The San Francisco 49ers are set to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's® Stadium for their Week 14 contest. Both San Francisco and Tampa Bay are coming off of big-time victories and the two teams will look to solidify their spot at the top of their respective divisions.
"To go against the best and to see where you are against the best to do it, it's a really cool challenge for our guys and we're all excited about it," defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said.
For this week's Four Downs, 49ers team reporter Lindsey Pallares and 49ers Spanish insider Jesús Zárate have joined me to break down several storylines ahead of the team's Week 14 contest against Tampa Bay. We also answer questions directly from the Faithful exclusive for the 49ers Supporters Club. To get your questions answered, sign up for the 49ers Supporters Club here.
1st Down: Who Must Step Up on the 49ers Offense?
He's been stepping up week in and week out, and I expect to see Jennings have another solid showing against Tampa Bay. He's earned the nickname "Third-and-Jauan" for a reason, becoming the unofficial 49ers third down specialist. Converting on third down was one of Jimmy Garoppolo's strengths, and now with Brock Purdy stepping in, that's a stat that's important for San Francisco to stay on top of. Jennings is a reliable, go-to wideout on third down, and he needs to continue being that with Purdy at the helm.
@JesusZarate87: 49ers offensive line
This Sunday, the 49ers offensive line needs to have a really good game to help Purdy. It's great that the 49ers have a lot of weapons at skill positions with guys like Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Jauan Jennings and Kyle Juszczyk to support Purdy. However, I want to focus on the whole offensive line for this question since I believe Tampa Bay will try to force Purdy to make mistakes by bringing a lot of pressure on him. The Buccaneers rank fourth in the NFL with 38.0 sacks. They will definitely try to make Purdy uncomfortable all day with pressure, so it is extremely important for the offensive line to help make this tough game Purdy has in front of him a little bit easier.
With the run game being the heartbeat of the 49ers offense, I'm looking to McCaffrey and Mason to step up and contribute a majority of the production, especially with a young quarterback like Purdy under center.
2nd Down: Biggest Key to Stopping Tom Brady?
@LindseyLares: Staying sticky in coverage
Brady is the best to ever do it, so one of the keys is not getting too comfortable. Brady orchestrated an unlikely fourth quarter comeback against the New Orleans Saints on Monday, and that's not the only time he's flipped the script this season. It's no secret that Brady and the Tampa Bay offense have struggled to find consistency this year, but despite that, you can't count him out of any game. The second key to containing him is to be sticky in coverage. There's no way to completely shut down the Buccaneers passing attack, which is the fifth best in the league and averaging 267 yards a game, but you can do your best to mitigate the yardage. Brady threw well over 50 times against the Saints, so for the secondary, it's going to be about sticking to your assignments, getting PBUs when they're available and if the opportunity strikes, go for the ball.
@JesusZarate87: Stopping the run
Facing Brady is one of the biggest challenges in football. Even when he's losing, he finds a way to come back like he did last week against the Saints. But San Francisco has the No. 1 defense in the league and the tools to stop him or at least slow him down. Tampa Bay's run game is last in the NFL, averaging only 73 yards per game, which is one of the reasons why it has been difficult for the Buccaneers to find consistency. It will be key for the 49ers to keep Tampa Bay's running attack under control to force the Buccaneers to only rely on the pass. No matter if you are as great as Brady, you do not want to be unidimensional on offense.
@BriMcDonaldTV: S.W.A.R.M-ing the ball
The 49ers defense recorded four takeaways last week against the Miami Dolphins, and that was the key to their Week 13 victory. When competing against Brady, it will be important for San Francisco to force turnovers, as the team is 8-0 when tying or winning the turnover margin so far this season.
3rd Down: Who on Defense is Primed for a Turnover?
Every week we see new defensive players force a turnover, and this week I hope to see Jackson do it. The rookie defensive lineman has been crucial in pressuring opposing quarterbacks and also has gotten his hands up and batted down a lot of passes. Against the Buccaneers, I expect to see a big play go his way.
In a defense as talented as the one the 49ers have, anyone can provoke a turnover at any time. I have a feeling this week it could be Omenihu because I just love how he is always helping bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This season, the defensive lineman has recorded the second-most sacks on the team (4.0), behind only the league's sack leader in Nick Bosa. Omenihu is ready to provoke a turnover at any moment, especially because big stars like Bosa and Fred Warner get a lot of attention from the opposing team and that's when good players like Omenihu can take advantage of one-on-one situations.
Ward is such a valuable piece to the 49ers defense, having recorded 62 tackles, nine passes defended and one forced fumble so far this season. He performs great in man-coverage, even against some of the best receivers in the league, and I would love to see him intercept Brady on Sunday.
4th Down: What is Your Bold Prediction for the Week 14 Matchup Against the Buccaneers?
@LindseyLares: Purdy will become the first quarterback to make his first-career start against Brady and win.
@JesusZarate87: San Francisco's No. 1 defense holds Tampa Bay's top five passing offense to less than 200 yards through the air.
@BriMcDonaldTV: Purdy will score the first touchdown of the game.
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