TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Colin Kaepernick moved the San Francisco 49ers closer to a playoff berth with perhaps his best performance of the season.
The defending NFC champions beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-14 for their fourth straight victory Sunday, with their third-year quarterback controlling the game with his feet as well as his arm.
Kaepernick threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He also rushed for 39 yards, with his two biggest runs coming on third down, when the 49ers needed them most.
"Kap had a monster game," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "... Some of those escapes from the pocket with guys grabbing at him — the shoulders, the legs; he's kicking out of tackles and picking up first downs, three, four, five times in the game. And then some incredible out-of-the-pocket throws and first-down conversions."
Kaepernick's inconsistency has been an issue this season, however he protected the football and made play after play against the Bucs (4-10), who trailed 20-14 before San Francisco (10-4) put together a long, clock-exhausting, fourth-quarter drive that doused any hopes Tampa Bay had of pulling an upset.
"That's Kap. He can do whatever. He can throw, he can run," running back Frank Gore said. "A lot of guys in the league can't do that. Once it's said and done, he will be one of the top quarterbacks in this league."
Vernon Davis caught a touchdown pass for the fifth straight game, Michael Crabtree scored his first TD since returning from an injury that sidelined him the first 11 games, and Phil Dawson kicked four more field goals to extend his franchise-record streak of consecutive successful attempts to 24.
Kaepernick completed 19 of 29 passes without an interception. He kept alive a 17-play, 77-yard drive 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. When the 10-minute, 27-second drive stalled at the 3, the 49ers settled for a 21-yard field goal that put them up 23-14.
"You want to take time off the clock when you can, especially in that situation," Kaepernick said. "Our offensive line did an amazing job, and our receivers and backs made plays."
Kendall Hunter put the game out of reach, scooping up a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and diving 2 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.
Five reasons the 49ers appear to be hitting their stride at the right time, while the Bucs came up short again against one of the league's better teams: