SFI's LIVE Game Blog: 49ers vs. Buccaneers

The 49ers try to make it two wins in a row in their home finale against a playoff team when they play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and SFI will keep you up to date on the action with live reports and commentary from Monster Park in San Francisco. Make sure to refresh this page every 15 minutes for running updates throughout the game.

12:45 p.m.: Greetings, 49ers fans. It's an absolute gorgeous day for football here as the sun shines down on Monster Park, just a few days after a big storm that dropped some heavy rain ripped through the area. But that won't be a factor today as the field has dried out and is in great shape …

12:48: When the season began, who did you think would be going to the playoffs out of this Week 16 meeting, the 49ers or the Buccaneers, who finished last in the NFC South in 2006? Well, that's the unpredictability of the NFL as the Bucs trot into Monster Park today already having clinched a division title and a playoff game at home. That would make this a quality victory for the 49ers if they can make it happen, and would officially indicate they are surging to the finish after last week's victory over Cincinnati …

12:50: The Bucs trot out onto the field to a smattering of boos, but one guy who isn't the intended target of those is quarterback Jeff Garcia, who gave these fans a lot of good days and good times during his five seasons in San Francisco. And look where Garcia is now, four years and four NFL teams later, leading another team into the playoffs …

12:56: It's the pre-game introductions now, and as the 49ers are introduced, they're saving one guy for last. As his teammates wait on the midfield emblem, Bryant Young comes out of the blow-up plastic 49ers helmet and the crowd reigns down its appreciation for one of the greatest 49ers of the team's Super Bowl era. Young blows kisses to the crowd as he heads toward midfield, and his teammates smother him as he arrives. If this indeed is Young's final home game as a 49er, as he all but announced it will be earlier this week, he is going to go out the right way …

1:03: Niners game captains Young, punter Andy Lee and guard Larry Allen head out for the midfield coin toss, where Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber calls heads with the coin in the air. It comes down tails, so the 49ers will go on offense first against the NFL's third-ranked defense. Shaun Hill, come on down and show what you've got. Again …

1:08: Maurice Hicks has a nice 27-yard return of the opening kickoff, and Frank Gore goes over the right side for five yards on first down. Hill drops back to pass on second down, but he can't find a receiver and the pocket collapses before he is dragged down for a sack. On third and long, hill uncorks a pass intended for Arnaz Battle that sails wildly over his head, a duck that probably is the worst pass Hill has thrown since he took over as the 49ers' quarterback. Lee punts it away, and the Bucs begin their first drive on their 25-yard line …

1:19: After Garcia throws for a first down on Tampa Bay's first offensive play, he gets rocked hard by safety Michael Lewis on the next play, and a dump-off completion results in a four-yard loss. Garcia has to burn an early timeout as he brings the Bucs up to the line for a second-and-14 play, and after the break, Earnest Graham rumbles up the middle for a 10-yard gain. Now facing third-and-4, Tampa Bay surges forward hits a wide-open Ike Hilliard over the middle and he turns into a 26-yard gain. After another first down that takes Tampa Bay to the San Francisco 23, the 49ers stiffen on defense and the Bucs can't convert on a third-and-9. Matt Bryant comes in for a 34-yard field-goal attempt, and though he gets it a little close to the left upright, it's good as the Bucs draw first blood …
Buccaneers 3, 49ers 0

1:25: It's another quick three-and-out for the 49ers, the NFL leader in that department. Hill faces immediate pressure on first down but is able to escape for a 1-yard scramble. After a three-yard gain by Gore, Hill drops back on third-and-long and again faces heavy pressure. He is able to improvise and flips a throw to Vernon Davis, but Davis can't hang onto a pass that would have gone for a first down. Lee's ensuing punt goes only 33 yards, one of the worst kicks we've seen from him in a while …

1:33: San Francisco's pass defense looks pretty shoddy on Tampa Bay's next possession – until rookie linebacker Patrick Willis makes a big play in the end zone. The drive begins with Willis sacking Garcia on first down, but on the next play, cornerback Walt Harris doesn't take a deep enough drop in zone coverage and Garcia finds Michael Clayton behind him for a 25-yard gain, with Clayton making an impressive leaping catch to reel in the throw. Two plays later, Garcia finds tight end Alex Smith wide open over the middle, and Smith rumbles for a 32-yard gain all the way down to the 4. The Bucs look like they're going in, but Garcia fumbles the snap on second down, and then on third-and-goal from the 4, Willis takes a nice drop in coverage and knocks down Garcia's pass in the end zone. Tampa Bay gets a 22-yard field goal from Bryant out of the drive, but it could have been worse as the San Francisco defense comes up big again in the red zone …
Buccaneers 6, 49ers 0

1:39: Finally, the 49ers get something going on offense. Gore rumbles around the right side and breaks off a 20-yard gain to give San Francisco its first first down with 1:47 remaining in the opening quarter. Now Hill has the 49ers moving as he hits Delanie Walker for a nine-yard gain on the next play. And there goes Gore again, banging up the middle and running over tacklers for an 11-yard gain! That brings the first quarter to an end, with the 49ers already at the Tampa Bay 21 with a first down …

1:44: And after the quarter break, the 49ers waste no time in taking the initiative. Hill drops back on first down, and Darrell Jackson runs a beautiful skinny post. Jackson is open as he makes his cut into the end zone! And Hill, making the throw on the cut, finds the opening and hits Jackson perfectly in the hands before the safety can arrive. What a catch! What a throw! It's a 21-yard scoring pass, and the 49ers take their first lead after Hill took them down the field on a quick-striking seven-play, 72-yard touchdown drive …
49ers 7, Buccaneers 6

1:49: The momentum is clearly swinging to the 49ers. On third-and-long, Garcia is in the shotgun, and he spots Hilliard open on the right sideline. But cornerback Donald Strickland, running with Hilliard all the way in one-on-one coverage, closes ground as the ball arrives and makes a great diving leap in front of Hilliard to knock away the ball. Now Tampa Bay has to punt it back to the 49ers …

1:52: Gore blows up the middle for a quick-hitting seven-yard gain on first down, but Gore drops Hill's second-down pass, and Walker can't hold onto Hill's third-down throw. Each of the passes would have went for a first down had they been completed, but instead, the 49ers have to punt it away. Michael Spurlock takes Lee's 45-yard punt at the San Francisco, and as Spurlock tries to reverse field to the left on the return, Keith Lewis takes his feat out underneath from behind and Spurlock fumbles as he goes to the ground. The ball is loose! It's there for the taking, and 49ers rookie Tarell Brown falls on it. The officials confer, and yes, it is ruled a fumble! The 49ers have the ball at the Tampa Bay 18. Huge play, but here comes the red challenge flag coming out from the Tampa Bay sideline …

1:55: And after an official's review, the Spurlock is ruled down by contact and the ball goes back to Tampa Bay. It's an unfortunate overturn for the 49ers, but it's the right call. Spurlock's knee clearly was on the ground before the ball came down, and the ball popped out after he hit the ground. The replay is so obvious that it appears this one should have been caught on the field by the officials the first time …

2:02: Now the Bucs are moving quickly down the field again, aided by a roughing the passer penalty on San Francisco defensive end Marques Douglas. It's a ticky-tack call, but you can't go helmet-tol-helmet with the quarterback, even if you are easing up at the end of a play. Now Garcia finds Joey Galloway over the middle, and Galloway goes for a 29-yard gain into San Francisco territory. On third-and-7, Garcia goes back to pass, and after his pass goes incomplete intended for Maurice Stovall, Tampa Bay is flagged 15 yards for a chop block. As the yardage is marked backwards, Stovall remains on the ground. And he's not moving …

2:06: This is the scary side of NFL football, when a guy is down on the ground not moving as trainers rush to his aid. After a few minutes on the ground, a cart is wheeled onto the field at Stovall's side, and now the entire Tampa Bay team comes from the sideline to surround Stovall. But serious concerns are immediately alleviated as Stovall gets to his feet, and gets to the cart on his own power before being taken to the locker room …

2:13: The 49ers go three-and-out, and Tampa Bay gets a first down into San Francisco territory on Garcia's 20-yard completion Jerramy Stevens. But two plays later, rookie Ray McDonald blasts up the middle to sack Garcia, and that ultimately dooms the drive and the Bucs have to punt it back to the 49ers. That's a nice glimpse of the things McDonald can do, and it's nice to see something from a third-round draft pick who hasn't done much in his first season …

2:15: On first down, Hill drops back and finds Davis wide open over the middle. Vernon makes the two-handed grab, he's got a first down, and now he's taking on defenders to get a few more yards. He's being swarmed now, so protect that ball Vernon! But no!! Davis is stripped before he's taken to the ground after a 15-yard gain. The ball is there to be had, and Tampa Bay linebacker Barrett Ruud pounces on it at the San Francisco 36. It's an Oh No! kind of play, and now the Bucs are set up with prime field position one play after San Francisco's defense just came up with a quality stop. Davis just has to do better than that …

2:19: And there it is. The Bucs take advantage of Davis' gaffe. Garcia faces a third-and-10, but he dumps off a pass to running back Michael Pittman for a 12-yard gain and first down. On the next play, Garcia buys time by rolling right, and he spots Stevens in the right corner. Linebacker Parys Haralson gets lost in coverage, then gets turned around, and Stevens is wide open as the ball arrives at the goal line. Stevens secures it and falls into the end zone, and just like that, Tampa Bay is back in the lead …
Buccaneers 13, 49ers 7

2:31: The 49ers pick up a first down, but facing a third-and-5 on the next series of downs, Hill is forced from the pocket and his scramble comes up three yards short as the 49ers have to punt it away. But Garcia does not come back out to lead the Tampa Bay offense. It's Luke McCown instead. It doesn't like the Bucs want to expose their 37-year-old QB to too many more hits. The 49ers use their remaining two timeouts to stop the clock as the Bucs go nowhere, and the San Francisco offense will get one more shot with 42 seconds remaining after Tampa Bay punts it away …

2:34: And how do you like that. On first down, cornerback Brian Kelly jumps a slant pattern, and he almost looks like the intended receiver instead of Arnaz Battle and makes the interception. It's the first interception of Hill's career - remember, his first two turnovers against Minnesota both were officially ruled fumbles - and the Bucs are set up at the San Francisco 43 as McCown leads the offense back on the field …

2:38: McCown's third-and-10 pass goes for only a three-yard completion, but the Bucs go for it on fourth-and-7 with time winding down. McCown throws incomplete down the left sideline, so the 49ers get the ball back at their 40 with five seconds remaining in the half. There's a smattering of boos as the San Francisco offense comes out just to have Hill take a kneel-down on the final play of the half …

2:47: The halftime statistics show the Buccaneers with a lopsided 223-125 advantage in total yardage, but it's the Davis fumble that really is the difference so far. Gore has 61 yards rushing on nine carries, but Hill is just 5 of 13 passing with several of those throws dropped. On the other side, Garcia is tidy 12 of 20 for 196 yards with a passer rating of 109.6 …

2:52: The 49ers are kicking off to begin the second half, but Joe Nedney doesn't kick it far. It's another onside kick by the master of those, and it completely catches the Bucs off guard. Nedney practically kicks it right into the hands of Walker, who grabs the ball with no Tampa Bay player around him and falls to the ground. What a way to start the second half for the 49ers, and now they have the ball at their own 43 with a chance to take the initiative …

2:57: Well, so much for that. With a chance to take back the momentum, the 49ers drive to a first down at the Tampa Bay 39. Facing second-and-7, Hill throws incomplete on the next two downs and the 49ers are forced to punt after reaching the Tampa Bay 36. Returner Michael Lewis – a gunner on the punt team – downs Lee's punt at the Tampa Bay 5, so the Bucs are backed up deep in their own territory …

3:01: Just call him Big Play Patrick Willis. With the Bucs facing third-and-long after two short runs, McCown rolls right and can't find anybody as he nears the sideline. Willis comes flying in to catch him from behind, then knocks the ball out. It's a fumble! Safety Mark Roman swoops in to fall on it at the Tampa Bay 14!! Big play, 49ers, and now San Francisco is set up with another prime opportunity …

3:03: After a short run by Gore, Hill drops back and fires a pass into the corner of the end zone for Battle, who makes a diving catch in the air and gets one foot inbounds. But the officials rule it no catch, even though Battle clearly was forced out of bounds. On the play, Tampa Bay defensive end Gaines Adams lowers his helmet into Hill as he released the ball, catching him underneath his throwing arm, and Hill is slammed to the ground. Hill is down and writhing in pain as a flag comes out for a late hit. This is not good. How bad is Hill hurt? He's down for a minute, but then gets up and walks slowly off the field. By NFL rule, an injured player has to come out for at least one play. Let's hope it's not any longer for Hill …

3:09: And it isn't! After the ball is marched half the distance to the goal, Chris Weinke comes in at quarterback for one snap and hands off to Gore for a one-yard gain that takes the ball to the 5. Hill trots back onto the field to strong applause, slaps hands with Weinke, and now he's back in charge of the offense. Is he ever!! On the next play, Hill takes a snap in the shotgun, then fires a perfect pass over two Tampa Bay defenders into the back of the end zone, where Davis has streaked free. Davis makes the grab for the touchdown, then goes and spends a few moments being smothered by fans in the first row of the stands. Great throw by Hill, a nice makeup by Davis for his earlier fumble, and now the 49ers are back in the lead …
49ers 14, Buccaneers 13

3:15: It's another great stop by the San Francisco defense as McCown faces third-and-long and his completion underneath coverage can't pick up the first. Returner Lewis takes a chance by not calling for the fair catch with Tampa defenders in his face, and he is immediately drilled by Will Allen simultaneously as he makes the catch on a bang-bang play. But he holds on, and the 49ers start again on offense on their own 21 …

3:21: Gore runs hard to pick up one first down, then leaves the 49ers facing third-and-2 after taking a short pass. But that turns a third-and-7 after rookie Jason Hill is flagged for a false start, and Hill is chased out of the pocket by a by a heavy blitz and has to unload a throwaway pass as he evades the pressure. The 49ers have to punt it away…

3:23: And look at that!! Phillip Buchanon catches Lee's punt, turns up the field, then fumbles as he is hit! Hicks falls on it for the 49ers!! But wait. There's a flag on the field. What's this?? Long-snapper Brian Jennings is called for illegal man downfield. What a crock. It nullifies the play, and the 49ers have to punt again. What a swing there. But Lee drills his punt 63 yards, pushing the Bucs back to their 7, where they start their next drive …

3:30: McCown scrambles for a first down to get the Bucs out of the shadow of their own end zone, then hits tight end Smith for a reception over the middle. As Smith hits the ground, the ball pops loose! Brandon Moore pounces on it for the 49ers, but is it a fumble? Replays seem to indicate it is as the ball pops loose before he hits the ground. Mike Nolan should challenge this, and there goes the red flag. The 49ers have a good chance of getting this one overturned and getting the turnover …

3:32: But no. After a lengthy delay for the review, the officials come up with their decision: Smith's elbow – his elbow? – was down on the ground before the ball came loose. The play stands, and the 49ers lose a timeout. Sheez …

3:36: Mike Nolan declines a holding penalty, opting to give Tampa Bay a third-and-short instead of pushing the Bucs back for a second and long. Huh? Naturally, Tampa Bay converts the play. And now the Bucs are driving into San Francisco territory again after a long pass from McCown to Clayton …

3:38: A false start pushed the Bucs back, and as the third quarter comes to a close, they'll face a third-and-9 from the San Francisco 48 to begin the final quarter …

3:41: Talk about a big turn of events!! The Bucs convert the third-and-9 as the 49ers get no rush on McCown and he's able to dump it off to Pittman who is wide open crossing the field for a 12-yard gain. That takes the Bucs down to the 32 and in scoring range, but on the next play, the San Francisco defense that has been making its breaks today comes up with the big play. McCown drops back and tries to hit Clayton slanting over the middle, but the ball glances off Clayton's hands and pops in the air. Nate Clements is in the area and he swoops in for the pick, then points to set up blockers in front of him for a return. Clements appears trapped near the left sideline, but he gives ground to reverse field and now he's got something going. Clements turns the corner and now he's free down the right side! Clements goes 62 yards before he finally is pushed out bounds. Wow! Huge play. Afterwards, Clements heads for the south end zone, where the drummer of the 49er band is waiting with a drum attached to his stomach. Clements takes away the drum sticks from the man, then begins banging the drum. Bang the drum slowly, Nate! You worked for that …

3:44: And this time, the 49ers don't make a big play by their defense go to waste. On first down, Hill drops back to pass, then dumps the ball off to a late-releasing Gore. He slips a tackle at the point of the reception and Gore is gone! He races down the right side and then trots into the end zone, completing a 23-yard touchdown play. And just like that, the 49ers have taken command of this thing with only a minute gone in the fourth quarter. Can they maintain it? …
49ers 21, Buccaneers 13

3:55: After allowing one first down, the San Francisco defense gets tough once again and forces yet another Tampa Bay punt. But it's a boomer by Josh Bidwell, and he gets a good roll after Lewis fails to field it, and the ball goes all the way down to the San Francisco 4. Gore goes for one yard on first down, and that's significant because it gives him 1,000 for the season. The 49ers play it conservative and Lee comes in to punt on third-and-9, and he hits a 52-yarder. The Bucs go even further back when Buchanon is hit hard by Dashon Goldson as he makes the catch, and the ball goes tumbling backward, but Tampa Bay's Tanard Jackson recovers it. Still, the 49ers are out of a hole as the Bucs start at their own 40 …

4:03: The Bucs hit some big passes as they move down the field, and now it's third-and-6 at the San Francisco 25 as Tampa Bay looks to even the score. McCown, pressured, throws incomplete, and now the Bucs have a decision to make. They're going for it. McCown has all kinds of time in the pocket, and he spots Clayton behind coverage over the middle. Goldson makes up ground with the ball in the air and gets in Clayton's face as the ball arrives. Clayton goes up with one hand at the goal line and momentarily grasps the ball in what would be a fantastic catch. But as the two players come to the ground, Goldson knocks the ball away, and Clayton can't hold onto it. Clayton argues after the play, but to no avail. The Niners hold!! And now they have the ball back, looking like a team that's going to win this thing …

4:09: The 49ers get one first down and creep near midfield, but Hill is sacked for a three-yard loss on second-and-6, then is called for intentional grounding as he throws it away in the face of a heavy rush on third down. Lee comes in to punt it away, and the Bucs will get another shot with 2:44 remaining to play …

4:18: Tampa Bay is driving again, but McCown is flushed out of the pocket on third-and-2 and his completion goes for no yardage. It's fourth-and-2 now with 1:46 remaining, and this is the ball game. McCown takes a quick drop and hits Clayton over the middle, and he breaks a tackle and goes for the first down – and more. Huge play by the Bucs. But they're penalized for an illegal block after the play, pushing the ball back to the 24, where the Bucs have a first down …

4:22: With all day to throw, McCown sidesteps Bryant Young, rolls to his right, then finds Stevens finally breaking loose of coverage. He's open! McCown lays the ball over his shoulder, and Stevens makes the grab and goes into the end zone to complete a 24-yard touchdown play. Now the Bucs are lining up for the two-point conversion. McCown drops back, and again he has all kinds of time to throw. He looks left, then looks right, the moves right. He sets. He throws. He finds Clayton between defenders and hits him. Clayton leaps in the air to make the grab, but as he comes down, his left foot is on the end line, half in the end zone and half out of it. The conversion is no good! The 49ers give up the TD, but hold when it really counts. Barely. There still is 1:20 to play, so this one isn't over yet …
49ers 21, Buccaneers 19

4:24: Now it is. The Bucs just attempted an onside kick, and Battle follows it as it goes out of bounds. That should about do it …

4:27: And it does. Hill takes a couple of kneel-downs as the Bucs don't have enough timeouts to stop the clock from running out. It's a fine, well-deserved win by the 49ers, who – don't look now – have a winning streak to take into their season finale at Cleveland. It's an emotional scene down on the field as a handful of 49ers hoist Young on their backs and carry him across the field for a while. Young has them stop, then meets up with Garcia at midfield after one of San Francisco's more satisfying wins of this season. If this is indeed Young's final game in San Francisco, he went out in style. And on this day, so did the 49ers …
Final score: 49ers 21, Buccaneers 19

Make sure to check back with sfillustrated.com later this afternoon and evening for full post-game coverage, analysis and comments from the San Francisco locker room, and then check back throughout the week for daily coverage of the team and NFL as the 49ers attempt to finish their season on a three-game winning streak when they travel to Cleveland to face the playoff-challenging Browns in their regular-season finale.



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