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49ers vs. Buccaneers: Week 12 grades and analysis for San Francisco

Nov 25, 2018 at 8:09 PM

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The San Francisco 49ers dropped an ugly and uninspired game in Week 12, losing 27-9 to the scuffling Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Needless to say, positional grades won't look good from this contest.

When fans and pundits look back at Week 12 for the San Francisco 49ers, they'll likely remember that being the week in which linebacker Reuben Foster saw his tenure with the Niners come to an end. That followed yet another arrest after another incident with his ex-girlfriend -- one too many for general manager John Lynch and Co.

Who knows whether or not that Sunday morning's news affected San Francisco's on-field efforts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What is factual, however, is the 49ers looked completely disjointed and out of sync against a Bucs squad that, prior to the game, was in legitimate contention with the Niners for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

And after their 27-9 loss on Sunday, the 49ers can at least feel a little better (or worse) about that top pick next year.

Let's try to grade each position out as best as we can, shall we?


The storybook beginning to second-year pro Nick Mullens' career is officially over, as he went an underwhelming 18-of-32 for 221 yards with one touchdown against two interceptions -- all for a passer rating of 62.1.

Mullens looked nothing like the confident, quick-deciding signal-caller we saw back in Week 9 against another bad pass defense, that of the Oakland Raiders. Instead, Mullens looked hesitant and cautious, often throwing without his feet set against a Buccaneers pass defense allowing more touchdowns through the air (25) and the fourth most pass yards (2,823) entering Week 12.

Well, what more should you expect out of an undrafted free agent who spent the majority of his career on the practice squad?

Grade: F

Running Back

If there was one good offensive story from the 49ers' efforts Sunday, it was running back Matt Breida. He finished the day with 106 yards on 14 carries, including an impressive 33-yard first-half scamper. Meanwhile, running back Jeff Wilson nearly looked like he had a rushing touchdown on his second-ever carry at the NFL level. But the ruling on the field was overturned, the Niners had the ball on Tampa Bay's 1-yard line and couldn't punch it in at a time when getting back into the game was everything.

Grade: B+

Wide Receiver

The 49ers were without veteran receivers Marquise Goodwin (personal) and Pierre Garçon (knee), meaning depth wideouts Kendrick Bourne and Dante Pettis would have to make an impact.

Pettis did, which was helpful. He managed 77 yards on four catches and San Francisco's lone touchdown -- the second time the University of Washington product has found the end zone this year. After struggling to stay healthy and impact the stat sheet, it's at least a small bit refreshing to see the Niners' second-round pick from this year's draft starting to make a bit of an impact.

Anyone else? Not really.

Grade: D+

Tight End

Tight end George Kittle wasn't much of a factor during the game. While he did manage six catches for 48 yards, the majority of those receptions came in garbage time when the outcome was already decided.

Kittle's false start when the 49ers were at the Bucs' 1-yard line was a killer, forcing San Francisco to settle for a field goal instead of a possible touchdown.

Grade: D

Offensive Line

Left tackle Joe Staley looked overmatched against Buccaneers EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul for much of the game. While Mullens only took three sacks, the Bucs were able to bring regular pressure often enough, even if it was from a lot of blitzes. On one of those sacks, center Weston Richburg stepped on Mullens' foot, forcing the quarterback to fall to the ground.

At least San Francisco's run blocking remained solid. But that alone wasn't going to cut it after the Niners started to fall behind early.

Grade: D+

Defensive Line

There's defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, and then there's everyone else. Buckner picked up his seventh sack of the year -- the only one the 49ers managed during the game. And despite some pressure from fellow defensive linemen Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead, getting home in the pass rush remains a problem.

Thomas saw a lot more time on the inside, which is a good thing. He should stay there. And the rookie, Jullian Taylor, saw his first snaps of the year too. He needs to be in the rotation more.

Kudos to the 49ers D-line limiting the Buccaneers to just 3.5 yards per rush. But Tampa Bay doesn't have much of a running game anyway, so one has to take that line with a grain of salt.

Grade: C


It's good the 49ers drafted former BYU linebacker Fred Warner, isn't it? He and fellow linebacker Elijah Lee were tied for the team lead in tackles with seven apiece. While there were a couple of coverage gaffes from this tandem, at least missed tackles haven't been as big a concern from this crop as was the case earlier in 2018.

Warner is a cornerstone piece to build around this offseason.

Grade: C+


The 49ers may not be able to get second-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon back to his impressive 2017 levels. Witherspoon was flagged twice for pass interference on the game. And while one of them against Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson was a flat-out bad call, it marks yet another sign Witherspoon isn't going to be a reliable boundary corner in the team's future plans. He's prone to giving up too many big plays and making mistakes at the wrong time.

Even worse, opposing teams know that too.

The Buccaneers actually targeted fellow corner Richard Sherman a lot during the game too, which we haven't seen much this season. Sherman allowed a long 42-yard catch to Bucs wideout Mike Evans, which eventually led to Tampa Bay's first touchdown. Sherman had a bad game, and he'd be the first to tell you. He'll have a chance to bounce back against his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, when the Niners visit CenturyLink Field in Week 13.

Grade: F


The 49ers lost safety Jimmie Ward to a broken forearm -- the second time in as many seasons he's suffered this kind of injury, and he's all but guaranteed to land on injured reserve as soon as the transaction is made. He was replaced by the rookie, D.J. Reed, who exited with a heel injury. He was replaced by Antone Exum, who was nearly beat by Jackson on a long pass Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston overthrew.

Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt looked rusty after missing the last two games with a shoulder injury. He gave up a touchdown to Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate, eventually being replaced by rookie safety Marcell Harris.

Tartt is supposed to be an integral part of this defense. He didn't look anything of the part in Week 12.

Grade: F

Special Teams

Kicker Robbie Gould missed an extra-point attempt on the Pettis touchdown, which seemed like a big deal at the time. At least he hit on his lone field-goal try. Punter Bradley Pinion had a nice punt wiped out by a penalty, which didn't help matters much either. Kick returner Richie James wasn't able to make much of an impact when the 49ers needed to gain better field position.

Grade: D+


If this was a regular week, the 49ers coaching staff might get something of a pass. After all, the game was a 10 a.m. PT start. Those are always tough, and the Buccaneers pass defense remains potent despite their own quarterback controversy and a slew of defensive woes.

The problem, though, is head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. were coming off the bye week. They had an additional week to prepare for this game, but both sides of the ball looked completely out of sync. Shanahan's offense went 1-of-8 on third downs, while Tampa Bay went an impressive 7-of-13. Even worse, the Niners were flagged eight times for 68 yards -- many of which were the pre-snap variety, which are problems that should have been addressed during the preseason. Simply put, the 49ers looked sloppy on both sides of the ball.

Granted, Shanahan and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh were hit with the Foster news just hours before the game. That couldn't have helped. And the injury bug continued to bite hard, including both Garçon and Goodwin's absences.

Still, that's no excuse for a flop of a contest against one of the poorer teams in the NFL this season, the Buccaneers.

At least the 49ers have a chance to right their wrongs against those Seahawks in Week 13. Yeah, that won't be fun.

Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @PeterPanacy on Twitter.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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