The San Francisco 49ers won their 4th consecutive game, beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-14 at Raymond James Stadium. With the win San Francisco is now 10-4 heading into the final two games. With a win or an Arizona Cardinals loss next week, the 49ers can secure a playoff spot for the 3rd consecutive season.
The 49ers won the toss and elected to defer to get the ball first in the second half. The defense answered the call and forced the Bucs into a 3 and out on their first possession. After receiving the first of seven punts by the Bucs on the day, the 49ers started their first drive on their own 38 yard line. Colin Kaepernick had his best duel threat game of the season, going 19 for 29 with 2 touchdowns, while also rushing for 42 yards, with many of those runs coming in crucial situations to keep drives alive. This was evident from the first drive, looking like the Kaepernick of last years playoffs he drove the team down to the Bucs 4 yard line. On 2nd and goal Kaepernick scrambled right, Michael Crabtree was able to free himself on the end zone sideline and caught the first touchdown by a 49er wide receiver not named Anquan Boldin. This was also Kaepernick’s first touchdown pass of the season to someone other then Davis or Boldin.
During this sequence you were able to see how valuable Crabtree is to Kaepernick. His feel for where a scrambling Kaepernick wants to go with the ball made this touchdown happen. As Crabtree rounds into form after coming back from his Achilles injury you can expect big things from him in the post season. Crabtree ended up with 5 receptions for 45 yds and a touchdown for the game.
Anquan Boldin was his usual amazing self this game. On a key 3rd down and 15, Boldin took a short crossing route for a 25 yard completion, breaking a Darrelle Revis tackle along the way to help setup a 47 yard Phil Dawson field goal. Boldin had 3 receptions on the day, 2 of which converted 3rd downs. Later in the quarter the 49ers added 7 points on a nice 52 yard bomb from Kaepernick to his favorite target Vernon Davis. Kaepernick rolled to his left and was able to hit Davis who had beaten Bucs safety Mark Barron in the end zone for a touchdown that put the Niners up 17-0. The touchdown gives Davis 12 on the year which makes him the only TE in NFL history with 12 or more TD’s in 2 season.
The Bucs weren’t about to let the Davis score turn the game into a blowout. Before the half they went on a 7 play 80 yard drive that ended with a Mike Glennon laser to Vincent Jackson to send the game into half time with the 49ers leading 17 – 7.
In the first half San Francisco had 227 total yards, with Kaepernick going 11 for 13 with 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. The 49ers were balanced on offense throwing for 134 yard and rushing for 93 yards in the half. Hands down this was the best half the offense has played this season. Kaepernick completed passes to 5 different receivers in the half. The defense was just as good if not better, only giving up 98 total yards to Tampa Bay, allowing only 2 first downs all half until Tampa Bay was able to put together the final scoring drive of the half. Overall the defense forced the Bucs to punt on their first 5 possessions of the first half, only giving up 30 yards in the process.
The second half saw the defense continue its dominance. Aldon Smith had 2 of the 3 San Francisco sacks in the second half putting him at 8.5 sacks on the year. After another Phil Dawson field goal the score was 20 – 7 going into the 4th quarter. On a busted coverage because of miscommunication between Donte Whitner and Carlos Rogers, Glennon hit Tim Wright on a 24 yard touchdown pass at the beginning of the 4th quarter to bring the Bucs within 6. This was as close as they would get. On the 49ers next drive Kaepernick again used a combination of his arm and legs to guide the 49ers down the field on a crucial 17 play 77 yard drive that took over 10 minutes off the clock. The drive staled at the 3 but Phil Dawson’s third field goal put the 49ers up by 9 with 4:31 left to play.
On the ensuing kickoff the Bucs tried to run a reverse, the exchange was mishandled between Eric Page and Russell Shepard who fumbled the ball, Kendall Hunter was able to scoop the ball up and fall into the end zone for a special teams touchdown. This put the 49ers up 30 – 14 and put the game away. After a failed Bucs 4th down attempt, Phil Dawson kicked his 4th field goal to finish up the scoring at 33 -14. Dawson continued his fantastic kicking, hitting all 4 of his attempts in the game and extending his franchise record with 24 straight kicks made. To cap off the dominant game by the defense Eric Reid snatched the 4th interception of his rookie season at the end of the game.
For the second half Kaepernick was 8 for 16 with 55 yards passing. The running game carried the load at the end, Frank Gore finished the game with 86 yards rushing on 22 carries. The 86 yards rushing also put Gore over 1000 yards for the season, this marks his 7th time (3rd consecutive) reaching the mark as a 49er. For the game the 49ers offense racked up 376 total yards and held on to the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
Overall the win was highlighted by the defense, which came up big again, only giving up 183 total yards for the game. The offense played lights out in the first half, but in the second half showed some of the same inconsistencies in the passing game that have plagued them this season. Just like the Titans game, special teams converted a huge turnover into a touchdown to put the game out of reach late. Overall it was a solid win that could have been more spectacular if the offense had finished out the way they started. Even without that happening, this was probably the most complete game the 49ers have played this year. The fact that San Francisco seems to be starting to click in all facets of the game late in the season is a great sign heading into the post season. If Colin Kaepernick and the offense can use this game as a spring board to more efficient execution for a full 4 quarters, and the defense continues to play like they have been, every team including the mighty Seattle Seahawks will not look forward to facing the 49ers come playoff time.