But every time the Bucs had a chance to cut the lead to just one score, Baker Mayfield and the offense were unable to deliver.
After throwing an incomplete pass on a fourth-down play in the end zone and an interception on consecutive drives into the red zone in the fourth quarter, Mayfield caused Tampa Bay’s fifth defeat in six games on Sunday, falling to the 49ers 27-14.
“It’s just us. We’ve got to get out of our own way,” Mayfield said. “We got some good opportunities today that we didn’t exactly take advantage of, and so when you’re playing a team like that, you have to. It’s just the story.”
The Bucs (4-6) lost their most recent game, and a lot of things went wrong that prevented them from tying idle New Orleans in the weak NFC South.
Purdy led five straight scoring drives and recorded a perfect passer rating as San Francisco produced multiple big plays, including a 76-yard touchdown pass from Purdy to Brandon Aiyuk.
Mayfield fumbled to stop one good drive in the first half, and the run game never got going again. Even though the Bucs’ offense didn’t perform well until the end, they still had a fourth-quarter opportunity to intrigue the game.
In the first minute of the fourth quarter, Rachaad White’s 1-yard run helped Tampa Bay reduce a 20-point deficit to just 13. The Bucs drove to the San Francisco 12 and forced a short punt, setting themselves up to further reduce that on the following play.
However, Mayfield was pressured on a fourth-down blitz that resulted in another incomplete pass to Mike Evans in the end zone with rookie Ja’Ayir Brown in coverage. Mayfield then completed incomplete passes on the following two downs, including a nearly intercepted pass.
Tampa Bay got another chance to get close to the San Francisco 9 after a forced three-and-out and a lengthy punt return. However, Brown deflected and intercepted a pass that Mayfield attempted to throw.
“We had our chances in the red zone,” coach Todd Bowles said. “We got down there two or three times. We just couldn’t punch it in. Fought like heck to get back in the game. Gave up some plays in the third quarter, got back in it in the fourth. Two or three toward the end in the fourth quarter got down there and had some chances, and we just couldn’t punch it in.”
Bowles was in no mood to acknowledge his team’s perseverance after digging themselves a big hole, especially with the losses piling up. He is aware that if the Bucs are to catch up to the Saints in the competition for the NFL’s worst division, they cannot afford to waste any more opportunities.
“It’s not a moral victory that we fought,” Bowles said. “Our victories come when we can cut out the mistakes and we can win ballgames. We understand that going forward.”