The 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not wait until Black Friday to hold giveaway specials.
The 49ers’ issue with their turnover margin was a storyline from early in the season. And as unsightly as their minus-15 margin remains, there is one NFL team that is even worse.
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers have been a giveaway waiting to happen – with very few takeaways coming back their way.
The two teams with similar problems meet on Sunday in Tampa, Florida, when the 49ers (2-8) face the Buccaneers (3-7).
The Buccaneers are the only reason the 49ers do not rank last in the league in takeaways-giveaways. Tampa Bay ranks as the worst in the league with a minus-23 turnover margin.
“Of course we’ve looked at it,” Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said this week on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “I’m sure the 49ers just like us -- when you’re at the bottom of the league in takeaways and takeaways-giveaways being the No. 1 statistic that determines winning in games -- of course, you’re looking at it.”
Said 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, “I wish there was a magic button you could press. Everybody in the league would push it and turnovers would happen.”
The Buccaneers are having a unique season. The combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston have averaged a league-leading 361.0 yards passing per game. That is ahead of the pace of Peyton Manning’s record-setting Denver Broncos of 2013, which set the NFL record with an average of 340.2 passing yards per game.
But Fitzgerald and Winston have also combined for a league-worst 23 interceptions through 10 games. Winston, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft, will start against the 49ers.
“Jameis has played a very high level, at times, when he was in there, but he just has to make consistent, good decisions with the football,” Koetter said. “That’s the same thing when Fitz is in there. That’s the thing that’s led to the majority of our turnovers as a team is just inconsistent decision-making at quarterback.”
While the Buccaneers are rolling up offensive yards at a record pace and throwing a lot of interceptions, their defense could also challenge the NFL record for fewest interceptions in a season. The Buccaneers have just one interception on the season. The worst in league history belongs to the 1982 Houston Oilers, which recorded just one interception.
“We’ve had some opportunities, some balls that have been tipped around, up in the air,” Koetter said. “We haven’t come down with them. It’s never one thing that causes things like that. It’s a combination of things.”
Koetter pointed to a number of reasons for his team’s inability to generate turnovers. Because the Buccaneers have been in front of many games, opposing offenses have not been required to take too many chances.
The same can be said for the 49ers, who have recorded just two interceptions – courtesy of Antone Exum and Jaquiski Tartt. Both teams rank 19th in the league in sacks, so there has not been a consistent pass rush from either side. Both teams have forced 12 fumbles, but the 49ers have recovered just three of them.
“We’ve had our opportunities,” Saleh said. “I know it’s very hard to see when you’re not winning football games and the results aren’t happening. It’s very hard to see. I think we’re 15th in forced fumbles so the ball’s on the ground, we’re getting balls, we’re getting our hands on them.
“We’ve had multiple dropped interceptions and eventually the tide has got to change and the ball has got to start bouncing our way.”