Friday Football Feast: Bucs-49ers
By Josh Hill
Alright, I think I’ve calmed down from my cynical reaction to last Monday’s win over the now 0-4 Colts. After listening to Raheem Morris, I’ve relaxed myself and I’m back to my normal self.
Well until the Bucs do that to me again.
Just some closure on last week, I have come to grips with the fact that come-from-behind wins are who this team is. Like Josh Freeman put it perfectly, you want to play spot-free football week in and week out but that’s not the Bucs. Tampa is never down and out and if that’s the way we win, I’ll take that. There is no apologizing for wins.
Moving on to the 49ers, Tampa will most likely have to come from behind again to win their second road game of the season. They went down 17-0 in their first road game which was in Minnesota and San Francisco’s defense is built in a similar fashion.
Former Niner’s coach Mike Singletary joined up with old teammate Leslie Frazier in Minnesota to be the Vikings linebackers coach and even though his system isn’t in place anymore to a large extent in San Fran, his players are still there.
Chief among them being Patrick Willis.
But all hope should not be lost (not that it was to begin with), because lets not forget the Bucs played on the road in San Fran last year against the same exact team (sans their current coach) and not only beat them but threw a no-hitter.
Chances are Tampa won’t repeat their shutout performance, but just as the same pieces are in place last year for the Niner’s, the same goes for the Bucs. It was unfortunate for Tampa, as less than a year ago when they shutout the 49ers, not too soon after the defense was ravaged by injuries to Gerald McCoy, Aqib Talib and other key players. We only got a taste of how good the defense could be before it was all taken away.
That all changes on Sunday as the Bucs have all their key players firing on all cylinders and that includes new guys Mason Foster and
It’s Tampa’s third consecutive week playing a late game and so far, starting late and finishing strong has been a trend that is working in Tampa.
Josh Freeman has yet to have a true breakout week and that will be a carry-over storyline from game-to-game until he explodes. But as much as the fantasy football, big stats big attention side of me wants Free to break out, the common sense kicks in and shows me some evidence that a breakout isn’t the answer.
Freeman has yet to breakout, yet the Bucs have lost just once and that was the game in which he passed for the most yards so far this season. The other games where Freeman’s deep ball has been absent, the Bucs have tallied wins and that is far more valuable than being a Tom Brady proto-type quarterback. Freeman may not be a stats machine but one thing he shares with the stat machine quarterbacks like Brady and Green Bay’s Arron Rodgers is leadership. Rodgers wasn’t passing eighty touchdowns a game last season, instead he was being a leader and look how that ended up for him. Same with Brady; Brady blows up every so often but he most valuable skill is his cool under pressure and Freeman has that in already just his second season starting.
Another thing Freeman and the Bucs share in common with Tom Brady, Arron Rodgers and their respective teams is how they’re built. Name me more than two superstar receiver on those teams; guys that could be stand-alone No. 1’s on any other roster and carry it.
However, Brady has smaller time guys like tight ends and Wes Welker that he turns into big time guys. Rodgers does the same. Do you honestly think Jordy Nelson or James Jones can be No. 1’s and carry an offense ala Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson?
Tampa is built the same way with one homerun guy (Mike Williams) and other smaller players in the cast like Preston Parker, Sammie Stroughter, Dezmon Briscoe, Luke Stocker, Earnest Graham, Kellen Winslow and LaGarrette Blount. Freeman is starting to do elite things like Rodgers and Brady with a small market cast of players and that’s going to beat Freeman throuwing for 400 yards a game.
Ask Cam Newton how many wins that’s bringing in.
The 49ers defense is a lot tougher than the Colts, but it’s not unbeatable. Getting the run going will be tougher this week, wspecially with the Niner’s prepping for Blount specifically. The Niner’s defense also ranks fourth in the NFL allowing just 74 yards a game this season to running backs. Freeman will have to beat San Fran with his arm and his mind but he’s going to do it the Josh Freeman-Bucs way: dirty, grity and ugly. But man are the wins he produces things of beauty.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: less than a year ago the (basically) same Bucs defense smacked-down, shut-down and shut out the 49ers in San Fran. However, it is the exact same squads on either side coming in on Sunday. Troy Smith was the starting quarterback for the Niner’s and there was no Mason Foster or Adrian Clayborn for the Bucs. The Bucs shut down Frank Gore last season and look forward to doing so again this go-around. The Niners may have an outstanding run defense, but that’s just making up for a lack of a run game on offense.
Frank Gore and the San Fran offense ranks 22nd overall in the NFL in rushing, averaging just above 93 yards a game. The passing game is nothing to wrote home about either with Alex Smith’s passing attack ranking even lower than the run game at 29th overall with a 177.5 yards per game average.
Josh Freeman isn’t lighting up the stat sheets, but even he is averaging over 230 yards a game.
Aqib Talib has to be thinking about the two picks he dropped on Monday and is going to be drooling over the prospect of tearing apart the Niner’s passing attack.
And speaking of foaming at the mouth, Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, and Michael Bennett (after collectively getting 4 sacks on Monday) have to be just itching to go against a Niner’s offensive line that has allowed Alex Smith to be sacked 5 times by the Bengals a total of 14 times in 4 weeks; (6 times against the Cowboys and 3 against the Eagles). It’s going to be a matter of who’s defense is better and as undecided a question that honestly is, Tampa has one helluva shot of topping the Niners.
The question you may be thinking is ‘If the Niner’s are so bad on offense, then how are they 3-1 like the Bucs?” Well, the answer lies in who the Niner’s have played.
San Fran has beaten a terrible Bengals team, and even worse Seahawks squad and they some how eeked one out against the stumbling Eagles. Their lone loss came at home against the Cowboys who, despite their quarterback having a hole in his lung, slaughtered the Niner’s in the second half and beat them in overtime.
If you’re having doubts about the game just think about this: Tampa is better than the Seahawks and the Bengals and are on par or a step above the Cowboys. Josh Freeman is ten times the quarterback Tony Romo is and if Romo can beat the Niner’s while struggling to breath, Josh Freeman’s chances of winning look pretty good. It’s going to be a close one, as Monday night showed us, but Tampa Bay’s defense is getting to a molten lava stage of hot and Josh Freeman will have plays to make. It’s just a question of if he can make them and what time before the two minute warning of the fourth quarter he wants to make them.
Prediction: Bucs 23, 49ers 17