By Times Staff Writer
Published October 30, 2005


PROTECT THE (NEW) QUARTERBACK: Chris Simms makes his '05 starting debut for the injured Brian Griese. The best thing his teammates can do is give him adequate protection to ease his transition to the starting lineup. Simms was 6-for-10 for 69 yards after taking over against the Dolphins, but he was sacked twice in just more than two quarters.

LET 'ER RIP: If the line can protect Simms, here's some good news for the new quarterback: The 49ers are ranked last in the league in pass defense. San Francisco's opponents are averaging 328.5 passing yards and completing 69.3 percent of their attempts. Pretty sure that's not what Bill Walsh meant by "West Coast offense."

GO GET HIM: Ken Dorsey, that is. The newly installed starter is the 49ers' third quarterback this season. With top overall pick Alex Smith hurt, Dorsey gets to play the league's No. 1-ranked defense behind an offensive line that has yielded 22 sacks in six games. And the Bucs have been hearing from coaches that the pass rush needs to produce more than the current 15 sacks.

DON'T GET COMFY: It's a cliche, yes, but this is a trap game for the Bucs. They are coming off a bye week, which tends to sap a team's enthusiasm, and they are facing a team that has lost five straight. This is the same team that defeated the Rams on opening day despite allowing more than 400 yards of offense. In that game, the 49ers sacked Marc Bulger seven times and limited running back Steven Jackson to 20 yards after a 40-yard first quarter.


STRIKE EARLY: The 49ers would love nothing more than to get an early lead, something that would put the Bucs in an uncomfortable position. Tampa Bay would prefer to run the ball, but the 49ers can force the young Simms to go to the air more than planned if they grab the lead. If the 49ers fall behind and the Bucs get Cadillac Williams back, San Francisco won't see much of the ball today.

GO TO THE MIDDLE: The Bucs are playing with one banged-up safety in Jermaine Phillips (broken hand) and a backup safety in Will Allen. It's not much, but against this defense, that might be as close to catching a break as the 49ers will get. They likely will try to test the safeties, at least initially. Don't be surprised if it backfires. Phillips has played hurt before and lately Allen has shown himself to be as reliable as injured starter Dexter Jackson (hamstring).

GET OFF THE FIELD: The defense can't allow the Bucs to grind it out in the running game, but that's what will happen if the 49ers don't get something going on third down. San Francisco is last in the league in defense on third down. Opponents convert 48.2 percent of the time. The play of lineman Bryant Young and linebacker Julian Peterson will be key in third-and-short situations.

BEAT THE BLITZ: It's coming. That much we know. So the key will be putting Dorsey or Smith, if he plays, in position to get rid of the ball quickly. Seeing how Dorsey and a gimpy Smith (knee) will not have much to offer in terms of mobility, eluding the blitz is probably an unrealistic goal. So look for some quick, short passes to receivers Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle.


Quarterback Chris Simms' take on the 49ers defense:

"I think their defense is pretty talented, especially the two guys off the edge, Peterson and Andre Carter. If you look at a defense, you can't always go by the numbers and stats. They're a pretty good defense, but it's probably the offense that has struggled a little bit so they've been put in some tough situations. That can be tough for a defense. There are no easy weeks in the NFL."