The Buccaneers haven’t exactly been a juggernaut offensively, as they are 22nd in the league in yards per game (327.9). However, Josh Freeman (1,963 passing yards, 12 TD, 5 INT) is emerging as a potential star in this league and has completed 60.7 percent of his passes. The former first-round pick has won eight of his last 12 starts, and six have been fourth quarter comebacks. His 134.2 passer rating last week was a career high, and the Bucs are 8-1 when he has an 80-plus rating. Rookie running back LeGarrette Blount (359 rushing yards, 5 TD) has made it easy for Freeman since wrestling the starting job away from Carnell Williams, as the former Oregon Duck has gone over 90 yards in two of the last three weeks. Williams also has big-play ability, as evidenced by his 45-yard scoring scamper a week ago. Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams (40 receptions, 627 yards, 5 TD) has given the passing attack a dangerous field-stretching presence and has become a favorite target of Freeman. The 49ers will also need to pay attention to tight end Kellen Winslow (39 receptions), who had six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown in the win last week.
If the Bucs are going to move the ball on Sunday, they may have to ride the capable right arm of Freeman, as San Francisco has been effective against the run and enters the game with the NFL’s 10th-ranked rush defense (100.7 ypg). Linebacker Patrick Willis headlines the defensive unit (78 tackles, 2 sack) and has had 24 tackles in the past three games. Willis had two sacks and had a part in 20 tackles the last time he faced the Bucs. Lineman Justin Smith (42 tackles, 5 sacks) has three sacks in his last two games. The 49ers have been vulnerable to the pass, however, surrendering 230.8 yards through the air. Cornerback Nate Clements (49 tackles, 2 INT) appears to be fully recovered from a quadriceps injury, while strong safety Reggie Smith will start in place of struggling rookie Taylor Mays. Clements returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown the last time he faced the Bucs. San Francisco is 18th in the NFL with an average of 22.0 points allowed per game.