- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time to wrap up Tampa Bay’s 21-0 victory against San Francisco.
What it means: The Bucs are 7-3. This victory wasn’t as dominant as the score might indicate, but who cares? When you go across the country and win, it shows you’re a good football team. We’ll keep in mind it came against a bad San Francisco team with Troy Smith as the quarterback. But a shutout in the NFL is still hard to come by. This isn’t the dominating Tampa Bay defense of old but this kind of game builds confidence. The Bucs generated a steady pass rush for the first time all year and the run defense also had perhaps its best showing.
What I liked: Undrafted rookie running back LeGarrette Blount continues to impress and he ran with plenty of power against San Francisco. But the best news of all with Blount is that he still has plenty of room for improvement. At the moment, he’s just getting by with power and athleticism. He can take his game to another level if he can learn to hit the right hole and make better decisions.
What I didn’t like: The Bucs used Josh Johnson in the Wildcat formation as the quarterback a couple times and had success. They also used the backup quarterback as a receiver on a couple of plays, but that didn’t result in anything. There’s no doubt Johnson is a good athlete. Maybe I’m old school but I believe you only use gimmicks like the Wildcat formation when you don’t have a real quarterback. With Josh Freeman, the Bucs have a very real quarterback and it doesn’t make sense to take the ball out of his hands.
The rise continues: Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the third overall pick in the draft, got off to a slow start. But he’s come on strong the past couple games. That continued against the 49ers as McCoy had a sack and put pressure on the quarterback several times while turning in a solid game against the run.
Earning his salary: The Bucs gave left tackle Donald Penn a huge contract in the preseason. Penn’s responded by having a very solid year as a blocker. But he elevated his game to a new level Sunday. On a tackle-eligible play, Penn caught a touchdown pass from Freeman in the fourth quarter.
What’s next: The Buccaneers travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens on Sunday. Initially scheduled for a 1 p.m. start, this game already has been “flexed’’ to 4:15 p.m. ET.