TAMPA BAY-- With their defensive returning two interceptions for touchdowns & kicker Robbie Gould converting on three field goal attempts, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-17 on Sunday.
Tampa Bay won the toss & decided to receive the opening kickoff. But after a 21 yard kickoff return by T.J. Logan, the Buccaneers went three & out on their season opening drive. And things got worse for Tampa Bay when punter Bradley Pinion had his punt blocked by 49ers linebacker Mark Nzeocha, which set San Francisco up with the football on the Buccaneers 33 yard line.
San Francisco converted the block punt into three points when kicker Gould hit a 29 yard field goal but the visitors blew an opportunity to score seven when a touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Garapolo to tight end George Kittle was nullified by a pass interference penalty on fullback Kyle Juszczyk for setting a pick on linebacker Devin White.
On their second possession, Tampa Bay, with some help from San Francisco, was able to pick up three first downs. The first one came after head coach Bruce Arians challenged a pass play that fell incomplete but appeared to be pass interference when cornerback Richard Sherman appeared to make contact with wide receiver Mike Evans before the ball arrived. The incomplete pass was reversed to pass interference & the Buccaneers were able to move the ball into 49ers territory. But after a strong 14 yard run by running back Peyton Barber & another penalty on Sherman, the Buccaneers were unable to convert a third down play after Winston threw an incomplete pass that was nearly intercepted by former teammate linebacker Kwon Alexander.
After another punt by Pinion, San Francisco got the ball back. But on a third & one play, the 49ers decided to give the ball to running back Tevin Coleman, who was stopped for a one yard loss by defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.
Still trailing 3-0, Tampa Bay started their next drive on their 17 yard line. And after a third down conversion on a pass from Winston to wide receiver Breshad Perriman, the quarterback found Evans for a 16 yard gain. That completion plus two running plays by Barber, totaling seven yards, got the Buccaneers to midfield. But that's when the game took a more physical turn. During a scramble up the middle by Winston, he was met by Alexander, who during the quarterback's slide, made helmet to helmet contact, drawing a 15 yard penalty plus disqualification from the game.
Before the end of the first quarter, the Buccaneers moved the ball deeper into 49ers territory. But after two touchdown passes to tight end Cam Brate were nullified by holding penalties, both committed by offensive tackle Demar Dotson, Winston completed a pass to O.J. Howard but cornerback K'Waun Williams stripped the tight end & the ball was recovered by defensive lineman Ronald Blair III.
With their next drive starting inside their own 10 yard line, after two running plays that left San Francisco with a third & 14, Garapolo completed a 14 yard pass for a first down to wide receiver Deebo Samuel. But Garapolo's next pass proved costly for the 49ers when the quarterback threw a pass to Coleman, on the left sideline that cornerback Vernon Hargreaves intercepted & returned 15 yards for the pick six touchdown.
With the score 7-3, on the first play of the next series, San Francisco got their biggest play of the half when Garapolo, who threw for 166 yards in the game, hit Coleman for 31 yards, getting their offense into Buccaneers territory. And after converting on a fourth down play because of a penalty on cornerback Carlton Davis III, plus another defensive penalty on a third down play, the 49ers were inside the redzone. But after penalties helped extend their drive, the 49ers, like the Buccaneers had two plays that would have resulted in touchdowns get called back because of penalties. First a holding penalty then an illegal formation penalty forced San Francisco to settle for another field goal, this one by Gould was good from 36 yards away.
The half ended with no offensive touchdowns & both teams struggling to get any offensive rhythm. In the first 30 minutes of the game, Tampa Bay totaled 100 yards while San Francisco was slightly better with 131 yards.
Trailing by one, the 49ers moved the ball 75 yards on seven plays to grab the lead again. The drive included a third down conversion on a pass by Garapolo to Kittle plus another third down conversion courtesy of a 23 yard pass interference penalty on Davis. And two plays later, the 49ers completed the drive with a 39 yard touchdown pass from Garapolo to wide receiver Richie James Jr, who beat cornerback M.J. Stewart for the touchdown.
Now trailing 13-7, Tampa Bay put themselves in a bigger hole when a pass by Winston, intended for Barber, was picked off by Sherman & returned 31 yards for the game's second pick six touchdown.
Looking for their first offensive touchdown of the season, the Buccaneers, like the 49ers, put together their own 75 yard drive, resulting in a touchdown. During the drive, Winston, who finished the game with 20 completions for 194 yards, converted one third down with a five yard pass to wide receiver Breshad Perriman. But the biggest play of the drive came when Winston hooked up with Godwin for 28 yards on a third & 12 play. And after an 11 yard run got the Buccaneers inside the redzone, the Winston-Godwin connection completed the drive with a 10 yard touchdown passing play, making the score 20-14.
San Francisco, now leading by six points, was able to move the ball into Tampa Bay territory & even had a shot at adding three points to their lead but Gould hit the cross-bar on a 57 yard field goal attempt.
The missed field goal gave Tampa Bay the ball near midfield & four straight runs by running back Ronald Jones II totaling 30 yards plus a 15 yard completion from Winston to Howard moved the ball inside the 10 yard line. But a penalty for intentional grounding forced the Bucs into a third & 15. And following an 11 yard catch by running back Dare Ogunbowale, kicker Matt Gay came out initially to try a 21 yard field goal. But during the attempted field goal, the 49ers were called for offsides, moving the ball to their own two yard line. And rather than kick the field goal, Arians, on fourth & goal from the two decided to goal for the touchdown. But on the fourth down attempt, Winston threw an incompletion, intended for Godwin.
Taking over from their own two yard line, San Francisco was only able to move the ball two yards before punting the ball back to Tampa Bay. And with field position that started in San Francisco territory, Tampa Bay moved the ball 28 yards, to get into the redzone. But the drive stalled, forcing the Buccaneers to settle for a 31 yard field goal by Gay.
San Francisco moved the ball 46 yards on eight plays to set Gould up for a 47 yard field goal, which the kicker drilled for his third of the game, giving the 49ers a six point lead again. And on their first defensive play after Gould's field goal, San Francisco got their second interception returned for a touchdown of the game when Winston was pressured & threw a pass intended for Ogunbowale that was picked off by cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon & returned 25 yards for the score.
Tampa Bay has a short week & will try to get their first win of the season when they travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at 8:25 pm.