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Week 5: Bucs-49ers preview

The Sports Xchange

Tampa Bay at San Francisco

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, at Candlestick Park, San Francisco - TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

*Keys to the game: The 49ers remain rooted in power football, and the offensive line performed well against the Eagles' agile but undersized front last week. The Buccaneers are similar in their one-gap approach and might even bring a more exotic plan against QB Alex Smith, who has been sacked 14 times in the last three games. The 49ers take few risks, and prefer to pound the ball right into the teeth of a defense with RBs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter; they combined for 165 yards on 24 carries last week. The Buccaneers haven't been as committed to RB LeGarrette Blount but he remains essential as a second option to cool, heady QB Josh Freeman. Even when Blount, who had 18 carries in the first two games, is stopped in his tracks, the Buccaneers have to challenge the 49ers' power-based front seven to set up downfield throws. WR Mike Williams got off to a slow start after a smashing rookie debut in 2010, but he and TE Kellen Winslow prosper when the running game clicks.

*Matchup to watch - 49ers C Jonathan Goodwin and LG Mike Iupati vs. Bucs DT Gerald McCoy: Goodwin anchors an offensive line of maulers that must contend with a high-energy, agile defensive front. McCoy creates good pressure from the inside and is likely to command tandem blocks to keep him out of the 49ers' backfield.

*Player spotlight - Buccaneers MLB Mason Foster: The rookie has the instincts and physical skills to fill the stat sheet against the Niners' vanilla offense. He has been effective where Barrett Ruud wasn't -- getting to inside running plays before they have a chance to start.

*Fast facts: The 49ers had four pass plays of 25 yards or more last week and four in the previous three games combined. ... The Buccaneers have won four of their last five road games since a 21-0 win at San Francisco last season.


The Bucs trek cross-country on a short week, but the Niners' miniscule margin for error makes them imposters at 3-1 unless the shaky offensive line can prove it has come together for good.

*Our pick: Buccaneers 24-17

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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