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Buccaneers-49ers: What we learned

Thomas Bassinger: Jameis Winston is still Jameis Winston, but maybe Tampa Bay finally has a defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) greets with San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (31) on the field after the Bucs were defeated 31-17 at Raymond James Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Tampa, FL. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Sep. 9
Updated Sep. 9

Observations from the Buccaneers’ 31-17 loss to the 49ers in Sunday’s opener:

1. Bruce Arians risked it, but he didn’t get the biscuit. Early in the fourth quarter, the Bucs faced fourth and 4 from the San Francisco 4. Down 20-14, Tampa Bay’s field goal unit took the field, but after a 49ers neutral zone infraction made it fourth and 2, Arians sent the offense back. Chris Godwin was open over the middle, but Jameis Winston’s throw was late and nearly intercepted.

“I probably got greedy,” Arians said. “Should’ve taken the three points and kept it a three-point game."

2. Actually, no. Arians wasn’t greedy. The call was correct, but the execution and the result were bad. Teams converted 60 percent of their fourth-and-2 tries last season. If it doesn’t work, then the opponent is backed up against its own end zone. Offenses that started drives inside their 2 last season ended up giving the ball back to the other team (via turnover or punt) about 70 percent of the time.

PHOTO GALLERY: The Bucs season opener in pictures

3. Winston threw three interceptions, though his second-quarter interception wasn’t a poorly thrown ball. His pass over the middle bounced off tight end O.J. Howard’s hands and to linebacker Mark Nzeicha. Howard also lost a fumble at the 8-yard line. The Bucs scored a touchdown in just one of four trips inside the red zone.

4. Winston’s third-quarter interception was tight-window pass that cornerback Richard Sherman jumped and returned 31 yards to give the 49ers a 20-7 lead.

San Francisco sealed the win — its first on the road since Dec. 31, 2017 — with another pick-six with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Neither was a good decision. The Bucs are now 0-5 in games in which Winston throws an interception that the opponent returns for a touchdown. The 49ers, by the way, intercepted two passes all of last season.

5. How rare is it for a quarterback to throw two pick-sixes in one game? Josh Rosen was the only one to do it last season (his Cardinals lost 45-10). Only three other Bucs quarterbacks have thrown two pick-sixes in a game: Trent Dilfer (1997), Vinny Testaverde (1989) and Steve DeBerg (1985).

6. Raise your hand if you predicted that the Bucs defense would be responsible for the only touchdown of the first half. Vernon Hargreaves’ interception return halfway through the second quarter gave Tampa Bay a 7-3 lead. The Bucs returned one turnover for a touchdown last season, a fumble forced by … Hargreaves, also in the opener. Tampa Bay intercepted only one pass through its first 10 games last season.

7. Maybe the Bucs have a credible defense now? They allowed only 4.3 yards per play, their fewest since Dec. 24, 2017.

8. Some return to Tampa for 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander, even if it only lasted a quarter. On the Bucs’ second drive, he dropped a potential interception on a short pass intended for Dare Ogunbowale. On their next possession, he was ejected after he made helmet-to-helmet contact with Winston while his former teammate was sliding to the ground. A shoving match ensued, with offensive guard Ali Marpet and receiver Mike Evans at the center of it.

“It was so fast,” Evans said. “I saw it was 56. I’m used to his number being something different (58). We were all upset, but we didn’t want him to get ejected. I don’t think he did it intentionally. He didn’t want to hurt Jameis. We’re all good friends.”

9. Brady vs. Mahomes, this was not. Winston completed 20 of 36 passes for 194 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 45.4 rating. If all 36 of Winston’s passes had fallen incomplete, he would have had a 39.6 rating. Jimmy Garoppolo completed 18 of 27 passes for 166 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 80.2 rating.

10. It wasn’t just the quarterbacks. Most of the game looked like a scrimmage. The Bucs and 49ers combined for six turnovers, 19 penalties and five nullified touchdowns (two passes to Tampa Bay tight end Cameron Brate, two passes to San Francisco tight end George Kittle and one run by San Francisco running back Raheem Mostert).

11. Despite their sloppiness, the Bucs took a 7-6 lead into halftime. They’ve lost three straight games in which they’ve had a lead after two quarters.

12. You don’t want to overreact to a Week 1 loss, but the Bucs really needed this one. It’s one of only seven true home games for them this season, and now they head to Carolina for a Thursday night game. Between the end of the 49ers game and the start of the Panthers game, the Bucs will have had only about 96 hours of rest. That’s an incredibly difficult adjustment at any point in the season, but especially early.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.



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