The visiting San Francisco 49ers returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and Jimmy Garoppolo passed for another as they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-17 in Sunday's regular-season opener.
Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon scored the Niners' touchdowns on defense after both intercepted Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. San Francisco recorded two interceptions on defense all of last season, setting a historic NFL low.
Sherman returned an interception off Winston 31 yards for a score with 11:44 left in the third quarter, the 49ers' second touchdown in a span of 48 seconds.
Witherspoon intercepted Winston with two minutes left in regulation and ran it back 25 yards to cap off a dominant defensive performance for the 49ers. Garoppolo then connected with Deebo Samuel on a successful two-point conversion.
Tampa Bay also had a pick-6 in the game, when cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III scored the first touchdown of the afternoon. He intercepted Garoppolo from 15 yards out and ran untouched into the end zone to give Tampa Bay a 7-3 advantage at the 8:41 mark of the second quarter.
After a sluggish first half on offense, Garoppolo led the 49ers on a seven-play, 75-yard drive to open the third quarter, connecting with Richie James Jr. on a 39-yard touchdown pass to take a 13-7 lead.
Garoppolo completed 18 of 27 passes for 166 yards in his first start since Week 3 of the 2018 campaign, when he sustained a season-ending ACL injury.
Tight end George Kittle led the 49ers with 54 receiving yards off eight catches, and San Francisco amassed just 98 rushing yards after losing starting back Tevin Coleman to an ankle injury in the first half.
San Francisco took the early 3-0 lead in the first quarter when Robbie Gould kicked a 29-yard field goal. Mark Nzeocha partially blocked a Bucs punt minutes before to set the Niners up 32 yards away from the end zone, but Kittle's 8-yard touchdown catch was nullified by offensive pass interference.
A second would-be Kittle touchdown was erased when the 49ers were called for an illegal-formation penalty in the second quarter, and instead Gould kicked a 36-yard field goal to make it 7-6 in favor of Tampa. Gould missed a 57-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter, but made another from 47 yards in the final frame.
Winston completed 20 of 36 passes for 194 yards and three interceptions. He threw a 10-yard touchdown to receiver Chris Godwin that brought Tampa Bay within six points with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
Godwin led the Buccaneers with 53 yards receiving off three catches, but Tampa Bay's offense was inconsistent, converting just 5 of 11 chances on third down.
Nick Bosa, the No. 2 overall draft pick this year by the 49ers, recorded his first career sack in the game, bringing down Winston in the third quarter for a 9-yard loss when the quarterback attempted to scramble out of the pocket. Bosa, a former freshman All-American at Ohio State, finished with three tackles.
49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander, a former Buc playing in his first game with San Francisco, was ejected in the first quarter after a helmet-to-helmet hit against a sliding Winston.
--Field Level Media