Tampa Bay Buccaneers A look at the 49ers’ top playmakers who could impact the outcome of Sundays’ matchup Brianna Dix
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the San Francisco 49ers in a battle of the bays on Sunday, November 19 at Levi's Stadium. The Bucs snapped a four-game losing streak with a rousing 20-6 victory over the visiting Titans in Week 10. In a similar fashion, the 49ers' ended their own three-game skid with a 34-3 toppling of the Jaguars. Both clubs will strive to continue an upward climb in Week 11. San Francisco poses a steep challenge with an embarrassment of riches on both sides of the football. The 49ers rank fourth in the NFL in points scored per game (28.0) and second in points allowed per game (15.9).
After a 5-0 start, the 49ers slid into an uncharacteristic three-game losing streak, but the team looks to be back in peak form. Both left tackle Trent Williams and Swiss Army Knife Deebo Samuel returned to action against Jacksonville, bolstering the 49ers' offense. Kyle Shanahan's system employs zone schemes to press downhill, benefiting the versatile skillset of both Samuel and Christian McCaffrey. Their horizontal stretch - whether jet sweeps, misdirection, outside zone, or bubble screens - all are a byproduct of effective second-level blocking of Williams, tight end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszcyk. Shanahan aims to stress C-gap assignments by driving defenders back. San Francisco's calling card is generating yards-after-catch through various mismatches, benefiting the open-field ability of the team's star-studded position-less cast. Brock Purdy has an arsenal of talent at his disposal, including hybrid receiver/running back Deebo Samuel, triple-threat George Kittle, former Panthers' do-it-all phenom Christian McCaffrey and run-after-catch king Brandon Aiyuk.
The 49ers added Chase Young at the trade deadline to an already loaded unit, including the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Nick Bosa and one of the best complete linebacker tandems in the league with Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. The Niners added defensive tackle Javon Hargrave during the offseason to solidify the interior and both Bosa and Hargrave are tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks. Baker Mayfield and company will face a 49ers' defense ranked fifth in the league (304.6). The Niners operate out of a one-gap system, which allows linemen to penetrate and fire off the ball. Here are six players who could help swing the game in favor of San Francisco on Sunday afternoon:
As a 4-3 defensive end, Nick Bosa is a rare specimen. The 2022 Defensive Player of the Year possesses elite play strength and powerful leg drive. Bosa has the body lean around the edge and low center of gravity to sharply get to the quarterback. He led the league with 18.5 sacks (second-most in franchise history) and 49 quarterback hits in 2022 and is currently tied with Javon Hargrave for a team-high 4.5 sacks in 2023. San Francisco finished the regular season last year as the No. 1 overall defensive unit and Bosa became the imposing force, anchoring the defense. In 2023, he leads a unit ranked fifth in the league and Bosa continues to solidify his status atop the position hierarchy. He effectively drives offensive linemen back with a lethal bull rush and impressive repertoire of tricks. Due to his dominance, Bosa often receives extra attention in the form of chips and double teams, yet he still finds a way to be productive. He plays with flexibility and low leverage, wreaking havoc at the line of scrimmage. With a wicked get-off, the Bucs' offense will have to monitor where Bosa is lined up on every snap.
Trent Williams, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, was named a First Team All-Pro in 2021 and 2022. He has been named as PFF's highest-graded offensive tackle in the three seasons since he arrived in San Francisco. Last season, he allowed just one sack in 17 game starts on the way to the team's NFC Championship Game appearance. Williams finished the year with a 93.0 overall rating from PFF, the highest mark of all NFL offensive tackles. He is a force of nature and Williams is deemed, 'the best player in the NFL' by many of his peers. Williams' suddenness catches defenders off guard and he is adept at handling both speed and power rushes with ease. He has the athleticism to move opponents off the ball in the run game and sets the standard of excellence around the league at left tackle. Williams cannot be mimicked, and he wins with near flawless technique, footwork and hand placement. He is quick off the ball and displays outstanding balance through each rep.
In the modern age of the NFL, there are not many pass-catching tight ends that enjoy doing the dirty work in the trenches, but 49ers' George Kittle takes pride in blocking. He strives to pancake and drive defenders into the ground. The physical competitor is a triple-threat and the gold standard of a "complete tight end." Kittle runs routes like a receiver, blocks like an offensive lineman and post-catch with the ball in his hands, he morphs into a running back. The four-time pro bowl veteran averaged 12.8 yards per reception in 2022 en route to 765 total yards on 60 catches. He amassed a career-high 11 touchdowns last season and has accumulated 559 yards thus far in 2023, with an average of 16.0 yards a catch. Kittle is a physical runner after the catch with surprising shiftiness and flashes vertical speed down the seam. He elevates the run game on chips/combo blocks with stout technique. Kittle will have to be a focal point for the Bucs' defense during their week of preparation.
Fred Warner is a force to be reckoned. With elite sideline-to-sideline range, Warner plays like his hair is on fire. He currently leads the 49ers with 78 tackles and as a member of the 2022 first team All-Pro defense, Warner recorded 130 total tackles, one forced fumble, one interception and 10 pass breakups last season. He has a tantalizing blend of closing speed, instinctual play, and coverage skills. Warner is the engine that drives San Francisco's defense as the MIKE linebacker. He possesses outstanding change-of-direction skills and diagnosis to accelerate downhill. Warner understands how opposing teams want to attack and he feeds off the 49ers' imposing front. From dropping back and covering receivers/tight ends to punching the ball out behind the line of scrimmage with textbook technique and pursuit, Warner causes disruption everywhere on the field. This week during the Buccaneers' offensive meetings, the words "we have to deal with Fred this week" will likely be an emphatic statement.
Christian McCaffrey was traded from the Panthers to the 49ers in 2022 and made a seamless transition, helping to guide San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game. The hybrid can do it all: run between the tackles, create mismatches with linebackers in space and runs routes like an All-Pro receiver. McCaffrey currently leads the 49ers in rushing yards with 747 (first in the NFL) and in rushing touchdowns with nine (second in the NFL). He displays great vision, contact balance and explosiveness. McCaffrey is electric with the ball in his hands and makes defenders miss in the open field with lethal quickness out of breaks. He has an anticipatory feel for seams and has the footwork to navigate in tight spaces. McCaffrey is exceptional at darting both inside and outside. He can stack moves together and will be a handful for the Bucs' defensive unit on Sunday.
Dre Greenlaw can get overshadowed by Fred Warner; however, he has established himself as one of the most dynamic linebackers in the NFL. He is affectionately known as "Big Play Dre" and for good reason. Since the 49ers selected Greenlaw in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the club has boasted a top-five defensive ranking in each of those four seasons. Greenlaw is an effective pursuit player with closing burst and the ability to deliver earth-shattering hits. He finished the 2022 season with the second-most tackles (127) on the 49ers' defense, an interception returned for a touchdown and two forced fumbles. Greenlaw's read-and-reaction skills against both the run and the pass are what defensive coordinators covet. With quick flow to the ball, body control and the athletic gifts to mirror ball-carriers, Greenlaw makes his presence known on the field week-after-week. He is a finisher in the open field and is adept at sniffing out jet sweeps and crossing patterns over the middle of the field.