SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 09: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers in action during their against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Candlestick Park on October 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
In our Week 5 recap of the 49ers vs. Buccaneers, it's important to note that Ricky Jean-Francois starting was starting at nose tackle. Also, Adam Snyder remained at right guard after overtaking Chilo Rachal the week prior. Rookie full back Bruce Miller was also starting again, which proved to be a very good decision by the staff, seeing as how Miller is a stud.
The following is a quarter-by-quarter recap of the 2011 Week 5 matchup between the Niners and visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
49ers won the opening toss and chose to defer again. Lucky for them, the Bucs offense started slow and went three-and-out with Ahmad Brooks chasing down and hitting Josh Freeman. Early on, we saw rookie cornerback Chris Culliver on Tampa Bay's No. 1 wide out, Mike Williams.
Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree were starting at wide receiver. Alex Smith checked down to Gore, moving the chains and taking advantage of an overaggressive defensive line - it wasn't much, but it kept San Francisco on the field. Before long, Smith lofted a dime to Delanie Walker, putting the ball in a tight window for a 26-yard touchdown in triple coverage. San Francisco took a 7-0 lead and it marked the first time SF scored in first quarter for the season.
Freeman threw one deep to the end zone on a 2nd and short that was almost intercepted by Tarell Brown. LeGarrette Blount came out the strong runner he is, having challenged the physicality of the 49ers defense. Tampa Bay moved the ball better on their second drive; they took their time and got into the Niners red zone, but SF forced a field goal.
With a 7-3 lead, Smith threw another strike downfield to Michael Crabtree, right behind the linebackers. Smith found Crabtree in a small empty area and confidently put the ball there. He began the game 4 for 4, for 64 yards.
Ted Ginn Jr. took a sweep 24-yards the following play, allowing him to use his great open field running ability to benefit the offense. Afterward, Josh Morgan caught a slant from Smith who was getting ball out quick and being decisive.
For a moment Chilo Rachal came into the game for Adam Snyder, and on that very play, Frank Gore ran into his own man, lost the football and it was recovered by Tampa Bay.
However, the Niners had six first downs and 109 yards of total offense in the first quarter.
To begin the second quarter, newly acquired cornerback Carlos Rogers intercepted QB Josh Freeman's pass, undercutting the route and taking it for a touchdown. Rogers followed the wide receiver up, then used his awareness to sit on the out-route by Kellen Winslow and get the takeaway - a 29-yard defensive score.
This gave San Francisco a 14-3 lead relatively early in the game.
The 49ers defense was looking strong; dominating and playing instinctual at all levels - defensive line, linebackers and secondary. They really looked to be more confident in this game than the four weeks prior. It was apparent that their hard work and film study was paying off.
A 3rd and 9 pass intended for Michael Spurlock was intercepted by rookie Chris Culliver, the first of his career; Freeman's second pick of the 2nd quarter.
Smith continued to find his wide receivers, hitting Morgan on first down to move the chains and get a fresh set of downs. With Snyder back in, the offense continued to gel again and it was back on track with the air and ground game working. A pass interference on the Buccaneers defenseman covering Vernon Davis put the Niners at the TB-1 with a new set of downs.
Gore took a dive up the middle and powered through with a full head of steam, taking advantage of the hesitating linebackers. Gore's touchdown capped off a 5 play, 57-yard drive that gave San Francisco a commanding 21-3 lead. The team was capitalizing on turnovers; scoring touchdowns instead of field goals.
The 49ers coverage was stellar; more so than the defensive line. The guys up front were getting hits on Freeman because the coverage was so good; Freeman was holding onto the ball for way too long.
The 49ers used Delanie Walker as a blocker in the run game, having him often go in motion. And Walker was extremely successful, hitting key blocks and creating lanes. Gore ripped off a 21-yarder after a great lead block by Walker.
By this point it was clear that Jim Harbaugh was just outcoaching Raheem Morris; in terms of play calling, preparation, having his players performing at a higher level, having less penalties and less mental mistakes.
A David Akers FG made it a 24-3 game.
Freeman lucked out yet again after another near Tarell Brown interception. Brown used his instincts, breaking of his assignment and sticking a hand in there to break up the pass. Aldon Smith sacked Freeman on third down to get his 2nd and a half on the season. Freeman held the football too long again, showing how well the secondary was performing.
Tampa Bay punted and there was another good return by Ted Ginn Jr.
The 49ers were winning on offense, defense and special teams - total team domination. Freeman's pass was nearly picked off by Dashon Goldson when a tipped pass fell right through his hands on a diving attempt.
The 49ers brought the run on 1st and 10 that resulted in a 14-yard gain and another San Francisco 1st down. A great, powerful lead block by Mike Iupati on the pull freed up Gore to get the Niners a fresh set of downs.
But a penalty on Mike Iupati soon put the Niners in a 3rd and 14 situation. Michael Crabtree came up big, snatching the ball out of the air, turning up field and converting for the first down. Delanie Walker and Mike Iupati proved to be crucial blockers in the run game for San Francisco; great impact blockers with consistency.
A very sharp play design had Morgan catching a short pass, with a lead block from Crabtree springing him free up the left side line for extra yardage and the first down. Smith then hit Vernon Davis on a short pattern, which Davis took up field and stumbled into the end zone for a touchdown. The tight end's touchdown upped the Niners' lead to 28 points (31-3 SF).
Smith engineered a 7-play, 80-yard, 5:17 drive on which the quarterback was 4 for 4, for 64 yards with a 23-yard touchdown pass to start the second half. Before long, Raheem Morris lost his cool and received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call after a scuffle between Donte Whitner and Kellen Winslow.
With Tampa Bay back on offense, Freeman scrambled out right and dumped the ball off to Blount; Blount took it up right sideline but got hit by Dashon Goldson, breaking his knee - Blount would be out for the rest of the game.
Culliver continued to get his name called, breaking up a back shoulder throw to Mike Williams. The Buccaneers went for it on 4th down but the pass was incomplete, which resulted in a turnover on downs. Frank Gore's 19-yarder ripped the defense for another big gain. Again, it was well blocked by Iupati, Miller and Snyder - the receivers were also blocking well up field.
Alex Smith underthrew Kyle Williams down the field and Aqib Talib almost intercepted it, but Williams quickly turned into a cornerback and broke up the attempt. Going back to the run, Gore went over a hundred, picking up another 17-yards to mark his 26th career 100-yard rushing game with the Niners. The Pro Bowler was taking advantage of huge holes created by the offensive line.
Kendall Hunter received a carry and took it off the right side for a first down; another well executed play by the offensive line. New rookie full back Bruce Miller was just executing and showed great potential for the future.
Vernon Davis even got a hand off in the red zone but it was stuffed by the Bucs. A David Akers FG made it 34-3 SF.
Patrick Willis was all over the place in this game too. Mike Williams made a catch on a slant and took a huge shoulder from Dashon Goldson, which forced a fumble that was recovered by Willis. Back on offense, Gore continued to have a great day on the ground.
With 2 tight ends stacked left, Vernon Davis faded to the left corner and Delanie Walker posted to the middle; Alex Smith went over the top to Davis, completing for his third touchdown of the game on a beautiful touch pass. This score gave San Francisco an insurmountable lead at this point, at 41-3.
Justin Smith sacked Josh Freeman on a third down for his 3rd sack of the season. With the Niners getting the ball back on offense, Smith, Gore and Crabtree all took a seat with just over 9 minutes left in the game. Smith finished 11 for 19, 170 yards, 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions on the day.
Colin Kaepernick took over and on his first play, he handed off to Kendall Hunter but bumped into him for a loss. Hunter then took a toss left, getting good blocks from Delanie Walker, Joe Staley and Bruce Miller. On a 2nd and 13, Hunter's fresh legs took the Niners across to midfield for a 44-yard gain.
Colin Kaepernick responded by firing a pass to Delanie Walker, making his first career completion and for a first down. Another toss left to Hunter got them another first down; once again well blocked by Joe Staley and Bruce Miller who did a great job on the edges all day.
Kaepernick handed off to Hunter again, bumping into him for a second time.
Kaepernick completed to Josh Morgan but it's short of the first down. But San Francisco went for it on 4th and 2 - Kaepernick completed it to Morgan on a back shoulder throw, who brought it to the 1-yard line. Unfortunately, Morgan suffered a broken leg that cost him the rest of the season. The loss would prove costly by season's end.
Following Morgan's catch, Anthony Dixon took it up the gut for a touchdown to make it 48-3.
When the Bucs took the field on offense again, Josh Johnson had come in for Josh Freeman to finish the game. On third down, rookie Aldon Smith had pressured and sacked Josh Johnson to force the punt. Tampa Bay then had their 9th penalty of the game on a fair catch interference call before the end of the game - it would make for 9 penalties for 96 yards.
With a 48-3 win, it would be the 49ers' largest margin of victory since 1987. San Francisco raised their record to 4-1 with the 5-0 Detroit Lions on the horizon.
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