Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jacquizz Rogers (L). Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were running out of healthy running backs just four games into the season. Starter Doug Martin injured a hamstring in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, and backup Charles Sims hurt a knee in Week 4 against Denver and landed on injured reserve.
So the Buccaneers (3-3) turned to Plan C, and Jacquizz Rodgers has carried the Bucs to back-to-back victories.
Rodgers rushed for a career-high 154 yards on 26 carries Sunday in a 34-17 comeback victory against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. That surpassed his previous career high of 101 yards on 30 carries set during a 17-14 victory against Carolina on Oct. 10.
"I've been waiting on this moment," said Rodgers, who has never rushed for more than 362 in any of his first five NFL seasons. "For me, I just try to get better and better every week. I try to top my performance from the previous week."
Rodgers was cut by the Chicago Bears just days before their season opener and signed with Tampa Bay before Week 2.
The Bucs rushed for 249 yards Sunday, as rookie Peyton Barber added 84 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. They exploited a 49ers run defense ranked last in the NFL.
"It was no secret," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "The 49ers have been giving up a lot of yards rushing, and we were foolish if we didn't try to run the ball."
The Bucs had plenty of success passing the ball, too. Jameis Winston completed 21 of 30 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Mike Evans caught eight passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns for the Bucs, who were without injured wide receiver Vincent Jackson (knee). Wideout Russell Shepard caught five passes for 77 yards and a score.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started his second straight game and threw for 143 yards and one touchdown for the 49ers (1-6), who lost their sixth straight game. Kaepernick rushed for a team-high 84 yards on nine carries. He completed 16 of 34 passes, was intercepted once and lost a fumble.
"I thought it was up and down," 49ers coach Chip Kelly said of Kaepernick's performance. "He obviously kept some things alive and some drives alive with his legs."
The 49ers built a 14-0 first-quarter lead, but Tampa Bay stormed back to take a 17-14 edge by halftime and kept extending its lead in the third quarter.
The Bucs made it 20-14 on Roberto Aguayo's 37-yard field goal with 10:57 left in the third quarter, five plays after recovering a fumbled punt by 49ers rookie Aaron Burbridge. Jeremy Kerley had signaled for a fair catch, but Burbridge ran into him and fumbled.
The Bucs capitalized on another turnover to increase their lead to 27-14 on Winston's 5-yard pass to Evans with 6:24 remaining in the third quarter. Bucs cornerback Jude Adjei-Brimah forced a Kaepernick fumble with a blind-side sack, and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recovered at the 49ers' 27. Six plays later, Winston found Evans in the back of the end zone.
"We got out of sync," Kaepernick said. "Once again, it was a situation where early in the game we got in a rhythm, and we lost that."
San Francisco cut the Bucs' lead to 27-17 with 8:08 left to play on Phil Dawson's 28-yard field goal, but Barber scored on a 44-yard run with 4:42 remaining.
"We've seen it all week if we do the things we know we can do they'll be lanes open and opportunity," Bucs offensive tackle Demar Dotson said. "It was there."
San Francisco opened the game with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with Mike Davis scoring on a 4-yard run. Davis started in place of Carlos Hyde, who was inactive with a shoulder injury.
One play after 49ers linebacker Gerald Hodges intercepted a Winston pass, Kaepernick scrambled to his left and fired a 17-yard touchdown pass to running back Shaun Draughn, putting the 49ers ahead 14-0 with eight seconds left in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay answered with an 11-play, 94-yard touchdown drive capped by Winston's 4-yard pass to Evans with 10:14 left in the half. The Bucs cut San Francisco's lead to 14-10 on Aguayo's 38-yard field goal, set up by safety Bradley McDougald's interception and Rodgers' 45 yard run.
Winston threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Sheppard with 48 seconds left in the first half.
"I believe when we do what we're supposed to do, we're a tough team to beat," Winston said. "This is the NFL, so week in and week out you got to show up. But we have a great team, and I really believe in our team."
NOTES: Buccaneers rookie DE DaVonte Lambert started in place of injured DE Robert Ayers Jr. (ankle). ... Buccaneers DT Akeem Spence started in place of injured DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring). ... 49ers starting DE Arik Armstead left the game midway through the third quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. ... 49ers starting OLB Aaron Lynch (ankle) and backup CB Rashard Robinson (knee) were injured late in the third quarter and did not return.