Tapping out is not an option for the 49ers and head coach Kyle Shanahan:
“We’ve got six games here. It’s just all about football, it’s nothing else. There’s a lot on the line. You come back and people might think you don’t have much to play for. You have everything to play for. You have your career, you have your livelihood, you have the guys next to you and you have showing people that you want to be in this building.”
San Francisco (2-8) has six games remaining in 2018, the first of which is a trip to Tampa Bay to face a team that has also struggled with turnovers.
The Buccaneers (3-7) have the most giveaways in the NFL, and it’s not even close — 29 of them through 10 games, which is seven more than any other team. San Francisco is fifth-worst with 20. Both defenses have been unable to take the ball back, which is likely due to a lack of energy from being on the field too much. This ugly combination has left the Bucs and 49ers with the two worst turnover differentials in the NFL, at minus-23 and minus-15, respectively.
All of these turnovers have given the illusion that Tampa Bay has a good offense. They actually lead the league in total yards per game (458.5) and have scored the eighth-most points (26.7), but those stats are buoyed by a top-ranked passing game (361 yards per game) that has been overly-deployed to dig out of self-inflicted ditches.
The Bucs have thrown a ridiculous 23 interceptions already this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston are so bad at protecting the ball that the 49ers’ fifth-most interceptions (12) only amount to roughly half of Tampa Bay’s total.
So it’s no surprise that Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter has played quarterback hot potato, since Fitzpatrick and Winston have each accounted for double-digits in the pick department.
This extreme inability to regularly complete passes to their own receivers may be the only hope the San Francisco secondary has to rack up some interceptions this season. They’ve managed to pick off just two passes so far — second-worst to, you guessed it, the Bucs.
Tampa Bay’s penchant for passing will also give the 49ers’ defensive line more chances to hit the quarterback, which they were surprisingly unable to do versus a horrible Giants offensive line.
After ball control, the most critical factor in this game will be how Nick Mullens handles his first road start. Shanahan will likely lean on Matt Breida heavily to lessen Mullens’ opportunities for errors.
I don’t see there being much defense in this game. I’m sure Shanahan devised a great game plan during the Bye Week to turn this game into a less exciting version of Rams-Chiefs. I see Mullens having a bounce-back performance, throwing for 230 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Breida will have 88 yards rushing, 43 yards receiving and two total touchdowns. And San Francisco will get its first road win of the season, 34-33.