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49ers on Upset Alert Entering Bucs Matchup

Posted Dec 12, 2013

The 49ers are treating Sunday's matchup in Tampa Bay as a "must-win."

If Frederick P. Soft has his way, the 49ers will have a big letdown this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The mythological figure created by San Francisco’s head coach is always a reminder that things can go haywire if full effort is not given.

By all accounts, Mr. Soft is not boarding the team plane this weekend.

Jim Harbaugh will make sure of it.

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Fresh off an emotional 19-17 victory over the NFC’s current No. 1 seed, the 49ers are on upset alert heading into Week 15. Sunday’s 10 a.m. PT contest is the first and only early East Coast kick-off for San Francisco in 2013. It also comes against a much improved Buccaneers team that has won four of its last five games after an 0-8 start to begin the year.

“Our guys are professionals, they know what’s at stake,” Jim Harbaugh said on Wednesday. “This game is the biggest game on the schedule. This is a must-win game and just win. And do whatever it takes to get that. By any means necessary.”

Harbaugh’s “by any means” message has been used several times in 2013. In the mind of the 49ers coach, the key is all about utilizing great practice habits and not falling victim to overconfidence.

“The first thing is the preparation,” Harbaugh explained. “You’ve got to put yourself in a position to earn that (win). And, our guys will be committed and professional about doing that.”

Defensive co-captain Patrick Willis doesn’t have to give any grand speech this week about the implications of Sunday’s road game. The 49ers are still chasing a postseason berth and will likely need to win out the final three weeks of the regular season to improve playoff seeding.

“We understand every game is important for us,” the seventh-year veteran said. “This week, it’s just as important.”

The only rallying speeches employed by San Francisco’s locker room take place at the end of practice. Typically, Harbaugh chooses a veteran or a player with a birthday to share “wise words” with the team.

The messages from those talks are well received. But it’s not like the 49ers lack clarity on the big picture.

“Each guy takes it upon themselves to understand what’s at stake,” Willis said. “I think we’re aware of that as a team.”

So while an early kick-off against a non-playoff opponent could be a recipe for a disaster, the 49ers are not dwelling on those facts.

All that matters is that there’s a game to play and another opportunity to win, by any means necessary, of course.

“We want to make sure we prepare this week like we do any other week,” said Colin Kaepernick, who recognizes Tampa Bay is an ascending team with quality defensive personnel. “They’ve won four of their last five, if I’m not mistaken, and they’ve been playing a lot better. They’ve been playing to win.”




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