By Tom Krasniqi
The 4-9 Buccaneers face a stiff challenge when they host the 9-4 San Francisco 49ers today from a sold out Raymond James Stadium at 1pm (620 WDAE, 95.3FM, 103.5FM). The Bucs are coming off an impressive 27-6 win over the Bills last week. Meanwhile, the Niners had their best win of the season last week when they knocked off the Seahawks at home 19-17.
The Bucs racked up 7 sacks and forced five turnovers last week against the Bills. Linebacker LaVonte David continued his torrid play with a sack and two interceptions. David has now recorded a pick in three straight games and should be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year honors. The competition gets tougher today as the Bucs defense will try and slow down a talented Niners offense led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has thrown 5 touchdown passes over his last three games and he’s also a big threat to run. Running back Frank Gore continues to defy logic as an older running back who continues to stay productive. Gore rushed for 110 yards last week against Seattle and he’s 69 yards shy of another 1,000 yard season. San Francisco got wideout Michael Crabtree back a couple of weeks ago from an Achilles injury but WR Anquan Boldin and TE Vernon Davis are the ones to worry about in the passing game. Boldin has 90+ yards receiving in three straight games. Look for Darrelle Revis to spend most of his afternoon on Boldin. The Bucs need to keep Kaepernick in the pocket and force him to beat them with his arm and not his legs. The 49ers offensive line is an elite unit filled with former first round picks. LT Joe Staley is playing at a high level.
The Bucs offense sputtered last week against the Bills after Bobby Rainey’s 80 yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage. Tampa Bay had just 28 yards of offense in the second half. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon was just 9 of 25 passing for 90 yards with two scores and two interceptions. Head coach Greg Schiano brushes off the notion this week that Glennon is regressing. The road gets bumpier from here when Glennon faces a stingy Niners defense today. San Francisco has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. The Niners have won 3 straight and they allowed an average of 12 points per game over that span. Their linebacking corps—Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith—are considered the best in the NFL. The Bucs will have trouble establishing the run so it will be up to Glennon to make some plays in the passing game. That means WR Vincent Jackson and TE Tim Wright need to be the focus. Jackson has been bothered by a hamstring the last couple of weeks but he should be good to go today. The Bucs will see former teammate Eric Wright today, who had an interception last week to seal the deal.
The Niners have won 3 of the last 4 meetings, including a 48-3 blowout win back in 2011. Gore rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown in that game. Back in 2010, the Bucs shut out the Niners in San Francisco 21-0. Left tackle Donald Penn caught his first career touchdown in that game.
Prediction: The Bucs defense is starting to come together. They’re getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing turnovers. But the offense continues to struggle and that continues today against a tough Niners defense. Gore gets it done again against the Bucs and the Niners win a defensive battle, 17-13.