Enemy Profile: 49ers

January 10 – PewterReport.com has scouted Tampa Bay's first opponent of the 2002 playoffs -- the 11-6 San Francisco 49ers. Which player match-up will be the one to watch? What did Tampa Bay's players have to say about their playoff opponent? Want a prediction and some interesting facts? Find out what to expect when the Bucs and 49ers clash on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

BUCS' OPPONENT: San Francisco 49ers

WHERE: Raymond Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

SPREAD: Bucs by 6

WHERE THE 49ERS STAND: San Francisco won the NFC West Division title and finished the regular season with a 10-6 record.

49ERS HEAD COACH: Steve Mariucci






MATCHUP TO WATCH Bucs LB Derrick Brooks vs. 49ers QB Jeff Garcia: Garcia is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league. He uses his mobility to move the chains for the 49ers' offense, but he also buys time for his receivers to get open by moving out of the pocket.

Garcia completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,344 yards and he tossed 21 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions during the regular season. Garcia also rushed 72 times for 353 yards (4.9 avg.) and he scored three touchdowns. He is the main reason why San Francisco's offense converted 52.3 percent of its third downs during the regular season.

Garcia engineered the second-biggest comeback in playoff history last Sunday against the Giants when he led the 49ers back from a 24-point deficit to eventually win the game, 39-38.

While San Francisco's West Coast offense has a lot of speedy players, including Garcia, Tampa Bay's No. 1 ranked defense is arguably the fastest defense in the league. Bucs Pro Bowl weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks has been outstanding against mobile quarterbacks this season, i.e., Michael Vick (Atlanta). Brooks, who led the Bucs' defense in tackles during the regular season, must wrap Garcia up when he has the opportunity. Tampa Bay's defense must play a lot of zone, which will make it difficult for Garcia to find open receivers.

Tampa Bay's linebackers will play a huge part in stopping San Francisco's passing game. The 49ers like to run short and intermediate routes, but the Bucs' linebackers have the speed and instincts to jump routes, which could lead to interceptions.

…San Francisco is 7-1 when scoring 23 or more points in a contest and just 4-5 in games where they scored less than 23 points?

San Francisco has not one, but two capable running backs in Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow. Hearst is the team's primary tailback. He rushed for 972 yards (4.5 avg.) and eight touchdowns during the regular season. Hearst is also a receiving threat. He hauled in 48 passes for 317 yards and scored one touchdown via the passing game.

Barlow is the team's third-down back. He rushed for 675 yards (4.7 avg.) and four touchdowns during the regular season.

San Francisco's running game produced an average of 140 yards per game during the regular season. But Tampa Bay's defense was ranked No. 6 against the run during the regular season, only allowing opponents to produce an average of 97 yards per game on the ground.

Tampa Bay's defense can't allow San Francisco's offense to establish the run. If the 49ers get its ground game going, they'll be able to play-action pass the Buccaneers with success. If the Bucs' front seven can contain Hearst, Barlow and Garcia in terms of the ground game, it will bode well for their secondary, where the Bucs will need all the help they can get to cover the 49ers' receiving corps.

San Francisco Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens is arguably the best in the NFL. He hauled 100 passes for 1,300 yards and he scored 13 touchdowns during the regular season. Owens is probably the most physical receiver in the league, which is why he's so good. He makes a living off of breaking tackles and he has impressive speed, too.

Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber will have the tough task of covering Owens on Sunday. But Barber has proven to be one of the best cover corners in the league. He's also one of the best tacklers on Tampa Bay's defensive unit. The Bucs' Cover 2 scheme won't likely allow Owens to catch a lot of passes deep downfield, but he probably will find spots in the zone coverage, and when he does, Tampa Bay's defenders must tackle him right away in order to limit his big-play ability.

Owens is also a potential running threat. Look for the 49ers to run a reverse with him at least once on Sunday. Owens has rushed seven times during the regular season for 79 yards and he scored one touchdown.

In order for the Bucs to contain Owens, their front-four must put pressure on Garcia early and often. Garcia has only been sacked 17 times this season, but he's been pressured out of the pocket often. Look for Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to throw a variety of blitz packages at Garcia and Co. in order to disrupt their timing.

There are so many superstars on San Francisco's offense that a couple of solid players get lost in the mix. But if Tampa Bay's defense forgets about them, tight end Eric Johnson and fullback Fred Beasley could make them pay for it.

Johnson is an excellent receiver. He caught 36 passes for 321 yards in the regular season. Johnson is also quite a blocker in the running game.

Beasley is a solid fullback. He's got great hands out of the backfield. Beasley caught 22 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown during the regular season. Bucs FB Mike Alstott has stood in the way of Beasley making the Pro Bowl over the last few seasons.

Tampa Bay's offense should be able to move the ball on San Francisco's defense. The 49ers' secondary is its weakest link. This unit allowed opponents to pass for an average of 219 yards and score nearly 22 points per game during the regular season. New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins completed 67 percent of his passes against San Francisco last weekend for 342 yards and he also tossed four touchdown passes.

Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson should be able to help his offense move the chains and score points through the air, but only if he's given time to throw by his offensive line. Johnson has been sacked 21 times this season and it will be up to left tackle Roman Oben to protect Johnson's blindside because 49ers right defensive end Andre Carter recorded 12.5 sacks during the regular season.

While Tampa Bay will likely find most of its offensive success in the passing game, they'll need to present a legitimate threat on the ground. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense is based off of play-action and if the 49ers' defense doesn't fear the Pewter Pirates' running game, they'll sit back in coverage and make it difficult for Brad Johnson to pick apart the weak secondary.

Tampa Bay's ground game came to life in the final three games of the regular season, producing over 100 yards on the ground in each of those contests. San Francisco's defense allowed an average of 103 yards rushing per game during the regular season, which bodes well for Bucs running back Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott.

Visit the San Francisco 49ers' web site and TheInsiders San Francisco 49ers' web site for more information on Tampa Bay's next opponent.


Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on defending the 49ers' no-huddle offense:
"We'll prepare for that. It's not a novelty. Everybody in the league has the no-huddle to some degree. They had a lot of success in it yesterday and we'll have to prepare for that."

Gruden on San Francisco QB Jeff Garcia breaking the pocket:
"We've played some guys that can really move at that position – Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Aaron Brooks. We've played some quarterbacks who can move and create. But one thing about Jeff that's very impressive is that he has an unbelievable ability, running right or left or forward, to locate receivers and throw the ball. He does a magnificent job of keeping all five eligibles in play, and if there's no one there he is capable of running for big yardage, which he did again yesterday."

Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson on how prepared his team is for the playoffs:
"A lot of us have played in the playoffs before. A lot of us have played in championship games. We have experience in this type of environment. If we can keep our poise and go out there and execute, then I don't see any other reason why we should not be playing in the NFC Championship game."

Tampa Bay QB Brad Johnson on San Francisco's secondary:
"I have always said that you can't go by stats. They are very athletic up front. They have some guys that can run. They do a great job stopping the run and the linebackers can run extremely well. Their corners run well. They are a little beat up in the secondary, so it will be interesting to see if they play as much man, or if they go to a little bit more soft cover 2. So it should be interesting to see what takes place during the course of the game, but they will be a very tough team to go against."

It's difficult to tell how Tampa Bay matches up against San Francisco. After all, these teams haven't played each other since 1997, when the Bucs downed the 49ers, 13-6.

Although the 49ers have one of the most potent offenses in the league, the Bucs can't afford to get into a shootout on Sunday. Tampa Bay's defense is what has gotten the Pewter Pirates to where they are and that unit is going to carry them to wherever they get in post-season play. The Bucs' defense is the fastest in the league and it has matched up well against mobile quarterbacks this season, which will bode well for them when they face Garcia on Sunday.

San Francisco's offense converted 52 percent of its third downs during the regular season. Tampa Bay's defense allowed one offense to convert 50 percent of its third downs against them – the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans won both of those contests and Tampa Bay's defense certainly can't allow San Francisco to have that high of a third-down conversion rate in the playoff contest.

While this one won't likely be a shootout, the Bucs' offense must attack the 49ers' defense through the air. San Francisco's secondary is one of the worst in the league, but in order for Brad Johnson to take advantage of it, he'll need time to throw out of the pocket. If Tampa Bay's offensive line can give Johnson time, he'll be able to pick apart San Francisco's secondary, which should help the Bucs' offense score just enough points to win this game.

They say offenses sell tickets and defenses win championships. I suppose we'll find out just how true that statement is by about 4:00 p.m. Sunday.

FLYNN'S PICK Buccaneers 24 49ers 16

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