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Grades for the 49ers' 27-14 win over the Buccaneers

The 49ers sure look like they're righted the ship after the bye week, notching two wins by a combined 61-17 score.

There are the weeks this column is fun to write, so let's get to it.

Brock Purdy: A+

I think by now you know I'm a tough grader, but there simply is nothing to critique here.

Purdy threw four incompletions on the day, and one of them easily could have been flagged for defensive pass interference. The stat you'll see thrown around a lot is the perfect 158.3 quarterback rating, which is great, but I was even more impressed by Brock's handling of important situations throughout the game.

Multiple times on Sunday, Brock stayed within himself and the situation to make the smart play. On the opening possession, that meant taking a sack on third down and not trying to chuck the ball away at the last second for an intentional grounding penalty (which he had done in each of the last three weeks). Later in the game it meant quickly and calmly stepping up in the pocket for a 3 yard scramble on 3rd and 2 while avoiding contact. Late in the fourth quarter it meant keeping the ball himself for a 12 yard scramble instead of forcing a pass across his body into the middle of the field - all while gaining a first down, staying in bounds to keep the clock moving, and avoiding a hit.

Yes, the layered throws we saw to Kittle, Deebo, and Aiyuk were fantastic (and there were many). The deep touchdown pass to Brandon right after halftime was particularly beautiful. But to me, the best plays Brock made yesterday weren't as flashy, but just as gorgeous.

This game had all the signs of a quarterback who is beginning to see and play the game at a higher level. Now it's not just about whether he can make the correct read or drop a throw into the hole in the coverage - Brock has answered those questions. Now it's about being able to zoom out and see the bigger picture in real time as the game is unfolding.

Purdy did that Sunday and it was a masterpiece.

Running Backs: B

It was a solid if unspectacular effort on the ground against a good run defense. Ultimately, both Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell combined to create an effective attack that did its job.

Kyle Shanahan told the Fox broadcast crew that he was going to handle things a little differently this week in an effort to keep his team as fresh as possible for their upcoming three game gauntlet against Seattle and Philadelphia. We saw evidence of that early in this game.

After the 49ers forced a Baker Mayfield fumble, Elijah Mitchell was inserted into the offense instead of CMC. This was way out of the ordinary for Kyle Shanahan, and it was a clear indication of what he told the Fox crew earlier. Mitchell had 4 carries for 24 yards on a drive that ended in a field goal.

Had the rest of the day unfolded a little differently, I think Shanahan would have given Mitchell most of the fourth quarter. Unfortunately the Niners didn't get the chance to execute that plan thanks to a second half touchdown by the Bucs that kept the score too close for comfort.

Instead, McCaffrey ended up with 21 carries and 78 yards on the day, to go along with five catches, 25 yards, and a touchdown through the air. Ho-hum, another 100+ yards from scrimmage. What a blessing 23 is by making those kind of games routine.

Receivers: A+

Everybody got into the action in this game, and it warmed my soul like a cup of steamy hot chocolate on a cold winter day.

If you wanted to see Brandon Aiyuk carve up a defense for chunk plays, you got five catches for 157 yards and a 76 yard touchdown. If you wanted to see George Kittle rumble after the catch as a safety blanket for Brock Purdy, you got eight catches for 89 yards and a red zone touchdown. If you wanted to see Deebo Samuel make his presence felt as an actual receiver you got three catches for 63 yards.

Sunday was a perfect illustration of the symbiotic relationship that quarterbacks and receivers are supposed to have. Purdy made some great throws that led to big receiving days, and the targets of those throws gained yardage after the catch to maximize the position in which they were put.

My other favorite thing about Sunday? There was only one target that went to someone other than Aiyuk, Deebo, Kittle, or CMC, and it was an incomplete pass to Jauan Jennings. No offense to Jennings, but that's exactly what it should look like for the 49ers every single week. They have too many talented guys at too many positions to throw the ball anywhere else.

Defensive Line: A

Just as Purdy and the receivers elevated each other offensively, we saw the pieces of the defensive line compliment each other defensively on Sunday.

Sometimes it was Chase Young flushing Baker Mayfield into Arik Armstead. Other times it was Armstead getting Mayfield off his spot and into the arms of Chase Young. It was also Nick Bosa just being Nick Bosa. All told the Niners defense had four sacks on the day, which is one less than they had during their entire three game losing streak before the bye. It's also nine sacks in the last two weeks.

Linebackers: A-

I admit, I'm being a real jerk here. The only reason I didn't hand out an A+ is because both Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw dropped interceptions in the game. Warner's would have been a great catch, but I think even he would say that's a play he expects himself to make. Again, I know I am being really nit-picky with this one.

Warner seems to have elevated his game this year by focusing on adding game-changing plays to the repertoire. His forced fumble on Baker Mayfield ended a promising Bucs drive and allowed the Niners to gain a two score lead on the next possession. He was everywhere, as usual, as was Dre Greenlaw - also as usual. Greenlaw in particular looks like a completely different play after healing up over the bye.

Secondary: B+

The stat sheet says they allowed 246 passing yards to Baker Mayfield, but I think they played even better than that. Many of Baker's completions came on perfectly thrown balls that were well-defended. I also think Steve Wilks called off the dogs a little bit when the Niners took a 27-7 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Mooney Ward in particular played well, especially on a third down pass to Trey Palmer to open the second half. Palmer controlled the ball, but Ward fought through that and knocked the ball away before the catch could be completed, forcing a punt. Four plays later Brock Purdy hit Brandon Aiyuk for a 76 yard touchdown and the game belonged to the 49ers after that.

Losing Talanoa Hufanga to a likely-torn ACL is certainly a blow to a secondary that was already razor thin, but Ji'Ayir Brown played well in relief. Despite giving up a long completion shortly after entering the game, Brown bounced back to make four tackles, break up three passes, and catch an interception in the end zone. He's going to get tested much more the rest of the way, but so far so good for Tig Brown.

Special Teams: C

For some reason, it's very difficult for the 49ers to not run into the opposing team's punt returner. Once again on Sunday, they gifted the other team with 15 yards to start a possession. Penalties on special teams are inevitable, but this one shouldn't be. It's happened too many times this year.

on the plus side, Jake Moody made all his kicks for the third straight week, including hitting six straight field goals since his 40 yard miss against the Vikings.

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1 Comment

Nov 20, 2023

Rob, I think you're letting the 49ers off the hook a bit. All the great statistics aside, this game always felt a lot closer. I don't know if it was the difference in watching it live vs. TV, but we did not relax in the stadium until the 2 minute warning. In particular, the lack of long(er) drives by the 49ers offense in the fourth quarter gave Tampa Bay too many chances coupled with the lack of defensive rest was frustrating and worrisome. As great as the offensive execution was, particularly in the third quarter, they missed multiple opportunities to put this game away.

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