The San Francisco 49ers began Sunday with the release of Reuben Foster. The second-year linebacker was arrested on charges of domestic violence late Saturday at the team’s hotel in Tampa Bay. It was Foster’s second domestic violence accusation and another run-in with the law, forcing the hand of general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.
Fosters’ demise was only the start of the 49ers’ problems this weekend. The team went on to author an embarrassing performance on the road against Tampa Bay Buccaneers, falling 27-9 and dropping to a 2-9 record on the season.
Here’s five takeaways from the 49ers’ loss of the Bucs:
Secondary in shambles
The 49ers’ defense did their best to make Jameis Winston look like a serviceable starting quarterback. Winston this week was named the starter for the second time this season, the latest rotation of Tampa Bay’s quarterback carousel along with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Winston completed 29 of 38 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers’ secondary, including Richard Sherman, was routinely victimized both in man and zone coverage. Receivers were consistently running wide open in yet another poor showing for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Matt Breida a true No. 1 back
Among the few positives takeaways from Sunday’s loss was Breida. The 49ers’ leading back was on fire against the Buccaneers, toting the ball 14 times for 106 yards, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He also added three receptions for 34 yards. Breida has looked the part of a true No. 1 running back this season in lieu of Jerick McKinnon after the big free agent addition tore his ACL in September. Despite battling an ankle injury throughout the season, Breida remains on pace for over 1,000 yards in 2018, averaging an impressive 5.2 yards per carry on the season.
Poor showing for offensive line
The 49ers’ offensive line had one of their worst games of the season against the Buccaneers on Sunday. After two games without surrendering a sack, quarterback Nick Mullens was taken down four times by Tampa Bay’s defense front along with a smattering of pressures and hits. Shanahan’s offense struggling to generate any rhythm with Mullens under consistent pressure, routinely forced out of the pocket. The offensive line doesn’t bear the blame for Mullens’ poor performance, but they didn’t do enough to protect the 49ers’ quarterback.
Dante Pettis emerges
The 49ers’ second-round pick finally burst on to the scene Sunday. With veteran receiver Pierre Garçon and speedster Marquise Goodwin out, Pettis got the start and led all 49ers receivers with seven targets against the Buccaneers, catching four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Pettis shook Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis out of his shoes on a slant route in the red zone, reeling in the Mullens’ pass for the 13-yard score. It was giant step in the right direction for Pettis, who struggled to make an impact this season.
“Mullens Magic” is no more. The 49ers’ former third-string quarterback turned starter looked pedestrian at best Sunday against a vulnerable Buccaneers defense. Mullens completed just 18 of 32 passes for 221 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a quarterback rating of 62.1. The Bucs’ defense consistently pressured Mullens, who looked frazzled in the pocket and routinely missed open receivers. It’s fair to wonder if Shanahan will turn towards C.J. Beathard again before the end of the season, should Mullens continue to struggle.