The 2019 NFL Season is here which means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were back on the football field, and we’re back with key plays following each game.
This week we had to accelerate our content timelines just a bit as the Bucs turn right around and play in Carolina on Thursday night. Typically, this will come out with All-22 footage provided via NFL Game Pass to try and give a more detailed look as to what went down, and why.
Still, we’ve been able to pick out a good group of plays to help illustrate how we got to the Week 1 result we did.
Let’s get to it.
A lot of talk centered around Kwon Alexander’s return to Tampa after the team allowed him to walk in free-agency early this year, and he certainly made his mark early in this match-up.
But it was punter Bradley Pinion who had a significant experience with his former teammates as his first punt of the day was blocked by San Francisco 49ers linebacker, Mark Nzeocha.
Opening the game with a three-and-out was bad enough for the offense. Getting his first punt of the year blocked by his former team only added to the early struggles for Tampa Bay, and set the 49ers up for their first score of the game, as they eventually took a 3-0 lead in the ensuing possession.
CARLTON DAVIS STEPS UP
With the Buccaneers leading 7-6, San Francisco was driving late in the first half looking for a go ahead score.
Instead, wide receiver Deebo Samuel fumbled the ball when he collided with one of his blockers as he tried to set his team up in better field position.
Despite all of the action and bodies falling in every direction, Davis was able to spy the ball laying on the Raymond James Stadium grass and scoop it up for a Buccaneers takeaway.
The play prevented the 49ers from putting any more points on the board, and gave Tampa Bay a 7-6 halftime lead despite sloppy play and poor execution by the offense for much of the first half.
CARLTON DAVIS MESSES UP
The fumble recovery by Davis to end the first half was even bigger considering San Francisco got possession of the ball to start the third quarter.
On their first possession, the 49ers offense found themselves in a 3rd and 10 from their own 37-yard line. Quarterback Jimmy Garopollo eyed a deep shot to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and subsequently threw a pass which fell around seven yards beyond his target.
Why the ball fell so far out of the reach of his intended receiver soon became clear as Davis was flagged for pass interference on the play, resulting in an automatic first down and 23-yards gained by San Francisco.
Two plays later, Garoppolo hooked up with wide receiver Richie James Jr. on what would be the 49ers’ lone offensive touchdown of the game.
SHERMAN’S BIG BREAK
Down by a touchdown and a Nick Folk extra point try, the Buccaneers had the ball back with a chance to regain the lead.
On 2nd and 10 from just outside their own 20-yard line, Winston faced a free rusher in 49ers defensive lineman Ronald Blair III. In the face of the rush, Winston tried to deliver a pass to running back Peyton Barber on the right quarter of the field.
Unfortunately for Winston and the Bucs, the ball came out off target and by the time Barber got turned around to receive the pass, cornerback Richard Sherman was already breaking on the ball.
Sherman stepped in front of Barber and ran the interception back 31-yards for a huge pick-six that put his team up two scores.
We’ve since learned Mike Evans was supposed to run a hot route on the play which would have given Winston a better option, and Barber ran his route too deep resulting in his turning late for the pass. All of which contributed greatly to the ball being intercepted.
GODWIN SETS UP GODWIN
Resiliency is critical for NFL teams trying to build successful campaigns year in and year out.
While the pick-six certainly set the team back, it didn’t kill their chances down two scores with more than six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay had already gained one first down on their next drive and was working towards another when rookie Nick Bosa notched the first sack of his career setting the Bucs up for a 2nd and 19 play from their own 39-yard line.
Seven yards gained on second down put Winston and his offense in a third and long situation with a lot of momentum hanging in the balance.
28-yards later Chris Godwin and Winston hooked up for a big gain and new set of downs at the 49ers 26-yard line.
On the next pass of the game (three plays later), Winston again targeted Godwin who brought in a 10-yard pass for Tampa Bay’s first and only offensive trip to the end zone.
A THIRD TRY WITHOUT THE CHARM
The Bucs had such great success looking to Godwin on their previous drive when needing big plays, why not do it again?
This time, it was fourth and goal, and down six with thirteen minutes left in the game head coach Bruce Arians decided to go for the touchdown.
Winston and his offense lined up with the quarterback in the shotgun, and FOX analyst Ronde Barber correctly identified Godwin as one of two receivers to watch in case the 49ers defense tried to cover using man.
San Francisco did use man coverage, and Winston did target Godwin who had come open underneath the 49ers defensive coverage. Unfortunately, Godwin ran the route too deep into the entrance of the end zone (according to Arians) and defensive back Tarvarius Moore was able to break up the pass before it reached the hands of Godwin in the end zone.
A big risk, but no biscuit for the Buccaneers offense, who turned the ball over on downs, still trailing by six points in the fourth quarter.
WHITEHEAD FUELS THE DEFENSE
With the ball back, a fourth quarter lead, and momentum on their side for the moment, San Francisco took the field looking to put together what might prove to be a game clinching drive.
The Buccaneers defense, who had played solid football all day, was looking to get the ball back for their offense in good field position still needing at least a touchdown to tie the game.
San Francisco got the first win of the possession by converting a 3rd and 1 run by running back Matt Breida to convert a first down.
But it was the Buccaneers defense who won the possession led by safety Jordan Whitehead.
On back-to-back plays, Whitehead was credited with tackles which netted the 49ers just one yard and put Jimmy G and company in third and long deep in their own territory.
Aided afterwards by a Mike McGlinchey holding penalty, the Bucs defense held San Francisco deep on their own side of the field and set up their own offense with another possession starting from their opponent’s 41-yard line.
Ronald Jones has been hyped all preseason and training camp with many expecting big things from the second-year running back.
While it didn’t ultimately lead to a victory, Jones showed flashes of the electric talent that made him a second-round draft pick last year.
This stretch of runs came on the drive following the impressive defensive stand by the Bucs defense, and if he can consistently produce this way, then the team will have a strong running game to lean on in 2019.
These runs ended with a Matt Gay field goal, bringing Tampa Bay within a field goal of tying the game with nearly five minutes remaining in the game.
KITTLE AND MOSTERT KEEP THE PRESSURE ON
Up three with less than five minutes left in their season opener, the San Francisco offense took the field in need of a big drive and points to finish it off.
The Buccaneers defense again forced the 49ers into an early third down conversion try, but it was Garoppolo’s guys who got the leverage and converted with a pass to tight end George Kittle.
Play design was solid as Kittle and Bourne crossed routes forcing Whitehead into an inconvenient position trying to guard the tight end. The result was five yards and a first down extending the drive with less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
On the next play however, San Francisco turned opportunity into results as running back Raheem Mostert took the ball over the left side of the offense for a gain of 18-yards down to the Buccaneers’ 46-yard line.
Making matters worse, veteran safety Darian Stewart was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for lowering his helmet as he combined with Vernon Hargreaves III to tackle Mostert on the play.
In just two plays, the 49ers flipped the field from 3rd and 4 at their own 31-yard line, to 1st and 10 on Tampa Bay’s 31. Well within field goal range with the clock running down inside of three minutes.
San Francisco would end up with that field goal, leaving under two and a half minutes in the fourth quarter with a six point lead.
LACK OF EXECUTION = LACK OF WIN
Down six, Winston and the Buccaneers offense needed a touchdown. In recent years, Bucs fans would have been thrilled to see a guy wearing a white jersey run into the end zone of Raymond James Stadium following a Jameis Winston pass.
Unfortunately, the Bucs were in red, and the man in white sprinting in for the score was 49ers defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon.
The interception put San Francisco up by twelve and a two-point conversion immediately after gave the visiting team a two touchdown lead just outside of the two minute warning.
With a 31-17 loss, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t get off to the start they wanted or expected. Touchdowns called back due to penalties and critical mistakes by players like tight end O.J. Howard certainly didn’t help matters.
In the end, the Bucs still had a chance to get the win late in the fourth quarter, but were done in by inconsistent execution.