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49ers look to avoid letdown

SF all business as it heads east to Tampa Bay

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POSTED December 14, 2013 1:23 a.m.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers have won three straight games and are beginning to play like a team capable of making another run to the Super Bowl.

That also makes the defending NFC champions the type of team the improving Buccaneers need to knock off to prove their second-half turnaround isn’t a fluke.

Not that star cornerback Darrelle Revis and his teammates necessarily believe the Bucs (4-9), who’ve won four of five following an 0-8 start, need a signature win to validate their progress.

“It would be special if we win because they’re one of the top teams in the NFL. But at the same time, a win is a win,” the three-time All-Pro said.

The streaking 49ers (9-4) are coming off an emotional 19-17 victory over Seattle, a win that stopped the Seahawks from clinching the NFC West title.

Three teams Tampa Bay has beaten had losing records at the time. The fourth, Detroit, leads its division but has been reeling lately and is 7-6.

Linebacker Patrick Willis is not concerned about a Niners letdown.

“We understand every game is important to us. We understand that last week was a very big game, a rivalry game, but this week is just as important,” Willis said.

“Our guys are professionals, they know what’s at stake,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

“This game is the biggest game on the schedule. This is a must-win game ... by any means necessary. The first thing is the preparation. You’ve got to put yourself in a position to earn that. And, our guys will be committed and professional about doing that.”

Three things to watch as the 49ers seek their fourth straight win and the Bucs try to build on their recent success:

Defending Davis

While Anquan Boldin is drawing plenty of attention in the 49ers’ passing game, Vernon Davis is showing each week why he is such a factor in San Francisco’s success. The Bucs might want to watch out for Davis’ high-hurdling move, too.

San Francisco’s speedy tight end has a touchdown catch in each of the past four games, the third time in his career he’s done so. Davis has 11 TD receptions on the season.

With Boldin — he has at least five catches in each of the past four games — and Michael Crabtree forcing defenders to stay with them, Davis might not see many double-teams.

Fast starters

The 49ers have outscored opponents 181-93 in the first half. The Bucs, who hold a 174-145 edge in the opening half, have been outscored 146-70 after halftime.

Friends or foe?

49ers right tackle Anthony Davis doesn’t sound like he will go out of his way to offer a pregame greeting to his former Rutgers coach, now Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.

“I don’t know,” Davis said. “If we make eye contact, I’ll acknowledge him out of respect.”

They had their moments in college, when Davis was disciplined more than once for team rules infractions by Schiano. In fact, Davis referenced a quote from Schiano after receiving a five-year extension in April. The O-lineman posted: “You will be a 1 contract and done kinda guy in the NFL. - Greg Schiano. Lol”

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