When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers return to work Wednesday, they will start preparing for a team that hasn’t been the easiest to overcome. The Buccaneers will travel to California to take on the San Francisco 49ers, a team that has had the team’s number.
The 49ers have won 17 of the 21 regular-season meetings, including a 33-14 victory in Tampa in 2013. This season, the 49ers are struggling. San Francisco has lost five straight games since winning its season-opening contest. They have switched back to Colin Kaepernick at quarterback but are last in the NFL in total offense and passing offense and are 31st in points allowed.
The key for the Buccaneers may be the same plan it had in their victory against the Carolina Panthers, establishing the run game. Against the Panthers, the Buccaneers rushed the ball 37 times for 113 yards. While the numbers weren’t spectacular, Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for a career-high 101 yards, the Buccaneers were able to control the game and gut out a victory.
With the 49ers also being last in rushing yards allowed (174.3 yards), this could be a good opportunity for the Buccaneers, who could be getting Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin back. Martin has missed the three games with a hamstring injury. If he can’t go, Rodgers will again get the start. The Buccaneers also brought in running back Antone Smith, a back who played under head coach Dirk Koetter while the coach was the offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons.
Turnovers will be key
The Buccaneers went a game without committing an offensive turnover in their victory over the Panthers. Tampa Bay is 28th in the league in turnover margin with a minus-5. Turnovers have hampered the Buccaneers’ offense this season and the 49ers are a team that likes to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes this season.
The 49ers are second in the NFL scoring 48 points off of opponents’ turnovers this season. The 49ers have scored points off of nine of 10 turnovers. Only the Denver Broncos have scored more points off of opponents’ turnovers this season.
Dotson has to be better
Offensive lineman Demar Dotson worked his way back from a knee injury last year and was the most consistent lineman during the offseason and the preseason. During the regular season, however, Dotson has at times has his struggles.
Dotson leads the team with six penalties, including three holding and two false start penalties. He hasn’t graded badly but knows how crucial penalties can be to stopping drives. His penalties have stalled two of the Buccaneers’ drives this season.
“They’re all on me,” said Dotson, who received a three-year contract extension in August. “I know I had one last game. I got myself in a bad situation and was called for holding.”
“You can go a whole game and do one bad thing and that’s what’s noticed,” he said. “We accept that. But I have to do a better job. I can’t put us in a bad situation. Most of it is technique. I think I’ve had a couple of false starts. Those are unacceptable.”
Speaking of penalties, after consecutive weeks of committing nine penalties, the Buccaneers had just five (for 40 yards) against the Panthers. While that is a good number, the timing of the penalties was crucial.
A hold on Dotson wiped away a 26-yard completion to Vincent Jackson. A false start by Ali Marpet turned a third-and-1 to an unsuccessful third and 6. A false start by Gosder Cherilus and a delay of game penalty turned a third-and-1 at the Carolina 5 to a missed field goal. A roughing the punter by Howard Jones turned a Carolina punt into an eventual touchdown.
Those made the game closer than it should have been Koetter said.
“So the number of penalties was good,” he said. “The critical level of those penalties was not good and that leads to the fact that when you’re plus-four in turnovers, it shouldn’t come down to a game-winning field goal.”