Bucs look to take momentum into 49ers game

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles stood dead center in the home locker room at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday and delivered a message to his team after they just knocked off the Tennessee Titans, 20-6.

The Bucs had finally regained some control on a season that began with such promise after starting 3-1, but the Week 10 win also marked an end to a four-game losing streak.

"That was a hell of a job coming back," Bowles said of his team's resiliency to end the skid. "I told you, 'The answers are all in this room.' We've got all the answers."

The Bucs were coming off a loss where they had given up the most points of the season -- 39 to the Houston Texans -- and left looking for answers.

"[It is] kind of like last year," wide receiver Mike Evans said. "We were [in] first place for a while, floating around .500, and then we ended up winning [the division] at the end. It's a similar situation this year, but we have more time. Hopefully we can go on a win streak and separate ourselves."

The Bucs (4-5) have an identical record to the one they had through nine games last season, and they did just enough to win the NFC South and punch a ticket to the playoffs.

"We just have to take care of our business and get on a streak," Bowles said. "... November and December football are very important. This is the third quarter for us -- if we can do well in the third quarter and set up the fourth quarter, we feel like we can bring it home."

The defense got back to playing more press-man coverage and less soft zone Sunday. There was a shift in more man coverage Sunday versus Weeks 6-9, from 36.6% to 46.5%. Starting cornerback Carlton Davis missed the game with a toe injury, but backup Zyon McCollum filled in admirably. Together he and Jamel Dean held All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to three catches on eight targets for just 27 yards.

"You know, it's a good feeling because that's basically my strength," Dean said of pressing. "To be able to execute my strength against a great receiver [was] a confidence feeling. ... It allows you to win more battles instead of playing soft and just giving them the pitch and catch. So just being able to challenge the guys, it just increases your chance of winning that rep."

The defense also played more aggressively on first and second down. They averaged 9.75 blitzes per game on first and second down in Weeks 6-9. Against the Titans, they did it 17 times. Inside linebacker Devin White played roughly 10 fewer coverage snaps than he had in three of the last four games. Against the Titans, he had a sack, a tackle for a loss, two quarterback hits and he batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

"It was very aggressive. We [were] knocking the hell [out of quarterback Will Levis]. I think that got them rattled a little bit," said White, adding that he believes their efforts helped on the back end. "They don't have to sit and try to cover for 15-20 seconds. You know the ball is coming out fast and they can be aggressive, as well. It all works hand-in-hand."

Rookies Calijah Kancey and Yaya Diaby each contributed two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits as well, with Diaby also notching a sack in the fourth quarter. In total, the Bucs had four sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 10 tackles for loss.

"We wanted to attack more on first down because we knew we could try and get them in second-and-long," Bowles said. "It was a concerted effort to try and get some [tackles for loss]."

On offense, running back Rachaad White continues to be a threat in space, with quarterback Baker Mayfield checking down to him on a blitz and White running it 43 yards to score. Evans atoned for an early third-quarter dropped touchdown pass with a 22-yard score later in the quarter and 143 receiving yards.

The Bucs are now a .5 game back of the New Orleans Saints (5-5) in the division as they head West to face the San Francisco 49ers (6-3), who easily handled retired quarterback Tom Brady's return to face his childhood team last season with a 35-7 win over Tampa, on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). The Niners picked Brady off twice and scored touchdowns on five of their first seven possessions.

"Last year, we went to San Francisco and it wasn't pretty," Evans said. "So, we are looking to avenge that and play some of our best ball because we're going to need it against a team like San Fran."

Bowles emphasized the need to be disciplined. The details were sorely lacking in last year's loss, which was a season-long theme. And red zone scoring is still a problem in Tampa. On top of that, quarterback Baker Mayfield is nursing a banged-up right thumb.

"You've got to withstand the first, second and third wave of those guys because they're going to keep coming," Bowles said of the Niners. "Understanding what we have to do from our standpoint will be more important than what they have to do. We just have to go out there and understand the mistakes we made last year and correct things and just play hard, tough football."