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Buccaneers vs. 49ers: Five winners, three losers

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the San Francisco 49ers last night, getting their third win of the season. Let’s talk winners and losers!

Winners

QB Jameis Winston

One early interception (or perhaps the entire first quarter) aside, Winston had a very good game. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 269 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and was especially good on third downs late in the game, when the Bucs needed to consistently extend drives. While Winston wasn’t facing a good pass defense, it also didn’t look that bad in previous games, and this was more of the quarterback we were expecting to see.

The running game

It didn’t matter which running back got the ball, the Bucs destroyed the 49ers on the ground. That was in part a result of quality run blocking, especially on the right side of the line where Ali Marpet and Demar Dotson looked downright dominant at times. But, as is always the case, this was also a consequence of facing an absolutely abysmal run defense.

Still, though, 249 rushing yards and 6.1 yards per carry with negative one yard of that coming on quarterback scrambles is an absolutely outstanding result anyone should be proud of.

Mike Smith’s defense

The Bucs forced four turnovers (one on special teams), which contributed heavily to the win. Overall, the defense allowed just 17 points, with seven of those coming off a turnover. That’s a really good result for a team that struggled to contain other offenses, and could barely ever take away the ball in previous games.

It’s also encouraging given the Bucs’ continued injuries along the defensive line. The secondary appears to be coming together, but with Robert Ayers and Clinton McDonald out, the Bucs were missing a few key players. Gerald McCoy was back and played more than I would have expected (91% of all defensive plays), and looked pretty good, too, notching a sack, a tipped pass, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Overall, I’m feeling better about this defense than I have in quite some time, especially with Ayers and McDonald set to return soon.

Roberto Aguayo

Yes, the Bucs kicker missed a 50-yard field goal (which is hardly exceptional). He also made two field goals and four extra points to make up for that miss, and looked more accurate than he has all season. Whether that means he was just unlucky before, or he’s found his way out of his slump, I don’t know. But this was a reasonably encouraging performance.

Russell Shepard

Five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown for a career special teamer who only played half the offensive snaps in this game. That’s pretty good, especially given the lack of playing time he’s had, and the fact that Vincent Jackson didn’t come close to those numbers in any of the games he played this year.

Losers

The returners

What was up with kick returns in this game? Adam Humphries muffed a punt, but thankfully recovered. Ryan Smith took kickoffs out of the endzone twice, getting stuff well before the 25-yard line both times. Humphries was forced to field one at the six and couldn’t get to the 25, either. Incidentally, it seems like the 49ers were trying to pin the Bucs deep with these kickoffs rather than aiming for kickoffs — a strategy the Bucs should consider, too.

Cecil Shorts

Started for Vincent Jackson, got targeted exactly 0 times and was replaced by Russell Shepard before the half. Oops.

Keith Tandy

Three snaps on defense is not a good trend for the team’s third safety. Truth be told, Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald have played reasonably well the last couple of games, and seem to have solidified their spots as starting safeties.