TAMPA (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers are hitting their stride at the right time.
Vernon Davis caught a touchdown pass for the fifth straight game and Michael Crabtree scored his first TD since returning from injury to help the defending NFC champions beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-14 on Sunday.
The victory was the fourth straight for Colin Kaepernick and San Francisco (10-4), who pulled away for good with a 10-minute, fourth-quarter drive that produced a field goal. Kendall Hunter put it well out of reach, scooping up a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and diving 2 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
The 49ers moved closer to a playoff berth. They began the day needing a win, plus an Arizona loss and combined with a loss or tie by Dallas or Philadelphia to clinch a spot with two weeks left in the regular season.
Tampa Bay pulled within 20-14 on Mike Glennon’s TD pass to Tim Wright on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Bucs (4-10) didn’t get the ball back until Kaepernick used 17 plays to move the 49ers 77 yards into position for Phil Dawson to kick one of his four field goals, extending his franchise-record streak of consecutive successful attempts to 24.
Kaepernick completed 19 of 29 passes for 203 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. In addition to hurting Tampa Bay with his legs by running seven times for 39 yards, the young quarterback threw TD passes of 4 yards to Crabtree and 52 yards to Davis, who finished with five receptions for 79 yards.
Frank Gore, meanwhile, rushed for 86 yards to go over 1,000 in a season for the seventh time in his career.
Glennon was 18 of 34 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But the Bucs only managed 39 yards rushing and were limited to a season-low 183 total net yards.
Vincent Jackson scored on an 11 reception to trim a 17-0 deficit to 10 points just before halftime. Glennon’s 24-yard pass to Wright finished a 10-play, 92-yard drive that gave Tampa Bay hopes of pulling an upset.
But the Niners would have none of it.
Kaepernick kept San Francisco’s long fourth-quarter march going with a 12-yard pass to Crabtree on third-and-12, then scrambled for 10 yards on third-and-6 for a first down at the Bucs 19. The drive eventually stalled at the 3, where the 49ers settled for Dawson’s 21-yard field goal.
Eric Page fielded the ensuing kickoff, started up one side before heading across the field where he attempted to hand the ball to Russell Shepard on a reverse. Shepard lost the ball as he slipped to the ground, and Hunter made a nice to play to scoop it up on the run and score for a 30-14 lead.
Crabtree’s return from a torn right Achilles tendon that sidelined him the first 11 games of the season has given San Francisco’s offense, last in the league passing yardage, a lift. The speedy receiver averaged 18 yards per reception in his first two games back and had five catches for 45 yards, including his first quarter TD on Sunday.
Kaepernick set up the first score of the game with a couple of nifty third-down conversions, scrambling for 17 yards on third-and-8 from the Tampa 33 on one and throwing 5 yards to Bruce Miller on third-and-3 on the other. Crabtree scored two plays later.
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