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49ers vs. Buccaneers: San Francisco Week 1 Game Balls & Highlights

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49ers vs. Bucs Week 1 Game Balls, Highlights
© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game balls and highlights from the San Francisco 49ers’ 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the 2019 NFL regular season.

On yesterday’s Locked On 49ers Podcast, host Brian Peacock provided a rundown of the Niners’ game — including game notes and key takeaways — and handed out four game balls from the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 1 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Despite the lopsided final score, Sunday’s game was a close affair until the closing minutes of the contest, partially due to a 49ers’ offense that has yet to hit on all cylinders. However, the Niners put an end to the turnover problems that plagued the team last season, as San Francisco recovered a fumble and intercepted three passes, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Given the defense’s strong start to the 2019 NFL regular season, it’s no surprise that the 49ers’ defensive unit receives three of our first four game balls of 2019:

 

49ers LB Fred Warner

49ers MIKE linebacker Fred Warner appears poised for a breakout second season in the NFL. When fellow linebacker Kwon Alexander was inappropriately ejected from Sunday’s game, Warner knew he had to take control of both the middle of the field and his talented-but-inexperienced fellow linebackers. Warner was up to the task, as he finished Week 1 with a game-high nine tackles and forced a key red-zone fumble:

 

49ers’ Defensive Line

If the members of this group can remain healthy, the 49ers’ defensive line will be a force in 2019. Although San Francisco’s pass rushers had a difficult time bringing the Bucs’ slippery quarterback Jameis Winston to the ground — and rookie EDGE Nick Bosa‘s ankle injury was also a factor — the Niners’ defensive line had the mobile QB on the run for most of the game and directly forced both of the 49ers’ defensive touchdowns:

 

49ers CB Ahkello Witherspoon

Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was the better of the 49ers’ two outside corners in Week 1, which was reflected in his team-leading 80.8 defensive grade and 81.7 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. Witherspoon broke up two passes and returned an interception for a score, which left Winston with a 4.9 quarterback rating when throwing in the third-year cornerback’s direction:

 

49ers WR Richie James

As the team’s starting slot receiver, wideout Richie James was on the field for over a third of the 49ers’ offensive snaps, but saw only two passes thrown his way. James finished the matchup with just a single catch, but his 39-yard touchdown reception proved to be the turning point in the game. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hit James in stride on the Niners’ opening drive of the second half, giving San Francisco their first lead of the regular season. Two plays later, cornerback Richard Sherman‘s pick-6 put the 49ers’ in the driver’s seat, en route to their first victory of 2019:

 

Listen to Locked On 49ers host Brian Peacock’s review of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 1 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — including game notes and key takeaways from the Niners’ first matchup of the 2019 NFL regular season — on yesterday’s Rapid React podcast:

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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