Capitalizing Late- The 49ers dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on both sides of the football for most of the afternoon yet the outcome was still in doubt early in the fourth quarter. Seeing a 17 point lead cut down to six, the 49ers used a key offensive series that consumed 10:27 of the game clock which would result in a Phil Dawson field goal, followed up by a key special teams play that resulted in a touchdown. This sequence gave the 49ers the game breaking plays they needed in a 33-14 victory over the Buccaneers Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The 49ers with the win up their season mark to 10-4 and are one step closer to locking down a playoff birth in the upcoming post season. The 49ers in their key fourth quarter series made two clutch third down conversions as quarterback Colin Kaepernick found Michael Crabtree on a third and 12 play from the 49ers own 29 yard line. Later in the series Kaepernick used his legs to scramble for another key first down on third and six from the Tampa 29 yard line. Moments later Phil Dawson would kick a 21 yard field goal to give the 49ers a nine point lead. On the ensuing kickoff Tampa’s Eric Page would fumble an exchange on an attempted reverse allowing Kendall Hunter playing on special teams to pounce on the loose football and take it in from two yards out to give the 49ers a insurmountable 30-14 lead. This special teams play took the winds out of the Buccaneers sails as Tampa despite being dominated was able to hang tough with the 49ers.
Offensive Effectiveness- The 49ers for a good part of the afternoon were able to move the ball effectively on the Buccaneers defense. Kaepernick on the afternoon was 19 of 29 for 203 yards which included two touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Crabtree’s touchdown was his first of the season since returning from injury and his first since last year’s Super Bowl. Frank Gore picked up 86 yards on 22 carries while Kendall Hunter added 40 more yards on eight rushes. Kaepernick himself gained 39 yards on the ground with seven carries picking up key yardage when and where needed. The 49ers first scoring drive came on their first series of the game after a Tampa punt allowed them to set up shop at their own 38 yard line. From there 49ers would embark on an 11-play 62 yard series that would result in Kaepernick finding Crabtree in the end zone for a four yard TD play. Crabtree was able to fight off the coverage of Buccaneers Jonathan Banks before taking the short pass from Kaepernick. The 49ers lead would climb as high as 17-0 in the first half as Kaepernick would launch a 52 yard touchdown strike to Davis who caught the touchdown pass in stride after the two failed to connect earlier in the second quarter. There was an anxious moment after the touchdown where Davis hit the wall behind the end zone in the same stride and seemed to be hurt, but was able to get up and would be okay. Phil Dawson again was clutch as he kicked four more field goals all of which were right on the money from 47, 43, 21 and 35 yards. Anquan Boldin was held to three receptions on the day. However one of Boldin’s three catches was a key one for a 25 yard gain on a 49ers third down and 15 play in a third quarter series that would end in a Dawson field goal.
Defense Strong Despite Bending- The 49ers defense was in complete control of the game and the Buccaneers offense for most of the first half. At the two minute warning of the second quarter Tampa had just 18 yards total offense. The 49ers put rushes on Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon all day and for the most part it paid off with several three and out series. With the 49ers leading 17-0 late in the second quarter the defense seemed to take their foot off of the gas pedal and allowed the Buccaneers to start making some plays late. Tampa would get a touchdown just before the half as Glennon found Vincent Jackson in the end zone for an 11 yard touchdown play that cut the 49ers lead back to ten points. With the 49ers up 20-7 late in the third quarter the Buccaneers again moved the ball from their own eight yard line to the 49ers 24 yard line in 10 plays which rapped up the period. On the fourth quarters’ first play Glennon found Timothy Wright alone in the end zone with a 24 yard pass play for a touchdown getting Tampa to within six points of the 49ers at 20-14. However this is where the 49ers offense would take over and go on a long drive of over 10 minutes to give the defense the rest they needed to finish the game strong. By the time the defense saw the field again, instead of 14:54 on the game clock there was just 4:21 left and the 49ers were now leading 30-14. The defense did not have their best afternoon but made enough plays to give the 49ers offense enough time and space to establish a lead and build upon it. Patrick Willis on the afternoon led the 49ers with six tackles while Trumaine Brock had five, NaVorro Bowman had four along with Aldon Smith. Willis and Smith each had a sack of Tampa QB Glennon while Justin Smith had two. Glenn Dorsey was injured on the game’s first play from scrimmage but later returned.
Taking Care of Business- Overall the 49ers accomplished what they had set out to do in Tampa Sunday. The 49ers took care of the football on the whole and did not make mistakes with it. There were some plays which looked a little dicey as they unfolded however Kaepernick was able to get key passes to Davis, Boldin, Crabtree as well as Bruce Miller and Garrett Celek. The defense though they may have bent never broke. Dawson is getting more clutch as with each game and that is exactly what the 49ers need from him. Special teams came up with the huge touchdown in the fourth quarter to break the game wide open and did an excellent job in pinning back the Buccaneers all afternoon long. The bottom line is the 49ers did exactly what they had to do, take care of the business at hand and get out of Dodge when it was all said and done.
49ers Next Game- The 49ers will host the Atlanta Falcons a week from Monday (Dec. 23) as they close out the Monday night football schedule for 2013. In addition, this will also be the last regular season game the 49ers will ever play at Candlestick Park, a place they have called home since 1971. The 49ers will ofcourse be moving 40 miles south to the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara (just outside of San Jose and near their franchise headquarters and practice facilities.) Baring the 49ers getting an unlikely break with the division, this game versus the Falcons will most likely be the final 49ers game (and final sporting event) ever at Candlestick which will be demolished in the spring of 2014. The 49ers have so many great memories at the Candlestick and this will be an emotional experience for certain. Kickoff will be around 5:30pm PT and will be carried nationally by ESPN.
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