Bucs motivated by challenge of 49ers' run defense
Statistically, the Bucs have faced tougher defenses, but the 49ers come to Tampa this weekend able to count themselves as one of just two NFL teams not to allow an opposing back to rush for 100 yards in a game this season.
"That's a challenge. We love challenges," said Bucs running back Bobby Rainey, who has topped 100 yards twice in the last four games. "It's only going to elevate your game to do better when you're facing a defense like that. (You want) to be the first to do that against them and get the win. Challenges, you have to rise up and face them."
The only other NFL team not to allow a 100-yard rusher this year is Cleveland. Denver hadn't done so until San Diego's Ryan Mathews on Thursday night, and the Lions and Jets gave up their first 100-yard games last weekend. San Francisco has let back get awfully close -- Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster went for 98 yards and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 95 -- but haven't yielded 100, this after doing so four times last year on the way to the Super Bowl.
The Bucs have lost running backs Doug Martin, Mike James and Jeff Demps to season-ending injuries, and as a result, Tampa Bay ranks 21st in the NFL with 110 rushing yards per game and 24th in averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Only Cleveland has rushed for fewer touchdowns this season than the Bucs' five. Martin hasn't played in the last seven games and still leads the team in rushing, though Rainey can overtake him with 24 yards Sunday.
As tough as San Francisco's defense is, the Bucs have faced tougher against the run this season. The 49ers rank ninth in the NFL in rush defense, and the Bucs have played five games against teams ranking higher, the best individual effort being Martin's 65 yards against the Jets, and Rainey's 63 yards in the second game against the Panthers.
Guard Davin Joseph said he isn't worried about any statistical milestones, but understands the importance of establishing the run game Sunday.
"We have to play good ball. We have to play a balanced offense and consistently get first downs. (That's) what's going to help us win the game," Joseph said. "If (getting a 100-yard game) something that comes along with it, I'll take it. We have to stay on the field, put some consistent drives together, get in the red zone and score."