoffs. I just look at every game – win or a loss, you move on and prepare for the next week. Don’t get me wrong, the 49ers, they’re defending their NFC Championship and they’re one of the top teams in the league, they’ve got a lot of talent and we’re looking forward to it.”
As far as the Friday injury report for the Bucs, Schiano said every player on the injury report practiced in full, and that means WR Vincent Jackson (hamstring). Jackson is probable and should be good to go. The full practice list includes C Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder), DE Da’Quan Bowers (knee), RG Davin Joseph (shoulder), DE William Gholston (head), DT Gary Gibson (calf), LB LaVonte David (back) and DT Akeem Spence (wrist). LG Carl Nicks (foot) didn’t practice.
News & Notes:
- I asked Schiano if he thought LB LaVonte David should be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year honors: “No doubt. Show me somebody who’s more productive than him.”
- I asked Bucs RG Davin Joseph if the 49ers had the best linebacking corps in the NFL: “I can’t think of anyone better.”
- Expect to see Bucs CB Darrelle Revis on 49ers WR Anquan Boldin. Over the last three games, Boldin has recorded 90+ receiving yards.
- Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers are 8-3 in the month of December and 2-0 this year.
- Former Bucs great Ronde Barber will call the game on FOX this week with Dick Stockton.
- Don’t look now, but the Bucs are 2nd in the NFL in turnover margin at +13. The Bucs are also tops in the NFL with 21 interceptions and 29 takeaways.
- The 49ers lead the all-time series 16-4.
- This Sunday, the 4-9 Bucs welcome in the 9-4 San Francisco 49ers to Raymond James Stadium. The game is a complete sellout. You can catch the game on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM with our coverage beginning at 9am with Countdown to Kickoff.
- For the latest Bucs news, keep it locked all day long on 620 WDAE and 95.3FM, your home of the Bucs and the best Bucs coverage. Don’t forget to check out the Bucs blog at 620wdae.com for the latest news and audio clips.