Taking on Tampa Bay
GAME PLAN: The 49ers have to do something to slow down the Buccaneers' dominating pass rush. The 49ers' pass offense has struggled to protect quarterback Jeff Garcia, and Garcia has had difficulty beating opposing defense's two-deep zones. Therefore, the 49ers will have to run the ball successfully early in the game. Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow will share the load once again. They need some chunk plays at the beginning of the game to get Tampa to respect the run game. Then, the 49ers will try to use play-action to get the ball down the field. WR Terrell Owens has gotten off to a slow start this season. He dropped three passes against the Seahawks and he has not turned any short passes into big gains, as he has done in the past. Owens will have to produce a big game for the 49ers against the Bucs' banged-up secondary. Defensively, the 49ers are a much better unit from the one they put onto the field in the playoffs against Tampa. The 49ers have been able to generate a pretty decent pass rush with a variety of blitzes. The secondary, though still not completely reliable, is also playing much better. The 49ers might need to force a couple turnovers to help the offense. MATCHUPS TO WATCH: --- 49ers LT Kwame Harris vs. Buccaneers RE Simeon Rice. Harris, a rookie, will likely get the start in place of Derrick Deese, who aggravated a prior ankle injury and is not expected to play. Harris has struggled some in pass protection, though he has shown pretty good improvement in the run game. Rice is one of the game's dominant defensive players. He has a league-high eight sacks and has forced three fumbles this season. Keeping track of Rice will probably not be a one-man job. --- LG Kyle Kosier, who will make another start in place of injured starter Eric Heitmann, vs. DT Warren Sapp, who recorded his first two sacks of the season last week. --- RB Garrison Hearst, the team's leading rusher with a 4.5-yard average, vs. SS John Lynch, who will sneak into the box as the unblocked man on occasion to stuff the run. --- WR Terrell Owens, who has gotten off to a slow start this season, vs. CB Ronde Barber, who is giving up five inches to the 6-foot-3 Owens. --OLB Julian Peterson, who moves down to left end on pass-rush situations, vs. RT Kenyatta Walker, who might need help against the speed-rusher. --- CBs Ahmed Plummer and Mike Rumph, who are vulnerable to deep-passing attacks, vs. WRs Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell, who average 14.1 and 15.1 yards, respectively, on their receptions this season. INJURY IMPACT: --- LT Derrick Deese and LG Eric Heitmann both will probably not start Sunday against the Buccaneers after aggravating right ankle sprains on Sunday against the Seahawks. --- CB Jason Webster, who earlier was targeted to return for this game, is expected to be out of action at least another three weeks with a hairline fracture in his right tibia after hyperextending his knee on Aug. 16 in practice.
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