San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. The Buccaneers recovered
Ben Margot
October 23, 2016

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Missing their top two running backs and trailing by 14 points, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' decision to stick with the running game paid big dividends. Facing a San Francisco defense that can't stop anyone on the ground sure helped the cause.

Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for a career-high 154 yards and rookie Peyton Barber scored on a 44-yard run to help the Bucs rally from that early deficit to beat the 49ers 34-17 on Sunday.

''I feel like I have that swag I had in college,'' said Rodgers, who was cut by Chicago before the season and didn't sign with Tampa Bay until after the opener. ''You know you're going in and you're going to touch the ball a lot of times. It helps you run with a lot of confidence knowing that you're not just going to get the ball five times. It helps me get into the groove.''

Rodgers and Barber have stepped up of late to help the Bucs (3-3) weather the absences of injured starter Doug Martin and backup Charles Sims and get back to .500 on the season.

After topping 100 yards rushing in a game for the first time all season two weeks ago against Carolina , Tampa Bay returned from the bye with its biggest rushing day since gaining 283 against Philadelphia last Nov. 22, thanks to Rodgers.

''I think he stepped in at the right time,'' offensive lineman Demar Dotson said. ''That first game he got in there and I started to see him run, I said the guy is pretty good, He's explosive. He almost reminds you of Doug.''

Those kinds of days are becoming typical against a 49ers team that has allowed a 100-yard rusher for six straight games and is on pace to allow the most yards rushing in a season since the 1981 New England Patriots.

Combined with the 314 yards rushing allowed a week ago at Buffalo, San Francisco has allowed its most yards ever in back-to-back games in a single season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

''We have to do a better job at getting off of blocks, securing tackles and not letting big plays happen,'' safety Eric Reid said. ''We have to just get rid of those explosive plays.''

Here are some other takeaways from the game:

KAP'S DAY: Colin Kaepernick wasn't much better in his second start for San Francisco than he was last week in Buffalo . He completed just 16 of 34 passes - his second straight game with a completion percentage under 50 percent - and threw for just 143 yards. He threw one TD, turned the ball over twice and took four sacks. Most of his success came with his legs instead of his arm as he ran for 84 yards on nine carries.

''I have to be better,'' Kaepernick said. ''I think we threw for about 100 yards. That's not going to win in the NFL.''

RED ZONE TARGET: There's no doubt who Jameis Winston's favorite target is when the Bucs get near the end zone. When in doubt, he knows he can just throw it up to the 6-foot-5 Evans and have confidence good things will happen. Evans scored on a 4-yard catch in the second quarter and a 5-yarder in the third, giving him six TD catches already this season.

''Mike's just getting open,'' Winston said. ''We put in a lot of work. Hard work pays off.''

OPPORTUNISTIC PLAY: The Bucs turned two turnovers by San Francisco into 10 points in the third quarter. The first came when Niners rookie Aaron Burbridge collided with punt returner Jeremy Kerley, who was calling for a fair catch. That led to a muff that Tampa Bay recovered, setting up a field goal by Roberto Aguayo. On San Francisco's next possession, Jude Adjei-Barimah blitzed and forced a fumble by Kaepernick that Gerald McCoy recovered. Winston then threw TD pass to Evans to make it 27-14.

''We turned the football over too many times to be successful right now,'' coach Chip Kelly said.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Bucs, who are 3-1 on the road this season, look to get their first home win when they host the Oakland Raiders. The Niners get to regroup over the bye week but Kelly said he has no plans to make changes to his coaching staff despite the struggles.

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