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2 X-Factors on each side of the ball: The Niners need their interior OL to hold up

Defensively, it’s all about winning the second level

Miami Dolphins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Santa Clara on Sunday. Coming off a dramatic victory over the Saints on Monday Night Football, the Bucs hope the win is a springboard to a winning streak.

They’ll have to stop the home team, as the 49ers are streaking themselves. This game has high stakes as the Bucs are looking to make up valuable ground in the NFC playoff race. The stars and matchups are easy to highlight.

Let’s talk about some X factors for today’s game.

Offense: Aaron Banks/Jake Brendel/Daniel Brunskill

The Buccaneers' defense has been middle of the pack in run defense. This is a stark difference from years past. Conversely, the Bucs rank seventh in passing yards allowed per game.

Why highlight the interior offensive linemen?

Vita Vea.

Vea can wreck games with his relentless pursuit and strength. The Saints showed some cracks within the offensive line two weeks ago. Vea can change playcalling and game plans. The interior of the offensive line will have their hands full trying to contain Vea.

Protecting Brock Purdy is paramount. Vea will make life difficult for whoever is lined up across from him.

Defense: Fred Warner/Dre Greenlaw/Azeez Al-Shaair

The Bucs’ run game is non-existent. That’s not hyperbole. The Bucs rank 32nd in both running yards per game and run yards per play.

Tom Brady is notorious for his quick release. Every short pass is an extension of the run game. Don’t believe me? The Bucs rank first in interception rate and sacks per pass attempt.

The linebacker group will have to be fast and disciplined. Swarm to the ball on each short throw. Limit the YAC. Warner and Greenlaw have been playing some of their best football.

Brady will take his deep shots when presented. This version of the Bucs is much more “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

Sunday’s game is going to be a test for this team. Brady surely wants to win. Revenge is on his mind. But this 49ers team is equipped to leave with a win.

These two matchups may decide the game.