Coming off an easy win against the Panthers, the Buccaneers had to travel all the way across the country to face the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers were just 3-6 at this point, and the 6-3 Bucs looked like a much better team. But, as usual, this wasn't the whole story. The 49ers had come by their 3 wins in the previous 4 matches, so they were certainly on a hot streak. They also seemed to have found a temporary answer at quarterback with Troy Smith, and their defense was never as bad as their record. Troy Smith could also prove dangerous, as his scrambling ability would be tough to contain. The fact that he had some pretty good players to throw to in Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis certainly didn't help the Bucs. Finally, Frank Gore is always a load to stop, especially when your run defense is based in the Tampa Bay area.
And, as usual, the Bucs again couldn't get off to a fast stirt. While their defense dominated the 49ers' offense, recovering a fumble on the first drive, the offense couldn't get anything going and gained only one first down in the entire first quarter. For some reason the Bucs actually tried a fake punt at midfield where Michael Spurlock was supposed to throw the ball, but that was about the ugliest fake play I've seen since Jim Zorn's Swinging Gate debacle with the Redskins. The defense held firmly, though, and at the end of the first quarter the score was still tied at 0-0. This was starting to look like a game where the first score wins.
It seems the Bucs realized that at the start of the second quarter, though. That's when the game swung in the Bucs direction, and it really never looked like the Bucs would lose after that. The Bucs marched downfield slowly but surely, walking 80 yards in 14 plays before Caddy finished off the drive with a 6-yard TD run. For some reason that was the only scoring in the first half, despite the fact that the Bucs were clearly dominating the 49ers.
At the start of the second half the 49ers then tried to do something about that, and actually got to the Bucs' 33-yard line. And then punted, gaining a whopping 27 yards there. Well done San Francisco!. Of course, the Bucs had little trouble going down the field, though their drive stalled at the 49ers' 23-yard line. From there Connor Barth narrowly missed a field goal, keeping the score at 7-0. The 49ers couldn't do anything against the Bucs defense, but the offense was refusing to kill them off.
Well, until the last drive of the third quarter. They got the ball at their own 34-yard line, and it took them just 5 plays to travel 66 yards and add a second touchdown. A 33-yard Mike Williams catch got them going, and that same rookie finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown reception.
The 49ers knew now, finally, that they had to actually score to win the game. Too bad for them the Bucs defense was on point, and they were swiftly stopped as they tried to convert a fourth down near midfield. On the 49ers' next drive, Ronde Barber picked off Troy Smith to give the Bucs the ball at the 49ers 7-yard line. The Bucs decided to take it slowly, though, and took a whopping 4 plays to go 7 yards into the endzone. And they did it in style, too, as offensive tackle Donald Penn got his very first NFL touchdown (though not his first NFL reception). A running back, a receiver and an offensive lineman had now all scored a touchdown in the game. Impressive.
The rest of the game was naught but a formality. The 49ers couldn't get past midfield and were stopped on fourth down twice, before Freeman could kneel out the game. This game was an absolutely dominant performance by the Bucs' defense, the like of which hadn't been seen by Bucs fans in a long time. It was, perhaps, a glimpse of the potential of this defense. Or maybe it was just the 49ers being horrible. Whichever it was, the Bucs won this one very comfortably: 21-0.