TAMPA, Fla. -- The 49ers dispute the notion that the early morning release of linebacker Reuben Foster had any impact on Sunday’s game.
Foster, who did not play in the final two games before the bye week because of a hamstring injury, would not have played in the 49ers’ 27-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Emotionally, the 49ers claimed they were not distracted. The team announced the decision Sunday morning to release Foster after he spent the night in jail, arrested for probable cause in a domestic incident at the team hotel involving his on-again-off-again girlfriend.
[RELATED: Shanahan speaks on dismissal of Foster]
So there was no excuse for another poor performance as the 49ers dropped to 2-9 on the season:
The run game was good ... except for when it mattered most. Matt Breida returned to his hometown and put together his third 100-yard rushing game of the season, with 106 yards on 14 carries. But when the 49ers needed a touchdown in the third quarter to pull even, Breida and quarterback Nick Mullens were stopped on back-to-back plays from inside the 1-yard line. Then, before a fourth-down play, George Kittle was called for a false start to force the 49ers to settle for a field goal.
The Bucs entered the game with only one interception in 10 games, but Mullens was picked off twice while completing 18 of 32 passes for 221 yards. Dante Pettis had a good showing with four catches for 77 yards and one touchdown.
The 49ers struggled on third downs, converting just one of their eight opportunities. The pass protection, which had been good, also faltered. Mullens was sacked four times for minus-27 yards.
“I don’t think he played very well,” Shanahan said of Mullens. “I mean, just looking at some of our situations. But it wasn’t all him. No one played very well, especially in the passing game.”
The 49ers’ run defense continues to be one of the team’s strengths, as Fred Warner and Elijah Lee tied for team-high honors with seven tackles apiece. The Bucs' leading rusher, Peyton Barber, gained just 47 yards and one touchdown on 18 rushing attempts.
There is no question Jameis Winston will get another start, thanks to the 49ers’ pass defense. Winston threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 117.4. The 49ers managed only one sack and could not keep Winston contained in the backfield despite some pressure.
Richard Sherman was tested for the first time this season, and he surrendered a 42-yard pass to Mike Evans. Ahkello Witherspoon’s play was an improvement over the pre-bye game against the New York Giants, but he was flagged for a 23-yard penalty for pass interference.
Robbie Gould missed an extra point, and the 49ers were called for three penalties on special teams. Punter Bradley Pinion and the coverage unit had a solid day, but not as good as Bucs punter Bryan Anger. The 49ers’ average starting spot after six kickoffs was the 22-yard line.
In a dreary season, this game was about as bad as it can get.
At least the 49ers didn't have to worry about blowing a fourth-quarter lead this time. After the 49ers failed to score from short range in the third quarter, the Bucs blew the game open with touchdowns on back-to-back drives.
There were some bright spots scattered throughout, namely Breida, but the vast majority of the team had sub-par performances.