49ers vs. Buccaneers: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 33-14 Loss to San Francisco
And yet, somehow, the score isn't quite indicative of how the game actually unfolded.
On one hand, the Buccaneers were largely ineffective on offense and struggled to find room to work against a smothering San Francisco defense. But on the other hand, there were moments where it seemed like the Buccaneers were on the verge of climbing into the lead with strong defense and an improving offense.
In the end, it was a disappointing loss for the Buccaneers, who finish with a 3-5 record at home for the season.
So, what can fans take away from Sunday's defeat? Let's start with the most important position on the field and consider what Mike Glennon did against a tough opponent.
Mike Glennon Was Inconsistent but Capable
The final stats for Mike Glennon tell the tale of a rookie quarterback facing a ferocious San Francisco defense.
Completing 18 of 34 passes for 179 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while being sacked four times is hardly an encouraging day under center, but there were moments of brilliance scattered throughout the average performance for the NC State product.
Mainly it was Glennon's ability to command the offense on two no-huddle drives that stood out as positives for the young signal-caller. Drives of 80 and 92 yards resulted in the only two touchdowns for the Buccaneers on Sunday, and it was the quarterback who provided the spark and led the team down the field.
Glennon was a deer in headlights in the standard offense, taking sacks and seeming lost as he went through his progressions. But in the no-huddle, he made quicker decisions and caught the 49ers off guard, putting them on their heels as he picked them apart for two long scoring drives.
Moving forward, the Buccaneers must work to put Glennon in better situations, because he showed he's capable of being an NFL quarterback on Sunday, but not in the current offensive system.
The Running Game Went Silent Against a Tough Defense
The Buccaneers ran for only 39 yards on Sunday, marking the third time in four games that the rushing attack failed to eclipse 70 yards.
Those games have come against solid run defenses in the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and now the 49ers, so it's clear that the success the Buccaneers have seen on the ground can largely be attributed to their opponents' talent level rather than their own merit.
The offensive line gave Bobby Rainey very little room to work, and according to JoeBucsFan on Twitter, there was at least one occasion on Sunday when Rainey missed an opening in San Francisco's usually dominant defense.
The lack of a running game against playoff-caliber defenses should concern the Buccaneers moving forward, because Glennon is not going to win games on his own. Spending the offseason getting healthy on the offensive line (and possibly replacing some of the older players) should be a huge help for the Tampa Bay runners.
Tim Wright Emerging as a Matchup Nightmare
Vernon Davis is almost always the most impressive tight end over the course of the games he plays. The athletic Davis had a very good day for the 49ers, capping off a solid performance with a long touchdown catch from Colin Kaepernick.
But he was outdone by the Buccaneers' tight end Tim Wright, who hauled in more catches for more yards while also adding a touchdown.
And that's because Wright has become a matchup nightmare for defenses.
When the 49ers lined up a linebacker against Wright, he broke free into open space. When they put defensive backs on him, Mike Glennon has confidence that Wright will maintain position and haul in the catch.
Or, as was the case on Wright's touchdown catch, he simply finds a hole in the defense and breaks free for an easy reception.
Wright is going to be a good player for years to come, because he's quickly developed consistent hands and the ability to get open against linebackers and defensive backs. And on Sunday, he went catch-for-catch with one of the best tight ends in the game, and showed just how good he can be.
Quick Tempo on Offense Works for the Buccaneers
Glennon completed five of his six passes for 56 yards on the team's first touchdown drive of the day. He then completed eight of his nine passes for 89 yards and a touchdown on the second touchdown drive of the day for the Buccaneers.
He was 5-of-19 for 44 yards and an interception on the other nine drives of the day for Tampa Bay.
What made those two touchdown drives more successful than the rest? A quicker tempo and a no-huddle approach, which got the ball out of Glennon's hands faster and with more confidence.
The inability to move the ball on drives using the standard Tampa Bay offense proves that the game plan from head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan hurts more than it helps.
And while it's encouraging to see Glennon flourish at times against a strong defense, it leaves Tampa Bay fans wondering what could have been if the offense was managed by better coaches.
The Buccaneers Cannot Contain Mobile Quarterbacks
The Buccaneers failed yet again to contain a mobile quarterback, and yet again, it was instrumental in their failure.
Colin Kaerpernick had four rushes for 42 yards before kneeling at the end of the game, and he also completed multiple passes while on the run. In doing so, he neutralized what could have been a dominant performance from Gerald McCoy and the Tampa Bay pass rush.
This isn't the first time Tampa Bay failed to keep a running quarterback under wraps, as it allowed Cam Newton to make big plays outside of the pocket twice this season. It also conceded runs and throws outside the pocket to Russell Wilson earlier this year.
The Buccaneers blitzed Kaepernick on multiple occasions and almost brought him down, but on the majority of plays where the San Francisco signal-caller felt pressure, he simply darted toward the sideline or up the field for a big play.
Greg Schiano told Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times at halftime that the team needed to keep Kaepernick in the pocket. It didn't, and as a result, it couldn't mount a comeback.
Missed Tackles Have Become a Serious Problem for the Buccaneers
The Bucs have a plethora of talent on defense, but they don't always put it together and execute as they should. On Sunday, that rang true, as missed tackles proved to be the team's undoing on multiple occasions.
A key third down in the first half was converted by the 49ers thanks to a missed tackle by Darrelle Revis, who was shrugged off by Anquan Boldin as the receiver raced for the sticks.
The tackling also failed in the backfield on multiple occasions, as Colin Kaepernick escaped the grasp of Buccaneers defenders on his way to a throw from the sideline or a run down the field.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Greg Schiano's teams miss more tackles than Raheem Morris' teams did, and that should be a red flag for the owners and fans of the Buccaneers. This lack of discipline and execution by the defense betrays an otherwise talented unit.
Mistakes Doomed the Buccaneers' Hopes for a Comeback
The Buccaneers were their own worst enemy yet again on Sunday.
From a holding call that took away a first-down run to dropped passes that prevented run-after-catch possibilities and a special teams fumble that ended the team's chances of victory, it was the self-inflicted wounds that hurt most against San Francisco.
No Buccaneers fan would have complained about a close loss to a very good football team, which is what Tampa Bay was in line to accomplish with the score sitting at 20-14 in the second half. But an ill-advised end-around on a kickoff (which was reportedly called from the sidelines, as return man Eric Page told JoeBucsFan.com) resulted in a fumble recovery for a touchdown for the 49ers and ended all comeback hopes.
Nothing screams a lack of discipline and sound coaching like repeated mistakes and costly mental errors. But that's exactly what Buccaneers fans have seen all season long.
Greg Schiano and His Staff Have Proven They're the Problem
Greg Schiano and his coaching staff saw success Sunday on offense on only two drives. Those drives were no-huddle drives that bucked the offensive game plan the team typically employs.
There were missed tackles on defense, along with costly penalties and poorly timed blitzes that allowed Colin Kaepernick to make big plays.
In other words, the coaching staff did nothing to help its players win the game.
Schiano's second year in Tampa Bay has been a total disaster, and the excuses are running out. His quarterback played well until the final moments of a two-score game, and his defense got plenty of timely stops against a talented San Francisco offense.
But it was his coaching staff's inability to prepare the team from a schematic perspective, along with poor discipline from the players, that led to a lopsided final score.
Much like the trick play on a kick return that turned into a touchdown for the 49ers, the coaching staff fumbled in its execution of a game plan once again, and it's more than enough proof that Schiano and his staff don't deserve another chance.
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