TAMPA — Statistically, the Bucs have faced tougher defenses. But the 49ers come to town on Sunday as one of just two teams that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in a game this season.
"That's a challenge. We love challenges," said Bucs RB Bobby Rainey, who has topped 100 yards twice over the past 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 other team not to allow a 100-yard rusher is Cleveland. Denver hadn't done so until San Diego's Ryan Mathews on Thursday night, and Detroit and Jets gave up their first Sunday. San Francisco, ninth at 104.0 yards allowed per game, has let backs get awfully close: Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and Houston's Arian Foster went for 98 and Indianapolis' Ahmad Bradshaw 95. Last season, the 49ers allowed only four on their way to the Super Bowl.
The Bucs, who have lost backs Doug Martin, Mike James and Jeff Demps to season-ending injuries, rank 21st in the league at 110.7 rushing yards per game and 24th at 3.9 yards per carry. Only the Browns (two) have rushed for fewer touchdowns than the Bucs' five.
G Davin Joseph said he isn't worried about statistical milestones but understands the importance of establishing the run game Sunday.
"We have to play a balanced offense and consistently get first downs," he said. "If (getting a 100-yard game) 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."
TWO HALVES: The Bucs and Jaguars, having won four of five after 0-8 starts, are one win from the league's best 0-8 turnaround since the then-St. Louis Cardinals finished 6-10 in 1978.
Of course, being the league's best team after an 0-8 start is hardly what a team aspires to do, but it does speak to the progress Tampa Bay and Jacksonville have made over the past month.
Of the 25 teams to open 0-8 since those Cardinals, only two mustered so much as four wins. The 2010 Bills finished 4-12 and the 2008 Bengals 4-11-1. The 25 teams finished with an average of 2.04 wins.
Injury report: All of the Bucs' injured players, except G Carl Nicks (toe), were upgraded to full participation Friday, so it looks good for Joseph (shoulder), WR Vincent Jackson (hamstring) and C Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder).
History: The Bucs went 1-12 in their first 13 meetings with the 49ers but are 4-4 since, including a 35-3 win in the last meeting in Tampa, in 2004 when WR Joe Jurevicius and RB Michael Pittman scored two touchdowns. San Francisco won the last meeting overall, 48-3 in 2011.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected]