Mitch Perry Report: Surprising love for the 49ers at Raymond James Stadium

Posted by Mitch Perry on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 8:02 AM

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued their desultory season yesterday by losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 33-14. Even though it seemed as if the Niners dominated most of the afternoon in terms of who was in control of the game, the fact of the matter was that the Bucs were still in the game early in the 4th quarter after a touchdown, trailing just 20-14. That's when Colin Kaepernick, the Niners' much maligned second-year starter, took San Francisco methodically down the field and made several great plays during a masterful 10-minute drive that culminated with a field goal by Phil Dawson. That put San Fran up by nine points with just 4:27 to play. A subsequent Bucs fumble on the ensuing kick-off led to another Niner touchdown and the lopsided final score.

But you all know that if you watched the game. What surprised the heck out of me was the number of 49ers fans in attendance, at least where I was sitting up in section 335. Though I've lived in Tampa for 14 football seasons now, this was only the third time the Niners have played in Tampa during that time (the two teams have met each other the last four times in SF). Both previous games in Tampa were during the Jon Gruden era, a 2002 playoff game and a 2004 regular season game, and both times the Bucs dominated. But yesterday it was amazing to see (and hear) so many Niners fans wearing vintage jerseys (and not just of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, but 90's stalwarts like Bryant Young). The Niners came breathtakingly close to winning the Super Bowl last February, and still look good enough to get back there, but mark my words — what may stop them is they can't finish drives. Too many field goals, not enough touchdowns.

Colin Kaepernick is a big reason why the Niners won yesterday. His stats were good but not great, but they never really are (the Niners are actually last in the league in passing statistics). It's his intangibles as a running quarterback that make him special. It's interesting because the 26-year-old is still only in his first full year as a starter, yet he's been criticized a lot by some "smart" people in the NFL as maybe being a bit overhyped after his sensational 2012 season; then again, these are the same folks who counted out Carolina's Cam Newton last year, and are already ready to dismiss Robert Griffin the III in D.C. That's lame.

In any event, it was a great afternoon — perfect weather as far as I was concerned (mid 60's) — but though enough tickets may have been sold before the game began to qualify as a sell-out, there were lots of empty seats throughout Raymond James. As far as the Bucs go? I'm not sure what to say about that. Some question whether Greg Schiano deserves to come back next season. They were 7-9 last season and 4-10 so far this year. Next up? Going to St. Louis, who thoroughly whipped a very good New Orleans Saints team last night.

This past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. There were numerous events around the country marking that horrific event, including one early Saturday morning in East Tampa.

The Senate convenes in Washington this week, only to leave in a few days for their Christmas break. At some point before Friday they're expected to vote on the budget deal reached in the House last week. The Republicans point man on the deal, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, is getting loads of verbal abuse from Tea Party activists and others who feel like he sold them out. Yesterday on Meet The Press Ryan essentially told those critics to get over it, following the lead of House Speaker John Boehner last week.

One of those Republican critics of the deal is Florida's own junior U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. But his (over?) zealous reaction to the deal has brought him a great deal of criticism as well.

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