Game breakdown: 49ers vs. Buccaneers

Taking a look deep inside Sunday's battle between the 49ers and NFC South champion Tampa Bay at Monster Park in San Francisco, with snapshot game details, series history, game plans, matchups to watch, injury impact, personnel updates and a look inside both camps before the game.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:05 Pacific
SITE: Monster Park in San Francisco
SURFACE: Grass
RECORDS: 49ers, 4-10, 3-8 in NFC, third place in NFC West; Tampa Bay, 9-5, 8-2 in NFC, champion of NFC South
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Brian Baldinger

SERIES: 18th meeting. Niners lead the series, 14-3, but Tampa Bay has won three of the last five meetings, including a playoff win in Tampa in 2002. But the Bucs' only road win in San Francisco came in 1980.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bucs expect to see an array of alignments and blitz packages from the 49ers. QB Jeff Garcia has to do a good job of recognizing where the pressure is coming from, but his best friend will be Graham being productive on the ground and limiting how aggressive San Francisco's defense can be. ... 49ers QB Shaun Hill has completed 78.2 percent of his passes in his first six quarters of NFL action. He won't stretch the field much, but Hill he has a quick release and is adept at running a West Coast style of attack. One of the beneficiaries has been WR Darrell Jackson, coming off by far his most productive game of the season.

FAST FACTS: ILB Patrick Willis is the first 49er rookie to be named to the Pro Bowl since Ronnie Lott in 1981. ... The Bucs have received 14.0 sacks from the right end spot between Gaines Adams (6.0) and Greg White (8.0).

BY THE NUMBERS: 59.3 -- The 49ers' percentage on third-down conversions (16 of 27) in the six quarters since Shaun Hill has played quarterback. Up to that point, the 49ers converted just 27.3 percent. 3 -- Coach Jon Gruden has won three NFC South titles in six years.

QUOTES TO NOTE
"This kind of job is about winning. Obviously when I first took the job it was about a lot more than just winning, but ultimately it comes down to winning. Our expectations this year were to come out of that and win more games. I'm not going to hide behind the fact that we have won (fewer) games than we anticipated going into the season." -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan, on how winning alleviates the pressure.
"The only award you play for is the Lombardi Trophy and you get that by winning the Super Bowl." -- Tampa Bay center John Wade, on the Bucs being snubbed by the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1995.

49ERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers appeared to turn the clock back to the days of the West Coast offense in their game last week against the Bengals. The 49ers now have the personnel on offense that is conducive to running more short, timing patterns. Quarterback Shaun Hill does not have a big arm, but he does own a quick release and a good feel for going through his progression. The 49ers receivers appear to be better suited at the ball-control type of patterns of the West Coast offense, as opposed to the vertical game they have adopted the past two seasons. Darrell Jackson had his best game of the season last week with eight catches for 86 yards. The 49ers will look to meticulously work their way down the field against the Buccaneers' No. 3-ranked defense. Running back Frank Gore appears to be getting on track with his running, and the offensive line did a good job in the run and pass games. Defensively, the 49ers have to do a good job of keeping Jeff Garcia contained. The Buccaneers run the ball well, as they rank ninth in the league in average yards per rushing attempt. Earnest Graham is Tampa's leading rusher with 877 yards and a 4.1 average. The 49ers need to turn up the pressure on Garcia in hopes of forcing some turnovers. Ball security will be important for the 49ers, as the Buccaneers are fourth in the NFL with a plus-14 turnover margin. The 49ers are 31st at minus-13.

BUCCANEERS GAME PLAN: The 49ers play a rather unconventional defense under Mike Nolan. So Tampa Bay will have to be prepared for an array of blitzes and pressure on QB Jeff Garcia. "They've been picked by a lot of people to be a force in the West, and they're a very talented team. Their defense -- they've done a heck of a job on every film playing defense," coach Jon Gruden said. The easiest way to slow down the pass rush is with a strong running game and Earnest Graham has been up to the task lately. He needs 123 yards to reach 1,000 for the first time in his career. Defensively, the Bucs have fared well against inexperienced quarterbacks. But they remember when seldom-used Cody Pickett came off the bench to engineer some key first downs against them in 2005. "And on offense, they've got a great young tight end; they have a great young running back; Larry Allen is still one of the best interior linemen that I know I've seen this year; and the young quarterback played good last week," Gruden said. "I tip my hat to him. They've added a real good receiver, (Darrell) Jackson from Seattle. So they have components to be very good on offense and we understand that." As for QB Shaun Hill, the Bucs were impressed by his performance last Saturday against the Bengals. Well, he played in his first start against the Bengals and protected the ball," Gruden said. "He distributed the ball to the open receivers. He has a good playing speed, he's got functional quickness and I think he showcased pretty good the first time he was out there. I have a lot of respect for the job he's done."

MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--- 49ers LDE Bryant Young, who will play the final home game of his 14-year career, vs. Buccaneers RG Davin Joseph, a second-year pro who has started all 14 games this season.
--- 49ers CBs Nate Clements and Walt Harris, who give the 49ers a pair of quality veteran covermen, vs. Buccaneers WRs Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, who have combined for 115 catches for more than 1,600 yards and seven touchdowns.
--- 49ers LT Adam Snyder, who has been up and down after taking over for an injured Jonas Jennings, vs. Buccaneers RDE Gaines Adams, a high draft pick who has six sacks as a rookie.
--- 49ers TE Vernon Davis, who is tied for the 49ers lead with 47 receptions, vs. SS Cato June, who will try to re-route Davis off the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing he has with Hill.
--- 49ers WRs Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle, who have not had a lot of production this season, vs. Buccaneers CBs Ronde Barber and Phillip Buchanon, who have two interceptions apiece. Jackson is the most productive outside receiver for the Niners and a big target for Hill. Barber is coming off a great game in which he returned a pick for a touchdown.
--- 49ers pass defense, which has been unable to generate much of a pass rush, vs. Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia, who will have plenty of motivation in his first game back in San Francisco since being released four years ago. Garcia has a lot of fond memories of his days with the 49ers but didn't get to play against his former team last season when he was with the Eagles. He'd like to reinforce that the Niners were wrong to discard him.
--- Bucs RB Earnest Graham vs. 49ers LB Patrick Willis. Graham needs 123 yards to eclipse 1,000 for the season. Willis, a Rookie of the Year candidate who will have more than 200 tackles, was named to the Pro Bowl.

INJURY IMPACT
49ERS:
WR Arnaz Battle went through limited practice Thursday and is expected to start and play Sunday against the Buccaneers. Battle has started all but one game this season. He is tied for the team lead with 47 receptions. He leads the 49ers with 581 receiving yards and five touchdowns. RB Frank Gore went through limited practice Thursday but is expected to start against the Buccaneers. Gore is just 81 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark. He is looking to become only the fifth back in 49ers history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, joining Joe Perry, Roger Craig, Garrison Hearst and Charlie Garner. QB Trent Dilfer has been ruled out for Sunday's game with a concussion. He is not expected to play again this season. RB Michael Robinson took part in limited practice Thursday with a left shoulder stinger. He is expected to play Sunday against the Buccaneers in his usual special teams roles.
BUCCANEERS: DE Patrick Chukwurah has a pulled hamstring and could be lost for the season. He did not practice Wednesday. Fortunately for the Bucs, DE Greg Spires is ready to return from a calf injury. LB Ryan Nece has a groin strain and did not practice earlier this week. FB B.J. Askew, who missed last week's game against Atlanta with an ankle sprain, was limited in practice and could play.


PERSONNEL NEWS

49ERS
--- WR Arnaz Battle went through limited practice Thursday and is expected to start and play against the Buccaneers. Battle has started all but one game this season. He is tied for the team lead with 47 receptions. He leads the 49ers with 581 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
--- RB Frank Gore went through limited practice Thursday but is expected to start against the Buccaneers. Gore is just 81 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark. He is looking to become only the fifth back in 49ers history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, joining Joe Perry, Roger Craig, Garrison Hearst and Charlie Garner.
--- QB Trent Dilfer has been ruled out for Sunday's game with a concussion. He is not expected to play again this season.
--- RB Michael Robinson took part in limited practice this week with a left shoulder stinger. He is expected to play against the Buccaneers in his usual special teams roles.
--- P Andy Lee has a 42.4-yard net punting average on a league-high 87 punts. He has two games standing in his way to becoming the only punter in NFL history to average more than 40 yards net for an entire season.

BUCCANEERS
--- DE Patrick Chukwurah did not practice again Thursday due to a hamstring strain. He is expected to be doubtful for Sunday's game.
--- LB Ryan Nece did not practice Thursday due to a groin strain. He is expected to be doubtful for Sunday's game.
--- FB B.J. Askew was limited in practice Thursday due to an ankle sprain. He is questionable for Sunday's game.
--- RB Michael Pittman could see some action at fullback with the injury to B.J. Askew. Pittman had full participation in practice Thursday despite an ankle sprain.
--- DE Greg Spires could return to action Sunday despite being sidelined the last few weeks with a calf injury.
--- WR Joey Galloway returned to practice Thursday. He needs 15 yards to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving plateau for the third straight season.


INSIDE THE CAMPS

49ERS
Veteran defensive lineman Bryant Young does not want to be the center of attention during Sunday's game, but the home fans are likely to give him special notice.

Young's 14-year career is expected to come to an end this season. So that means Sunday's game would be his final appearance at Monster Park, which went by the name of Candlestick Park when Young's career began as San Francisco's first-round draft pick in 1994.

"More than likely this is my last home game," Young said. "But we still have two games remaining and I don't want to take any focus off that."

Young leads the 49ers with 6.5 sacks and is still considered one of the top players on the team. He was named as an NFC Pro Bowl alternate this week. He was also awarded the 49ers' most prestigious honor, the Len Eshmont Award, for the record eighth time in his career. The award goes to the 49ers' most inspirational and courageous player.

Despite being at near the top of his game, Young said it is time for him to leave.

"Do you leave the game when they push you out or when you've barely walking? When is the right time? That's determined by the individual, and you have to listen to your body and what your spirit is telling you."

Young was a rookie in 1994 when the 49ers last won a Super Bowl. He has left a lasting impression with a whole new generation of 49ers players.

"He has an influence on me far more than football," linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "When I see him with his wife and kids, and the way he carries himself, he's one of the role models in my life."

Ulbrich said Young's unselfish attitude is what sets him apart. He said there are times when Young eschews the opportunity to pile up individual statistics for the good of the team. He said it is common for Young to be content to occupy blockers so one of his teammates can make a play.

He does a lot of the little things that don't get noticed," Ulbrich said.

BUCCANEERS
Tight end Jerramy Stevens was disappointed he couldn't celebrate the Bucs clinching the division with his teammates. He was serving a one-game suspension by the league for a September DUI conviction in Arizona.

But the 28-year-old Stevens is relieved the suspension wasn't longer.

"It was real weird to be away, to play the whole season and then be gone the week that we clinch the division," Stevens said. "I was real happy, obviously, for the guys but it was a little strange being away and missing the celebration and the excitement of winning the division and knowing we had our place locked. But man, I was just glad we got the business done."

"I'm really glad I was only forced to deal with a one-game suspension. I'm just really excited to be back with the team and have that kind of behind us and be able to push forward in the playoffs without having to worry if it's next week or the week after. Now I can just go forward."

Coach Jon Gruden said Stevens is valuable in the running game and passing attack.

"It's good for us," Gruden said. "He's a guy we think we can use in situations in the passing game and I think he's improved as a run-blocker. We'd like to see a lot of him here in the next couple weeks."



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