SAN FRANCISCO — Shortly after his team suffered a 48-3 bludgeoning Sunday at the hands of the 49ers that tied for the franchise's biggest margin of defeat, Bucs coach Raheem Morris gathered his players in the cramped locker room at Candlestick Park.
He didn't lose his cool like he had in drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for jawing at an official in the third quarter.
He didn't throw things around with reckless abandon the way quarterback Josh Freeman did with two interceptions in a span of four minutes to start the second quarter, including one returned for a touchdown.
He didn't make excuses such as the short week or long flight in which the Bucs managed to cross time zones but not the end zone.
"He basically said it can go one of two ways: You can sulk about it or you can decide to stand up and face it like a man," Freeman recounted. "I know judging from the response of the team, I know we're choosing the latter."
Sunday dawned amid multiple reports that the Bucs had been fined $250,000 for Morris' contact with players during the lockout.
The defeat matched the 45-0 rout at Oakland in 1999 for Tampa Bay's worst ever and dropped it to 3-2, a game behind New Orleans in the NFC South.
The 49ers improved to 4-1 in the first season of coach Jim Harbaugh as the rejuvenated Alex Smith threw three touchdown passes and Frank Gore rushed for 125 yards and a score.
The 45-point margin of victory was the 49ers' largest since 48-0 over the Rams in 1987 (led by Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Roger Craig).
And that might not be the worst thing that happened to the Bucs in Candle-stuck.
With two upcoming games against New Orleans sandwiched around a trip to London to play the Bears, the Bucs might be without two starters.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who missed the final month of his rookie season last year with a torn bicep, suffered a left ankle injury late in the first quarter and watched the rest of the game on crutches.
And LeGarrette Blount, who was held to 34 yards on 10 carries, left the game in the third quarter after a 29-yard reception when he was upended by safety Dashon Goldson. Both are scheduled for tests today to determine the extent of their injuries.
"Flat start, flat finish, flat middle — everything," Morris said. "We didn't even get off the plane this time. We came out here this time and were a little punch-drunk, I guess, and didn't work, didn't play as hard as we normally do. It's disappointing for us, but all we can do is bounce back for the New Orleans Saints when they come to our place."
Freeman, who had six interceptions during all of 2010, now has that many this season in only five games.
Trailing 7-3 to start the second quarter, Freeman's pass to tight end Kellen Winslow was intercepted by cornerback Carlos Rogers and returned 31 yards for a score.
On the next possession, Freeman tried to squeeze a pass over the middle to Micheal Spurlock. But cornerback Chris Culliver made a diving interception to set up another 49ers touchdown.
"The first one … the corner fell off (Mike Williams). Kellen came high," Freeman said. "I thought (Winslow) was going to shave it underneath, but he took it a little deep. Obviously, that's something where you don't want to throw that ball. You want to check it down. But it happens, trying to find explosive plays and make things happen.
"The second one, coming out it felt good. I guess it got deflected and intercepted. You can't have interceptions and win. It's one thing early on when the game is still close, still in your grasp. Turnovers are what are killing you. We got the ball going, driving it then found a way to turn it over and hurt ourselves."
Freeman was asked if there is a reason he has thrown so many interceptions this season, including two in the red zone.
"No, I feel better as a quarterback, as a passer, seeing things, throwing the ball," said Freeman, who was 17-of-33 for 187 yards. "I'm throwing the ball better. Even (Sunday), I thought the ball was coming off great. I was putting it right where I wanted to. It was just those two. I wish I could have them back."
Having been buried on the scoreboard by the 49ers, Bucs players were ready to do the same with Sunday's game.
"This happens every now and then," Freeman said. "You hate to see it happen, and I feel horrible about it. But at the same time, we still have a job to do. We still have the Saints coming in next week, and they're not going to be taking it easy on us because we just got our butts kicked."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]