49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 17, 2013
Film review: 49ers don't wilt in Florida; Crabtree's suddenness, tight end troubles


The 49ers have played only one other game this season - against the Saints - in the south, and that game was in an air-conditioned dome. (No, I don't consider Landover, Md. the south). After Sunday's contest, several players noted how humid it was in Tampa. But it was the home-town Buccaneers who seemed to bear the brunt of the issues.

The 49ers' offense ran 71 plays to just 50 by the Buccaneers, and they held the ball nearly twice as long as Tampa's offense - 39:50 to 20:10. In the third quarter, Bucs linebacker Lavonte David thought he intercepted a tipped pass and ran down the sideline for a touchdown. The play was called back because of an encroachment penalty and David had to briefly leave the game with cramps.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers' quest to give veterans Justin Smith and Ray McDonald more time off this season is in full swing. McDonald played just 35 snaps, Smith 33. That's a little more than half an average game. Their Tampa counterparts played more than twice that. Gerald McCoy, for instance, logged 72 snaps. All of which promises to pay dividends if, as expected, the 49ers make the playoffs.

Speaking of McCoy, he was a handful in the first half. But the 49ers used more double teams - Jonathan Goodwin and Adam Snyder - in the second half and had him in better, though certainly not perfect, control thereafter. (McCoy had six QB hurries in the game, according to Pro Football Focus).

The 49ers were better running to their left than their right Sunday, especially on runs to the outside. The team started running more to the outside three weeks ago with little effect. Against the Buccaneers, however, Kendall Hunter went for 15 yards on the left side with Joe Staley making a key block deep down field. LaMichael James had his longest run of the season, 21 yards, also to the left with Snyder pulling in front of him from left guard.

Who replaces Bruce Miller at fullback? Anthony Dixon did so at the end of the game. Tight end Derek Carrier also played one snap there earlier. Carrier has been getting rave reviews in practice for his athleticism, especially in the passing game. However, he played wide receiver in college. Converting him to tight end - much less fullback - promises to take an offseason at least.

After the game, I wrote that Colin Kaepernick looked more like his 2012 self. The same can be said of Michael Crabtree, who was very physical and chippy (see: selfish 15-yard penalty in fourth quarter), and who was able to stop and change directions quickly, including on his touchdown catch. Crabtree's suddenness is his forte. It also may be why he's suffered foot and Achilles' injuries in recent years. That suddenness is back. The question now is whether injuries will follow.

Seattle tight end Luke Willson was a handful for the 49ers last week. This week it was Tampa tight end Tim Wright, who led all receivers with seven catches for 82 yards. Wright mostly played off the offensive line in the slot. And like the Saints Jimmy Graham, the 49ers mostly used Donte Whitner to cover him. Whitner was on Wright when he caught a 24-yard touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter.

Hunter, of course, alertly picked up the muffed Buccaneers' reverse on a kickoff and then adroitly dove into the end zone for a touchdown. He's also been in on a lot of tackles since joining the kickoff coverage unit three weeks ago. In fact, he made the tackle on the kickoff that followed his own touchdown.

Tarell Brown was back in the lineup after suffering a rib injury on Nov. 17. He enetered in nickel situations and played 71 percent of the defensive plays (The Buccaneers mostly abandoned their run game early on). Playing left cornerback instead of his usual right cornerback spot, Brown allowed three catches for 41 yards, including an 11-yrad touchdown to Vincent Jackson.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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