Bucs, Rodgers facing historically bad 49ers run defense
The Bucs will go to California this weekend without their top two running backs, but as they prepare for another week with Jacquizz Rodgers as the primary ballcarrier, they'll do so Sunday against a 49ers run defense that is the worst in the NFL, and in quite some time.
The 49ers are giving up 174.5 rushing yards per game -- that's 27 yards more per game than any other NFL team, and to find an NFL team that gave up more yards per game over a full season, you have to go back to the 1985 Houston Oilers. The most allowed by a 49ers defense was 160 yards per game, set back in 1962.
That average got a bump Sunday when the Bills rushed for 312 yards on San Francisco in a 45-16 win -- that's the most allowed by a 49ers team since 1958, and more than any NFL team rushed for in any game last season. Since the start of the 2011 season, there have been just five teams to rush for 300 yards, so less than once per NFL season.
But the 49ers were struggling against the run long before Sunday -- they've allowed a 100-yard rusher in five straight games, and the last four backs to start against San Francisco have averaged 135 yards and two touchdowns (we pause, as you go make sure Rodgers is on a roster in your fantasy league). There are some solid backs in this group -- LeSean McCoy had 140 yards and three scores Sunday, Arizona's David Johnson had 157 and two scores the week before, and rookie Ezekiel Elliott went for 138 and a score for Dallas the week before that. But others (like Rodgers) have stepped up for big numbers against the 49ers -- Carolina's Fozzy Whittaker rushed 16 times for 100 yards against the 49ers; he has 85 total yards in his other five games combined.
San Francisco is playing without inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Ray-Ray Armstrong, and the replacements have struggled against the run.