3TFO: 49ers @ Buccaneers, Week 15
Two teams coming off wins last Sunday square off at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa this week, as the 9-4 San Francisco 49ers fly across the country to face the 4-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 49ers are coming off perhaps their biggest win of the season, a hard-fought 19-17 victory at home against the rival Seahawks. With the NFC West likely out of reach barring a Seattle collapse, the 49ers will be looking for a win to strengthen their grip on one of the wild card spots in the NFC.
After starting 0-8, the Buccaneers have won four of their last five and have picked up quite a bit of momentum heading towards the end of the season. Here are three things to watch as Tampa Bay tried to play spoiler to the visiting 49ers.
Glennon vs. the 49ers’ Pass Defense
After taking over the reins in Week 4 from Josh Freeman, rookie Mike Glennon has surprised many with his play, leading the Buccaneers to four wins in his 10 starts while earning an 86.4 passer rating. Glennon has had three games where he’s had a passer rating of over 120, though he’s coming off one of his worst performances last week in a win against Buffalo, where he only completed nine of 25 passes.
He will be facing a stout 49ers defense which sports one of the strongest pass rushes in the league. While the 49ers generally do not send extra rushers at the quarterback, as they have only blitzed on 20.8% of drop-backs this season (well below the league average of 31.6%,) it will be interesting to see if they attempt to rattle the rookie on Sunday as Glennon’s numbers take a significant drop when blitzed. When Glennon is not blitzed, he is completing 66.0% of his passes and averaging 7.2 yards per attempt. When he faces a blitz, those numbers slide to just 51.3% and 5.3 yards per attempt.
Glennon’s main target has been wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who has accounted for 37.4% of Glennon’s passing yards on the year. Unfortunately, six of Glennon’s seven interceptions have also come on passes targeting Jackson. Jackson has run 38.8% of his pass routes from the slot season, and with the rest of his routes coming outside split relatively even on both sides of the field, all three of the 49ers cornerbacks in their nickel package (Tramaine Brock, Carlos Rogers, and former Buccaneer Eric Wright) will all get their shot at covering Jackson on Sunday.
With Aldon Smith rounding back into form (+9.5 overall grade the last three games) it could be a long day for the rookie if he does not get enough time to make plays.
Darrelle Revis enters Sunday’s game as our No. 1 ranked cornerback with a +17.6 overall grade and a +10.6 coverage grade that is also best at the position. It doesn’t stop there. Revis is allowing only 0.52 yards per snap in coverage and a reception every 16.6 coverage snaps, again tops among cornerbacks.
Unlike last week where the 49ers knew Richard Sherman would be stationed on the left side for most of the day, Revis will often shadow the opponent’s top wideout, though he rarely will follow them into the slot. With Michael Crabtree still working his way back from an Achilles injury, it’s uncertain who Tampa Bay may have Revis cover on Sunday.
In the two weeks since Crabtree’s return, Anquan Boldin has run 40% of his pass routes from the slot to just 17% for Crabtree, so regardless of what Tampa Bay decides, it’s likely Revis will be on Crabtree at least a portion of the time.
McCoy and David vs. 49ers Offense
The two other studs on the Buccaneers’ defensive unit are defensive lineman Gerald McCoy and outside linebacker Lavonte David. McCoy’s +55.4 overall grade is by far the best among all defensive tackles and his 68 QB pressures trail only Robert Quinn, J.J. Watt, and Tamba Hali. McCoy also leads defensive tackles in our Pass Rushing Productivity rating, just ahead of Ndamukong Suh.
While McCoy has been dominant on the defensive line, the rest of his linemates have been anything but productive. None of the other nine defensive linemen who have been on the field for Tampa Bay this year have a positive overall grade. In fact, the other three starters on the defensive line, Adrian Clayborn (-13.9), Akeem Spence (-13.3), and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim (-25.5), all rank in the bottom 10 percent at their positions.
While McCoy is the class of the league at his position, outside linebacker Lavonte David is not far behind. David’s +21.3 overall grade ranks second behind Von Miller among 4-3 outside linebackers. David’s 14.1 Run Stop Percentage is tops by a considerable margin at his spot, and he also leads his position in Pass Rush Productivity, where he has racked up 25 pressures in just 87 pass rushes on the season.
If the Buccaneers are going to stop the 49ers offense, it will be mostly up to Revis, McCoy, and David to get the job done.
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