With Winston seemingly alternating between the bench and the field every couple of weeks, that side of the quarterback matchup wasn’t quite what everyone expected it to be. The other side ended up being even more disappointing, with Garoppolo sidelined for the season due to a torn ACL. With that quarterback battle gone and both teams going from “on the rise” to “really sad” in 2018, Sunday’s game was for draft positioning more than anything else.
After the 49ers won the toss and deferred, both offenses were unsuccessful on their respective opening drives. San Francisco looked to have something going on its first possession as it began with a 33-yard run by Matt Breida. But from there, the Bucs stood strong with some heavy pressure, including a sack-fumble forced by Carl Nassib, to get the stop.
Things picked up for Tampa Bay on its second possession, with Winston finding Mike Evans on an excellent deep ball that went for 42 yards to the San Francisco 18-yard line. From there, Peyton Barber got the Bucs inside the 10 before Winston and Cameron Brate connected for a six-yard touchdown. With Cairo Santos’ successful extra point attempt, Tampa Bay had an early 7-0 lead.
Jameis finds Cam Brate in the back of the end zone for 6! pic.twitter.com/Ugw8a7agcI— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 25, 2018
The two teams traded stops for the rest of the quarter, but not without some highlights. On the 49ers’ third drive, Nassib got involved again, this time with a quarterback pressure and a six-yard tackle for loss. On the ensuing drive, Winston and Evans linked up again for a 13-yard gain, which put the star receiver over 1,000 receiving yards for the fifth consecutive season. He became one of just three players in NFL history to break 1,000 in five straight seasons to start a career, joining Randy Moss and A.J. Green.
Tampa Bay ended the first quarter with a 7-0 lead, holding San Francisco to just 37 yards of offense (with 33 coming on one play). The defense broke down a little bit on the 49ers’ first drive of the second quarter, with most of the damage coming on the ground. A heavy dose of Matt Breida got San Francisco to the 13-yard line before Nick Mullens found Dante Pettis for a 13-yard touchdown. However, the Bucs held on to a 7-6 lead after Robbie Gould’s extra point attempt when off the post.
Winston and the offense responded by getting some points of their own, driving inside the 25-yard line to set up Cairo Santos for a 41-yard field goal attempt. He nailed his first field goal try as a Buc to extend the lead to 10-6, capping off a 12-play, 53-yard drive that lasted 5:11.
Tampa Bay’s defense finished its strong first half on the next possession, with Vita Vea starting the drive with a four-yard tackle for loss. Jason Pierre-Paul later picked up a sack to get to 10 1⁄2 on the year, becoming the first Buc to put up double-digit sacks in a season since Simeon Rice did it in 2005. Gerald McCoy backed the 49ers up even more on the next play with a sack of his own. Two plays later, San Francisco had to punt it away.
With just under two minutes to work with, Winston led the offense on a quick drive into San Francisco territory, but some questionable clock management by head coach Dirk Koetter led to the Bucs settling for a 39-yard field goal by Santos.
Nonetheless, Tampa Bay held a 13-6 lead after 30 minutes. Winston finished the first half 18-of-24 for 176 yards and a touchdown, finding Evans (four catches for 75 yards) most often. The defense gave up just 116 yards and held the 49ers to an 0-for-4 mark on third downs.
San Francisco started the second half at its own 16 and quickly went nowhere, but a defensive holding call on third down extended the drive. From there, the offense came alive and quickly got into Buccaneer territory. Mullens got hot and led the 49ers inside the 10 before Jeff Wilson Jr. took them to the 1. From there, the Tampa Bay defense stood tall, stopping Breida and Mullens on back-to-back plays. A false start forced a field goal try from 23 yards out, which Gould made to cut the 49ers’ deficit to 13-9. Despite the points, it was a huge stand for a Buccaneer defense that has been dreadful in the red zone all year long.
The defensive stop swung some momentum in Tampa Bay’s favor, which it then took advantage of. Winston continued to be smart with the ball, leading the offense into 49ers territory. After a 34-yard pass from Winston to Evans, DeSean Jackson drew a pass interference call down the sideline to set Tampa Bay up in the red zone. A short while later, it was Barber getting into the end zone from two yards out. After Santos hit the extra point, the Bucs saw their lead hit 20-9 with 8:25 left in the third quarter.
Peyton Barber punches it in!— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 25, 2018
Bucs + 7 pic.twitter.com/ghr1BkkmEt
On the following drive, the Bucs continued their bend-don’t-break trend on defense. The 49ers went 35 yards and found themselves inside the Tampa Bay 40, but a second tackle for loss by Vita Vea set them back.
After a San Francisco punt, the Tampa Bay offense went back to work. Winston connected with Evans, Jackson and Chris Godwin before finishing the drive with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Adam Humphries. The 10-play, 85-yard drive put the Bucs up 27-9 with 14:10 left in the fourth quarter.
Jameis scrambles to find a wide open Humphries who fights for the TD! pic.twitter.com/hJGQSDSQjH— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 25, 2018
The 49ers couldn’t find their way back into the game, going backward on their next drive thanks in part to a sack by Vea, who added to his breakout game.
Vita Vea is having a game! pic.twitter.com/Lm1BDxnC0E— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 25, 2018
Later in the fourth quarter, the Bucs stopped a promising 49er drive with an interception by Ryan Smith. It was the team’s second interception of the season and its first since week three against Pittsburgh.
Ryan Smith picks it off in the end zone! pic.twitter.com/q2l2gZpzrU— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 25, 2018
After Smith’s interception, the Bucs coasted to their fourth victory of the season. Isaiah Johnson came up with an interception of his own with just over a minute left to put the final touches on a win that snapped a four-game losing streak.
- Jameis Winston finished the day 29-of-38 for 312 yards, two touchdowns and, most importantly, no turnovers.
- Mike Evans was the Bucs’ leading receiver, catching six passes for 116 yards. It was his sixth 100-yard game of the season.
- Carl Nassib finished with a sack, a forced fumble, two quarterback hits and a tackle for loss.
- Vita Vea had three tackles for loss, one of which was his second career sack.
- The Bucs had four sacks as a team, with Nassib, Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul and Gerald McCoy all picking up one.
- The 49ers put up 342 total yards on the day, with 148 coming on the ground. Nick Mullens finished 18-of-32 for 221 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
- Tampa Bay’s defense held San Francisco to 1-of-8 on third downs. The offense converted seven of its 13 third downs.
The Buccaneers, now at 4-7 on the year, will host the Carolina Panthers next Sunday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.