Quarterbacks try to solidify status as Niners battle Bucs

Quarterbacks try to solidify status as Niners battle Bucs

The San Francisco 49ers and host Tampa Bay Buccaneers will put their quarterback problems on display Sunday when they renew what has been a lopsided series.

Nov 12, 2018; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) throws a pass in the third quarter against the New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium. The Giants defeated the 49ers 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers’ Nick Mullens will make his third start of the season, while the Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston will make his fourth under completely different circumstances.

San Francisco has dominated the all-time series, winning 17 of 22 regular-season matchups. The last time they met, Colin Kaepernick was at the helm for the 49ers in a 34-17 home win in Week 7 of the 2016 season.

The 49ers have since moved on to Blaine Gabbert, back to Kaepernick, Brian Hoyer, C.J. Beathard, Jimmy Garoppolo, back to Beathard, and now to Mullens over the course of just 29 games, with the practice squad graduate looking to recapture the magic of his NFL debut three weeks ago against the Oakland Raiders.

“That definitely is a new challenge,” Mullens said of his first road start. “It’s important that we start fast. We’re excited to attack this first road game. It’s important for me that I just keep my same mind-set. It only matters what you do on the field and don’t let the environment impact the way you play.”

Mullen played the demoted Beathard back into the picture with a two-interception outing in a 27-23 loss to the New York Giants in Week 10. The 49ers had a bye last week.

The loss, coupled with Oakland’s win at Arizona last weekend, gives the 49ers, Cardinals and Raiders all league-worst 2-8 records entering this week. Tampa Bay (3-7) is among six teams with just one more win than the bottom three in the “race” for the top pick in April’s draft.

The Buccaneers also lost their most recent game to the Giants. Winston replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick after three interceptions and rallied Tampa Bay within one score with two late touchdown passes in a 38-35 home defeat.

That was enough to get Winston, who threw eight picks in three starts earlier this season, a reinstatement to the first string.

“The reason people don’t switch quarterbacks in the NFL is because they either don’t like their backup or they don’t trust their backup,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said, insisting he has no problem rotating QBs. “And so, hey, I’ve had quarterbacks be hot and cold before and we’ve stuck with them because they were really our only quarterback.”

The game has the makings of a wide-open affair. Tampa Bay has allowed a league-worst 32.9 points per game, while the 49ers have surrendered the sixth-most (26.6).

—Field Level Media

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