Bucs defense remembers how dangerous the 49ers offense is

TAMPA — In the defensive meetings this week, it got ugly. That’s the way the Bucs coaches wanted it.

They showed all the embarrassing mistakes and brutal breakdowns. They talked about how last season they went into San Francisco and were humiliated by the 49ers and Brock Purdy, who was making his very first start as an NFL quarterback.

It was a dose of cold reality.

“Oh yeah, we talked about it right away. I’m responsible for the run game and I think they had (36 carries for 209 yards). I remember it like it was yesterday,” defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers said this week. “They kind of beat the fire out of us. We didn’t play well and it left a lasting impression.

“If we let them do it again, we’re not going to win.”

Last year, that trip was supposed to be remembered as Tom Brady’s final return to his home region. Instead, Purdy overshadowed the future Hall of Fame quarterback and the 49ers offense ran over the Bucs. Purdy threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in what became a 35-7 rout. Christian McCaffrey was traded to the 49ers from the Panthers and went crazy with 119 yards rushing with a touchdown; he added 34 yards receiving.

As the Bucs try to build off the momentum of last week’s win over the Titans, the 49ers offense presents a huge challenge. San Francisco is tied for third in the NFL in points scored per game (28) and third in total offense (383.3 yards per game). The 49ers are ninth in passing offense (248.7 ypg) and sixth in rushing offense (134.7 ypg).

The Bucs are eighth in scoring defense (19.2 points allowed per game) and 24th in total defense (354.1 ypg). Tampa Bay is 31st against the pass (266.9 ypg and sixth against the run (87.2 ypg.

McCaffrey, who has totaled 1,086 yards and 13 touchdowns on offense this season, is obviously among the top threats Sunday. His breakout against Tampa Bay last season was somewhat of a surprise because Todd Bowles-led defenses had held him in check in the past.

“In Carolina, he was one of maybe two or three stars. They’ve got about five or six of them over there in San Fran and they move him around a lot and they do a lot more with him, as well as with the other guys,” Bowles said. “They make it difficult to keep tabs on him. I think that’s the difference from when he’s in San Fran from when he was in Carolina.”

And this time, the Bucs go into the game fully aware of how dangerous Purdy is.

“You don’t ever want to go in there trying to underestimate him just because you think you know him,” defensive back Carlton Davis said. “Go in there with the mentality of I’m going to study him and get to know him, just as I did last year. Don’t take anything for granted.”

The defense can’t afford to take anything for granted. It’s not just the number of threats the 49ers have, it’s the way they use them.

“They’re all over the place. We just watched a couple of plays where McCaffrey was at the ‘X’ and Deebo (Samuel) was at tailback,” Rodgers said. “That’s a problem if you’re in man coverage because now you’ve got a run-fit issue, a coverage issue or you’ve got people playing positions that they don’t usually play … or, if you stay regular, you’ve got a bad matchup somewhere. They create matchups and the way they utilize their people is just really impressive.”

So it is going to have to be a group effort to stop them.

“We have to make sure we take care of our assignments,” safety Antonio Winfield Jr. said. “Everybody has to know where they are supposed to be, we also have to know who is where, and they have weapons everywhere, so our goal is to contain them as much as possible.”

Injury update

Wide receiver Mike Evans, who had been dealing with a quadriceps issue, did not practice. Rest was the reason given on the official injury report. Safety Ryan Neal (thumb) was the only player listed as out for Sunday’s game. Defensive back Josh Hayes (concussion) is expected to be cleared to play, Bowles said after Friday’s practice.

• • •

Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.

Never miss out on the latest with your favorite Tampa Bay sports teams. Follow our coverage on Instagram, X and Facebook.