With the Bucs hitting the road to play against the 49ers this week, we’ve talked a lot about Tampa Bay learning from its 35-7 loss in San Francisco a year ago. While there is a lot to learn from that game, it doesn’t pale in comparison to the amount of experience and time that offensive coordinator Dave Canales has spent game-planning against the 49ers.
Canales spent his previous 13 years with the Seattle Seahawks as an assistant coach in multiple capacities, including passing game coordinator, quarterbacks coach and wide receivers coach. With the Seahawks and Niners playing in the NFC West division, he’s seen this opponent over and over again. In total, Dave Canales has gone against the 49ers 28 times, including two playoff matchups.
Dave Canales Has Years Of History Against 49ers
Now Dave Canales is game-planning for San Francisco with a new lens. Instead of dialing up something for the Russell Wilsons and Geno Smiths of the world to hit Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, Canales is seeing how he can beat them with Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The way he would look at Marshawn Lynch or Kenneth Walker attacking is different than what works for Rachaad White.
Bucs OC Dave Canales and HC Todd Bowles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The pieces change, but Canales knows what works and what doesn’t based on his previous experience against this team. Only he and wide receivers coach Brad Idzik can say they’ve played them more than anyone else in Tampa Bay’s organization.
“It helps a lot in just the little nuances to the coverages and how they adjust to our formations,” Canales said. “All those little things that Brad [Idzik] and I come up with – just playing them twice a year [and] three times last year, they got us all three times. It does help. It helps to know where people are going to be at, and also knowing the style of defense and the way that they’re structured and really how good they are in that front seven and how good they are in that front.
“There’s a style that you have to play these guys. Again, it’s like, if you’re going to try and make it a drop back game from snap one, good luck. It’s why we build the offense the way we do, so that you can have a chance to beat these really special defenses by being able to be balanced, mixing it the right way with the run game and the [play-]actions, the quick game, the empty stuff. You have to be really calculated with the shots you take, because you can’t just got out there and think you’re going to go bombs away against this group.”
A Championship Game?
The Bucs have struggled against top tier opponents this season. Their two toughest matchups up to this point were the Eagles and Lions, which were both home games. Against the Eagles, they scored 11 points. Facing the Lions was even worse as they failed to reach the end zone, scoring just six points. This is probably the Bucs’ second toughest opponent after the Eagles, and this one is on the road. That’s why Canales is putting a very high level of importance heading into Sunday.
Bucs OC Dave Canales – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Big challenge. Championship moment, right?” Dave Canales said. “Championship opportunities all the way, starting from Monday as we started to transition from the Titans to the 49ers. [We were] talking about like, ‘We need these games. We need these games to go against the Eagles, to play the Lions, to play the 49ers this week to really see where we’re at when we play such a talented group.’ They tell you the truth about where you’re at. We have to be honest and okay with that response of what that is.
“Just calling all the boys to see this for what it is – these are championship moments that we have to relish as we finish down the stretch. It’s going to come down to winning the division. We’re going to have these types of matchups. If you win the division, we get a home game and then you’ve got to go travel somewhere. That’s the reality of it. You’ve got to win on the road against really good teams. [It is] just another good litmus test for our group going forward.”
How Dave Canales Can Find Success
If there was any tape that Dave Canales and the offense were going to be watching, it’s how the Vikings and Bengals were able to put points on the board when they defeated the Niners. Minnesota’s 23 were third-highest against San Fran this season, while Cincinnati dropping 31 was the most.
Bucs RB Rachaad White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Canales explained that the big reason was because of each coaching staff’s familiarity playing the 49ers in the NFC West division.
“I think there’s familiarity with the head coaches for Cincinnati and Minnesota playing the 49ers every year, when they were in L.A.” Canales said. “They kind of had some information. I have a lot of that information, too. We’ll have some stuff.”
Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell was the Rams offensive coordinator in 2020 and 2021. Bengals coach Zac Taylor was an assistant receivers coach for Los Angeles in 2017 and the quarterbacks coach in 2018. Each coach comes from the Sean McVay coaching tree.
So Canales should have the same results as them considering his history in the division, right? Not so much. Canales explained that those coaches have had their system installed for a couple of seasons. Canales is still getting his going through 10 games.
“Again, these are guys that have a group that have been working together for a while,” Dave Canales said. “We’re still kind of growing into some of that. We’ll sprinkle some stuff in, but it’s not something we can truly feature at this point right now as we keep improving.”