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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Tully Banta-Cain (95) sacks Luke McCown just before Ronald Fields gets there. McCown was sacked twice, fumbling on one.
SAN FRANCISCO - For offensive linemen, there is no image more revolting than the sight of their quarterback being driven violently into the ground by a pursuing defender.
"You can't stand to see that," acknowledged Bucs guard Davin Joseph.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Joseph and his linemates had to witness such events countless times as the 49ers punished Bucs quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Luke McCown with four sacks and several other brutal hits.
And when it came to establishing a running game by being physical against San Francisco's aggressive defense, the Bucs' offensive line came up short there, too.
In recent weeks, theoffensive line had been imposing its will on opponents, particularly in the running game. But mental mistakes, penalties and overall uninspired line play left the offense a disjointed mess at times in Sunday's 21-19 loss at Monster Park.
With the playoffs just two weeks away, the line seems to be going in the wrong direction at the wrong time.
"I don't know if it was a step back," center John Wade said. "I know it wasn't a step forward. But at the same time, you're either going forward or backward. There's no in between in this league. So I guess looking at it like that, we did take a step back."
Said guard Arron Sears: "Unfortunately, the last few weeks had nothing to do with this game. You have to put everything together every week in this league."
Wade committed a false start and was involved in a botched snap with Garcia at the 49ers 3. Sears was responsible for a holding call and a false start.
Most mystifying was the Bucs' inability to develop a running game, forcing them to throw 52 times. They finished with 67 rushing yards on 24 attempts for 2.8 yards per carry.
The 49ers, for all of their struggles this season, have one of the league's most physical defenses, which the Bucs learned firsthand.
Pro Bowl rookie linebacker Patrick Willis burrowed his way into holes that seemed to spring from everywhere, finishing with 20 tackles. Defensive tackle Bryant Young, a 14-year veteran playing his last home game with the 49ers before retirement, was credited with two quarterback hits.
The Bucs failed to match San Francisco's physicality, which might be disconcerting considering what lies ahead.
"They have a physical group, and that's what we're going to be facing from here on out," Joseph said. "Carolina next week's opponent has a physical group. And then when you get to the playoffs, all those teams are physical, top to bottom. That's something we're going to have to get used to."
What these linemen don't want to become accustomed to is seeing their quarterback battered.
"We have to prevent that," Sears said. "We've got to be on the same page.