TAMPA, Fla. — As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers painfully learned, leaving Jerry Rice in single coverage is like leaving him alone.
Rice burned cornerback Rod Jones on three touchdown passes from Joe Montana Sunday and the San Francisco 49ers scored a 24-10 victory over the Buccaneers.
"They played more man-to-man and it was a surprise to me," Rice said. "One-on-one, it's hard for a defensive back to cover a good receiver, it doesn't matter who it is. Joe really put the ball right on me today, he did a fantastic job.
"I've got a real good chemistry with Joe. I know if the opportunity is there, he will get me the ball. That's why I hustle down the field so much."
Rice caught scoring passes of 21 and 42 yards in the first half and then sealed the decision by grabbing a three-yard scoring catch with 9:36 left. The third-year pro has caught 26 touchdown passes in his last 22 games.
"They'd give us the same look all through the game, but they'd run three or four defenses off of it," Montana said. "We just relied on Jerry's ability to play one-on-one. If I can get the ball downfield, he's going to make a lot of big plays."
San Francisco's Ray Wersching added a 43-yard field goal on the final play of the first half for a 17-10 lead as the 49ers beat the Buccaneers (4-6) for the seventh time in eight meetings.
"I have a lot of respect for the Bucs, their coach (Ray Perkins) and their future," 49er Coach Bill Walsh said. "They have nothing to be ashamed of and I hope we don't have to play them for a couple of years."
The 49ers (8-2), who intercepted seven passes by Tampa Bay quarterback Steve DeBerg in a game last season, deflected six of DeBerg's passes at the line of scrimmage this time.
Walsh knew how to defend against DeBerg, a former 49er.
"Coach Walsh told us all week to push down the middle . . . if we didn't get to the quarterback, at least to get our hands up and maybe knock it down," 49er linebacker Keena Turner said.
"Coach said if we went outside, he (DeBerg) would step up and beat you. Coach saw something there and told us about it and it worked pretty good."
Montana completed 29 of 45 passes for 304 yards, with Rice catching 7 for 103 yards. DeBerg, sacked only once but hounded on almost every pass attempt, hit on 19 of 35 for 206 yards.
Montana's final scoring pass came after a critical turnover. The Buccaneers trailed, 17-10, and were driving when cornerback Tim McKyer forced Phil Freeman to fumble following a catch over the middle.
After Jeff Fuller recovered at his 44, Tom Rathman's 17-yard catch and a 10-yard run by Harry Sydney triggered a 56-yard scoring drive.
Montana rolled left and found Rice in the left flat. The beleaguered Jones tackled Rice as the Pro Bowl receiver fell into the end zone for his 11th touchdown catch of the year. Rice caught 15 scoring passes last season.
Tampa Bay, hampered by six penalties and two fourth-quarter turnovers, was limited to James Wilder's four-yard scoring catch and Donald Igwebuike's 29-yard field goal.
Rookie Ray Isom's 38-yard interception return to the four-yard line led to Wilder's scoring catch at 5:46. Wilder caught DeBerg's swing pass in the right flat and outraced cornerback Don Griffin to the goal line.