49ers Week 15 primer: Can San Francisco carry their momentum to Tampa Bay?

Coming off a huge win in Week 14 against the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers will travel across the country to Tampa Bay to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After starting the season 0-8, the Bucs have won four of their last five and are playing the best football they have all season.

Can the 49ers carry the momentum from the Seahawks’ game with them or will they fall victim to the trap game syndrome?

Recent history

The 49ers hold an all-time regular season record of 16-5 against the Buccaneers, although only seven of those games have been played in Tampa Bay. San Francisco is 4-3 in those games. Their most recent meeting came in 2011 when the Niners, playing at home, crushed the Bucs 48-3 in Week 5. The game was over early as the 49ers jumped out to a 24-3 half time lead. Alex Smith threw three touchdown passes (two to Vernon Davis) and Frank Gore ran for 125 yards and a score. Defensively, the Niners dominated Tampas Bay, forcing three turnovers and scoring a touchdown on a Carlos Rogers interception return. Colin Kaepernick actually threw is first NFL passes in this game, going 3-3 for 35 yards in relief of Smith once the game was out of reach.

Players to watch

In Week 14 against the Seahawks, Vernon Davis caught two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown. All of that production happened on the last drive of the first half as Davis was only targeted one other time the rest of the game. It’s not a coincidence that the only drive Davis was involved in was the only one the 49ers scored a touchdown on. When Davis has been targeted over five times (five games) the 49ers are 5-0 and average 32 points. Davis has 498 yards and six touchdowns. When he is targeted five times or less, the 49ers are 4-3 and average 22 points per game. In the one game Davis missed, San Francisco only managed seven points against the Indianapolis Colts.  Getting Davis involved early and often will be key for the 49ers, especially considering either Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree will be on Revis Island.

For the Buccaneers, the third time has been the charm at running back. With both Doug Martin and Mike James lost for the season, the undrafted Bobby Rainey has been the unlikely feature back. Rainey has responded with 433 yards on 93 carries (4.65 average per carry) and four touchdowns since taking over after James was lost against the Miami Dolphins in Week 10. He, along with wide receiver Vincent Jackson, will be the players the 49ers’ defense must contain. Jackson has accounted for 1,033 of the 2,623 yards Buccaneers quarterbacks have thrown for this season. He also has six touchdowns.

Game changing factor

Even with their recent success, the Buccaneers just don’t score very much. They are averaging just under 19 points per game which is 30th in the NFL. Considering the San Francisco defense is only giving up 13.5 points a game over the last six, Tampa will most likely have trouble moving the ball. If the Niner’s offense can get touchdowns instead of field goals, they could put the game away early.

Stats to know

The Buccaneers lead the NFL with 21 interceptions and nine different players have picked off a pass this season. Linebacker Lavonte David leads the team with five. Former 49er safety Dashon Goldson has intercepted one pass this season which is his lowest total since 2010. While the 49ers have struggled to put up big numbers in the passing game, they have taken care of the football. Kaepernick only has eight interceptions this season and, as a team, only the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, and Dallas Cowboys have thrown less (seven) than the 49ers.

Bottom line

Tampa Bay has been playing well of late and is no longer an automatic win on the schedule. Even with that said, the 49ers have no excuses in this one. Can you call it a trap game? Sure, coming off a big win against Seattle and traveling across the country has all the makings of a flat performance. But the 49ers have to win every week at this point and great teams don’t lose games like this. If they have any serious aspirations for a return to the Super Bowl, they come out with a victory. It will be closer than it should, but the Niners will get their 10th win of the season.

 Photo: Getty Images

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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