Paul Sakuma, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — For anybody who questioned whether new coach Jim Harbaugh could turn around the downtrodden San Francisco franchise in a hurry, his 49ers are giving every indication this year might be different.
Two weeks, two impressive wins against expected contenders.
Alex Smith threw two of his three touchdown passes to Vernon Davis, Frank Gore ran for a touchdown in his second straight 100-yard rushing game and San Francisco whipped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-3 on Sunday for its best start in nine years.
"We're not putting any limitations on ourselves," Harbaugh said.
Carlos Rogers returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown and tight ends Davis and Delanie Walker each caught TD passes of 20-plus yards in San Francisco's third straight win since blowing a late lead in a Sept. 18 overtime loss to the Cowboys.
This marked the Niners' largest margin of victory since they beat the Los Angeles Rams 48-0 on Dec. 27, 1987 — and it matched the Bucs' worst loss ever.
"It's been a long time," Davis said of being on the better end of a rout. "To be ahead like we were today, I don't remember the last time I've seen anything like that."
But a late right leg injury to wide receiver Joshua Morgan put a damper on what had been a near-perfect day.
While the Niners (4-1) beat Seattle and Cincinnati, the past two weeks are more telling: a 24-23 come-from-behind win at Philadelphia last Sunday followed by this lopsided affair against the former NFC South leader.
"He told us to stay humble and keep working," Gore said of Harbaugh's postgame message.
Josh Freeman never found the flow that made him so effective in the rout here last November and the Bucs (3-2) were a step behind in a short week after beating the Colts on Monday night.
"Flat start. Flat finish. Flat middle. Everything," coach Raheem Morris said. "We didn't even get off the plane this time."
Tampa Bay lost its cool, too — and lost a share of the South lead in the process.
A testy Morris received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 9:05 left in the third quarter for yelling in the face of line judge Mark Steinkerchner.
Just more than five minutes later, safety Sean Jones had a late hit to Kendall Hunter's head after the play was over.
Linebacker Dekoda Watson was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty 4 seconds into the fourth quarter that set up Davis' second TD catch.
"They were really frustrated. I felt like they gave up," Davis said. "I was telling Ronde (Barber), 'Get your guys, get your guys, y'all got to play harder.'"
With Smith making all the right calls behind center, those occasional Blue Angels flyovers for Fleet Week just added some extra entertainment on a gorgeous fall afternoon in the Bay Area.
Smith never got a chance to help during an embarrassing 21-0 shutout home loss to Tampa Bay last year. He watched from the sideline as former coach Mike Singletary chose Troy Smith to start instead.
He made his mark this time, going 11 for 19 for 170 yards and no sacks or interceptions before giving way to rookie backup Colin Kaepernick midway through the fourth.
The 49ers are 4-1 for the first time since 2002, the last time the franchise had a winning record and reached the playoffs — four head coaches ago.
Next up is another tough test: a Week 6 road game at Detroit, with the Lions unbeaten heading into Monday night's home game with the Bears.
- Dick Harmon: BYU's Harvey Unga to assist...
- Dick Harmon: BYU's Sitake hired assistant...
- Live stream: High school drill team state...
- Cold-shooting BYU loses stunner to Pacific,...
- Rodney Hood outplays Duke teammate Jabari...
- Utah Jazz: After sluggish first half, Jazz...
- BYU basketball: Cougars look to keep rolling...
- BYU football adds California DL Kainoa Fuiava...
- Utes drop heartbreaker at Oregon State,... 96
- Morning links: Which Utah school has... 93
- Morning links: Grading the BYU, Utah... 82
- BYU football: 2016 recruiting class... 42
- Cold-shooting BYU loses stunner to... 41
- College football signing day central:... 34
- 5-star LDS linebacker prospect Mique... 33
- Brad Rock: Recruiting day puts Utes in... 29