The 49ers pulled away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and won 33-14 on Sunday afternoon. San Francisco remained two games behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West division and could clinch a playoff spot next week with a Cardinals loss.
After kicking a field goal to go up by 13 points, Tampa Bay made it a game in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass to Tim Wright to bring them within six.
The 49ers were able to respond with a 19-play drive that took 10:27 off the clock with a short field goal by Phil Dawson. Colin Kaepernick converted two key third downs: one by scrambling and another on a pass to Michael Crabtree. The wide receiver was previously flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for tossing a ball.
“Crabtree [shouldn’t have done that,” Harbaugh said. “He made it right two plays later.”
On the ensuing kickoff after the field goal, a fumbled exchange by the Buccaneers led to Kendall Hunter picking up the ball in the end zone for a touchdown to seal it. It was the first special teams touchdown since Week 7 at Tennessee.
Jim Harbaugh was impressed with Tampa Bay for keeping themselves in the game on defense. In the end, the 49ers converted four important third downs in order to win.
"Tampa Bay has a very good football team," Harbaugh said. "We played really good defensively and offensively on 3rd down to make plays. Kaepernick had a monster game. He made escapes from the pocket and guys were grabbing at him. He also had some incredible out of the pocket throws and first down conversions"
San Francisco’s defense was the story of the first half as they held Tampa Bay to only 98 yards of offense. On the first five possessions, the defense allowed three first downs, 30 yards and forced five punts.
The 49ers started the game with a touchdown drive that had early struggles. San Francisco burned two timeouts in the first four minutes of the game and Colin Kaepernick snapped the ball with the play clock running low.
Michael Crabtree became the third player on the 49ers to have a receiving touchdown with a five yard TD reception on the 49ers’ opening drive. The 49ers were able to convert both third downs on the drive.
Phil Dawson added a 47-yard field goal and later Vernon Davis caught a 52-yard touchdown reception to put the 49ers up 17-0. Tampa Bay had a late score with a touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson right before halftime.
Donte Whitner said the team will need to be prepared to play on the road soon as San Francisco will most likely be a wildcard team in the postseason. Despite Tampa Bay hanging around in the game, he was happy the defense made stops when they needed to.
"Things slipped a little in communication areas for this game," Whitner said. "We didn't let [a comeback] happen. We fell last year in Minnesota [in Week 3]. We didn't want that to happen this year. We're the team that's cut out to make [things happen on the road]."
The 49ers will host the Atlanta Falcons for the final regular season game in Candlestick Park.
-The 49ers are 8-2 for 10 a.m. PT kickoffs under Jim Harbaugh.
-Phil Dawson has been building on his own team record of consecutive field goals made. After making four on Sunday, he has made 24 straight field goal attempts.
-Frank Gore passed 1,000 rushing yards for the seventh time in his career.
-Vernon Davis caught his 52nd career touchdown and now has two seasons of at least 12 TD receptions.