The San Francisco 49ers expected nothing less than to be playing
solid football down the stretch with a chance to lock up a playoff
spot, but by no means do they believe they’re a finished product
despite a win over one of the NFL’s top teams.
The defending NFC champions can secure a postseason berth with a
road win Sunday and a little help, though the surging Tampa Bay
Buccaneers likely won’t let that scenario come to fruition
San Francisco (9-4) has won three straight following last week’s
19-17 victory over Seattle. Frank Gore rushed 17 times for 110
yards, including a 51-yard run that helped lead to Phil Dawson’s
22-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining.
“We look at the season in quarters. It’s the fourth quarter
now,” Gore said. “We want to be that team that gets to the next
level and take that trophy. We’re taking small steps and we still
have a lot to learn. But that’s a good thing.”
The 49ers, who can clinch a playoff spot with a win, an Arizona
loss and a Dallas or Philadelphia loss or tie, have limited
opponents to averages of 255.3 total yards and 12.0 points during
their winning streak.
They rank fourth overall in total defense.
”I think we showed a championship effort (last week),” safety
Donte Whitner said. ”I think everybody around the country knows
who the 49ers are now. That was a championship football game in a
playoff atmosphere and we just made a few more plays than they
Colin Kaepernick threw for 175 yards, a touchdown pass to Vernon
Davis and one interception, but the defense – which has yet to
allow a 100-yard rusher – came through.
”The defense came to play,” wide receiver Michael Crabtree
said. ”They saved us.”
Eric Wright’s interception sealed the victory that helped bring
the 49ers to the brink of a playoff berth, but he knows his former
team won’t go down easily. The defensive back signed a five-year,
$37.5 million contract with Tampa Bay before last season, but he
was released after one year and signed with San Francisco.
The Buccaneers (4-9) have won four of five after dropping their
“We know we’re going to get their best shot,” Wright said.
“Their record may not reflect the type of ability and the type of
team they are. It’s a team that’s going to throw it all out there
on the line.”
Greg Schiano’s team is coming off one of its best defensive
efforts of the season, allowing 214 yards and forcing five
turnovers in a 27-6 win over Buffalo. It allowed an average of
412.0 yards and 23.6 points over its previous three games.
”We just don’t quit, and that all starts with our head coach.
That’s how he is,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. ”He’s very
consistent with his effort, and nothing really changes with how he
prepares and how he comes to work every day that makes you want to
work harder for that guy.”
Schiano’s job may be more secure given the team’s current surge
that has followed plenty of drama, including the promotion of
rookie quarterback Mike Glennon to starter and subsequent release
of Josh Freeman. When asked if he’s excited about Tampa Bay’s
future, Schiano tried to keep the focus on the task at hand.
“I’m more looking forward to next Sunday,” Schiano said. “This
is going to be a heck of a challenge. Frank Gore, Colin Kaepernick,
Anquan Boldin – you’re talking about really fine players. They’re a
really good team in all three phases.”
He also believes he has one of the better defensive players in
the NFL to help stop that offensive core in Lavonte David. The
second-year linebacker had two interceptions last week and has a
pick in three consecutive contests.
”There’s certain types of leaders: there’s vocal leaders,
there’s leaders by example. Lavonte is a leader by example,
unquestionably – his work ethic, his attention to detail, his
practice habits,” Schiano said. ”If you could say, how do you
want a guy, as a Buc, to perform, you (would) just point to
Offensively, Glennon will have to contend with the league’s
fourth-ranked pass defense. He finished 9 of 25 for 90 yards and
two interceptions last week, though he also threw a pair of
Glennon has completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 15
touchdowns and seven picks with an 86.4 passer rating in 10
“I think you have to look at his body of work, especially as a
rookie quarterback,” Schiano said. “His body of work is pretty
impressive. We have a team that’s coming into town that plays great
defense. He’s been grinding really, really hard, and I just want
him to take a breath.”
Gore rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown as the 49ers won the
most recent meeting 48-3 on Oct. 9, 2011.