That was a rout. A demolition. A steamrolling.
Call it whatever you want. The San Francisco 49ers made mincemeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 35-7 win that will live ignominiously in Tom Brady’s mind. Any designs he had on a homecoming win on Sunday were erased in short order.
The tone was established early.
San Francisco opened with a five-play, 52-yard touchdown drive. But it all began with what would prove to be a recurring theme for Tampa Bay: back-breaking penalties.
Brock Purdy checked out of the initial first play call into a pass, and an unabated rush came from the right side by safety Keanu Neal. Neal hit Purdy high, making contact with his helmet, gifting the 49ers 15 yards on the unnecessary roughness call.
Two plays later, on a 3rd-and-7, Purdy threw high over the middle, but George Kittle plucked it for a first-down conversion.
Christian McCaffrey followed that with a 21-yard rush, then Deebo Samuel, with excellent blocking on the outside, took a carry for a 13-yard touchdown. The carry, his third rushing TD of the year, earned him $150,000 in incentives.
The Buccaneers’ response was their only drive of 10 or more plays until late in the third quarter. Tampa Bay worked the ball from their own 20 to the 49ers’ 37-yard line.
Brady narrowly avoided a would-be Nick Bosa sack, throwing the ball away with his knee just inches off the ground. It robbed Bosa of what would have been sack No. 15.5 of the season, his career-high from last year.
Even without a sack, Bosa still leads the league at 14.5 sacks on the season. The Patriots’ Matthew Judon, second, at 13.0 on the year, plays the Cardinals on Monday night.
That opening Tampa Bay drive ended with a comically bad miss on a 55-yard attempt by Ryan Succop. It didn’t appear that the 49ers got a hand on the ball, just that Succop missed short, by a large margin.
After a three-and-out from both sides, Brock Purdy and Co. began to roll.
San Francisco scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives and three of the next four. Tampa went punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs, end of half.
It was a stunning display, as Brady’s offense looked, somehow, even more inept than it has all year.
Meanwhile, Purdy was slinging the ball. He did so all day, even offering up what looked like a no-look pass to Ray-Ray McCloud at one point.
He continued to find time for himself, manipulate the defense with his eyes, and deliver to the open man. The second touchdown drive began with Purdy buying time on a play action, then dumping it to George Kittle for a 15-yard play.
A couple of 13-yard McCaffrey runs helped push the 49ers into the red zone, and a defensive holding on Tyler Kroft, again by Keanu Neal, netted SF a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, Purdy saw no one open, waited for a hole to appear, then took it, scrambling for a rushing touchdown.
It was 14-0 at that point, and the Buccaneers never came close to cutting into that deficit.
After another Tampa Bay three-and-out, Purdy led another impressive drive with perhaps the best throw of his young career.
He spotted a streaking Christian McCaffrey down the left sideline and put it on the back shoulder perfectly, where only McCaffrey could make a play on it.
A bizarre review followed. It initially looked like a cut-and-dry touchdown, but referees deemed that the call had been overturned.
The crowd at Levi’s Stadium was in an uproar, as players pointed towards the screens, which seemed to show a touchdown. The crew agreed reviewing the play, in an odd display, for a second time. After that review, it became clear that McCaffrey bobbled it, but then re-gained possession and toe-tapped his second foot.
San Francisco took a 21-0 lead.
It seemed to be smooth sailing at that point. But on a 2nd-and-10, Deebo Samuel was tackled awkwardly, with his ankle getting stuck and bent under the weight of Rakeem Nunez-Roches. He also fumbled, with Tampa Bay recovering.
After initially trying to limp off the field, Samuel went back down to the ground and was carted off.
The 49ers called it a knee injury at first, then later amended it as an ankle injury. According to Jordan Schultz, it’s believed to be an ankle injury, but not a “serious” injury. A better update will likely be provided on Monday, but disaster may have been avoided.
Tampa Bay didn’t make use of that fumble, either. They drove into the red zone of the 49ers, then came up short, turning the ball over on downs on a couple of failed shots to the end zone.
On the other end, Purdy was bailed out on a would-be interception by another Tampa Bay penalty. This time, it was a holding called against an apoplectic Carlton Davis III.
Once again, Tampa Bay paid immediate penance for their penalties. The very next play, Purdy saw Brandon Aiyuk cook his defender, finding acres of space near the end zone. Purdy underthrew him, but it didn’t matter. Aiyuk snagged it to conclude the first half with a 28-0 49ers lead.
The result was pretty obvious at that point.
But there was still more embarrassment for the Buccaneers to deal with.
On the first two drives of the second half, Tom Brady threw some astonishingly bad interceptions.
34 seconds into the half, Brady wildly overthrew Mike Evans. Tashuan Gipson Sr. took it 36 yards the other way to set up the fifth and final 49ers touchdown of the day. This one was a 38-yard McCaffrey run, fooling safety Logan Ryan badly.
The lack of Tampa Bay’s two starting safeties in Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards was glaring in this one.
Brady responded to that McCaffrey touchdown with an even worse interception than the one that preceded it.
He threw a duck which Dre Greenlaw tipped to himself before securing. He said on KNBR this week that he badly wanted a “Brady ball.” He got it.
There was a late Buccaneers score — a touchdown to Russell Gage which was nearly picked by Greenlaw and Fred Warner — which prevented the shutout.
But it didn’t lessen Tampa Bay’s embarrassment. They even offered up a late Rachaad White fumble for the third turnover of the half, recovered by Azeez Al-Shaair.
It allowed the 49ers to run out the clock, and even provide rookie receiver Danny Gray with his first career catch, followed by a kneel. Gray, like Richie James Jr. used to do, hit a backflip at the final whistle.
It was a convincing win by every stretch of the imagination. And with a Seattle Seahawks loss to the Carolina Panthers, it means the 49ers would clinch the NFC West crown with a win this Thursday.
At 9-4, and with the Minnesota Vikings falling to 10-3 on Sunday, the 49ers have a chance to move up to second in the NFC by season’s end. But looking any further than Seattle, as history reminds, would be exceedingly unwise.