The 49ers achieved their most impressive victory in several seasons Sunday with a 17-point thrashing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, then, cold reality set in.<BR><BR>

The win over the defending Super Bowl champions will not mean a darn thing unless they can string together a few more victories to make a push toward the NFC playoffs in the second half of the season.

"We can play with anybody, and I've always felt we can," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said after the 24-7 victory over the Bucs. "We've been so close in so many games, but to finally win one is real good - for about three more hours."

The 49ers are 3-4 heading into Sunday's game against the Cardinals, and have to avoid looking ahead to their Nov. 2 game against the St. Louis Rams.

So the 49ers reported to work Monday morning with the realization that they can't spend too much time basking in the glory of their potential season-saving victory over Tampa Bay.

"We have to continue to build," 49ers defensive end Andre Carter said. "Even though we're on Cloud 9 right now, we have to stay on that level. Arizona's backs are against the wall and they'll do anything to win."

The 49ers found an impressive formula for success on Sunday. They called only two blitzes the entire game, and managed to confound the Bucs with a four-man rush and playing coverage behind it.

Offensively, the 49ers pounded the ball between the tackles at the Tampa defense. And when the Bucs had to bring an eighth defender in the box for run support, quarterback Jeff Garcia used play-action pass to get the ball down the field.

As a result, the 49ers threw for 253 yards and rushed for 212 yards against the vaunted Tampa defense.


--PK Owen Pochman is breathing easier after coach Dennis Erickson said he plans to stick with him for at least another week. Pochman missed three of four field-goal attempts. Two of his attempts were so low that they were blocked. Pochman has made eight of 13 field-goal attempts in his five games with the 49ers.

--WR Terrell Owens had his best game of the season, catching six passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. But he also failed to hold three catchable passes, including two in the end zone. For the season, the 49ers have thrown 78 passes toward Owens. He has caught 40 passes for 566 yards and three interceptions.

--QB Jeff Garcia is slowly improving his passer rating. He now ranks tied for 22nd in the league with a 71.8 passer rating. Garcia ranks fourth all-time with a career passer rating of 88.2.

--WR Tai Streets might not have the game-breaking ability of Terrell Owens, but he is probably the team's most dependable receiver. Against Tampa Bay, Streets caught three passes for 34 yards, including making an effort on a 14-yard scoring pass in which he leaped into the end zone and got upended along the way. Streets has 27 catches for 358 yards and a team-leading four touchdowns this season.

--CB Jason Webster is expected to return to the field after the bye week. Webster could be in uniform for the 49ers on Nov. 17 against the Steelers after a preseason knee injury. When he does return, he will probably be used as an extra defensive back. Webster was the projected starter at right cornerback, but second-year player Mike Rumph has played well at that spot this season.

--P Bill LaFleur, who has been inconsistent most of this season, came through with his best day in the pros. LaFleur averaged 49.0 on three points with a remarkable net average of 45.3. His net average was a full 10 yards better than Tampa Bay P Tom Tupa's average on six punts. LaFleur sustained a left ankle sprain when he absorbed a roughing-the-punter penalty but was fine on Monday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Hopefully, it is a new beginning for this team because we've struggled at times throughout this year. We've suffered some really difficult losses" -- QB Jeff Garcia on the victory over Tampa Bay, which improved the 49ers' record to 3-4.



PASSING OFFENSE: B -- The passing attack got a huge assist from the run game, as Tampa Bay had to place an extra defender in the box in the second half. Jeff Garcia passed for a season-high 253 yards. WR Terrell Owens showed the first glimpses this season of the man who expected to earn $20 million in guaranteed money at the conclusion of the season as a free agent. Owens had a 75-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, but failed to hang onto two other touchdown passes later in the game. Garcia was given good protection as he was sacked just once.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus -- It is virtually impossible to do much better than what the 49ers accomplished. They took the ball right at the heart of the Bucs' defense. Garrison Hearst rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, while Kevan Barlow had 75 yards on 15 carries. The offensive line pounded the Tampa Bay defense. That dominating rushing attack also opened things up for the passing game to get things going.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Aside from a 75-yard TD pass allowed in the first quarter, the pass defense played as close to a perfect game as possible. Tampa QB Brad Johnson, the NFC's highest-rated passer, achieved a passer rating of just 56.1. Ahmed Plummer, Mike Rumph and Julian Peterson recorded interceptions. The defensive front also put heat on Johnson and blitzed only once the entire game. Andre Carter and Chidi Ahanotu recorded sacks.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- The 49ers did a good job of taking the run game away from Tampa. Michael Pittman was the Bucs' leading ball-carrier, and he gained 29 yards on six carries. The Tampa run game was virtually a non-factor. Again, the 49ers' defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage and the linebackers roamed free to make plays.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- There are two ways to look at this one. First, kicker Owen Pochman is on thin ice after missing three field goals. Those misses could have been huge from a momentum standpoint. On the flip side, punter Bill LaFleur came through with his best day in the pros. LaFleur averaged 49.0 yards on three points, with a net average of 45.3, as the 49ers did a great job of winning the field-position game.

COACHING: A -- The offensive approach was sound, as coach Dennis Erickson said he has come to the realization that this is a running team. The 49ers pounded the ball at the Bucs and that set up some plays to be made down the field. Defensive coordinator Jim Mora, who dialed up a variety of blitzes earlier in the season, called just two pressures the entire day. One of those blitzes resulted in a long TD pass. Mora had his unit well-prepared for the Bucs' style of offense. Not only was it the best performance for the 49ers this season, it was also clearly the team's best coaching.

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