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Wild Card Preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers

This Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys are hosting the San Francisco 49ers at AT&T Stadium. It will be their first meeting in the playoffs since 1995, in which San Francisco won 38-28.

If you listen to the national media this week, everyone is doubting the Cowboys and giving the edge to the 49ers. All you hear about is how Deebo Samuel, Geroge Kittle, and the 49ers running game will be too much for Dallas.

It’s almost as if Dallas is being dismissed. It must be frustrating as a Cowboys fan, but it would make a victory that much sweeter.

With all that said, the 49ers do pose some problems. 

They are a very physical team with a very good offensive line and have a stud left tackle in Trent Williams, who, despite missing the season finale with an elbow injury, said he’s prepared to play this Sunday. Randy Gregory will have his work cut out for him this week.

The 49ers are also great at producing yards after the catch. They rank eighth in the NFL in yards after the catch, and Deebo Samuel finished the season with the second-most yards after catch. The 49ers offense finished the season number one in yards per play (6.1)

The Cowboys struggle with containing YAC and are liable to give up big plays. It will be a tough test for the Dallas cornerbacks and linebackers

Akash Anavarathan on Twitter: “Yards After Catch Allowed, CBs, 2021: 3. Trevon Diggs, 425 7. Jourdan Lewis, 326 13. Anthony Brown, 300 Cowboys’ DBs have given up 1,051 yards after the catch this season. Guess which team they play this week… / Twitter”

Yards After Catch Allowed, CBs, 2021: 3. Trevon Diggs, 425 7. Jourdan Lewis, 326 13. Anthony Brown, 300 Cowboys’ DBs have given up 1,051 yards after the catch this season. Guess which team they play this week…

 

The key to the game will be stopping the 49ers’ run-first offense. They ran the ball the fifth most of any team this season, just under 30 totes per game. Per rbsdm.com, the 49ers have the ninth-best offense in terms of rush EPA and ninth-best in terms of rush success rate.

Last week the 49ers scored a touchdown on a drive in which they ran the ball ten times and passed once, and that pass was by Samuel, not Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Cowboys need to force Garoppolo to beat them and be responsible for moving the ball on them. They can’t give up easy yards on the ground.

If Garoppolo is forced to win the game for San Francisco, look for a few turnovers from the Dallas defense.

Third-down will be crucial as well. The 49ers convert 40.2% of their third downs (14th) but have shined the last three weeks, converting 48.57%. The Dallas defense excels on third-down ranking second in the league in third-down efficiency (34.08%). It will be critical for the Cowboys to continue their success on this front.

On offense, it is simple for Dallas, Dak Prescott needs to come to play, and he needs to shine. The 49ers pass defense is middle of the pack in dropback success rate (13th) and towards the league’s bottom in dropback EPA (23rd).

Of course, it would be nice to see Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard impact this game. However, the 49ers’ rush defense is excellent. They rank second in rush EPA (-0.151) and rush success rate (34.2%).

The Cowboys need to start fast and hot and get out to an early lead to pressure the 49ers. Keeping them in the game with costly penalties and botched redzone drives will allow them to stick with their run-first game plan, and Dallas ranks 23rd in yards per attempt on the defensive side of the ball.

The pressure will be on this Sunday, and Prescott needs to show out. Will he prove the haters wrong? Only time will tell.

What do you think?

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Written by Kevin Rice

I'm a 32 year old life long Cowboys fan from New York. It's fun growing up in enemy territory. College basketball and March Madness fanatic. Lover of thrillers and comedies. Follow me on twitter @CowboysCC9

4 Comments

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  1. Just because they’re being dismissive doesn’t make them wrong. It’s going to take a Herculean effort from our defense to stop the 9ers run game. They’re mid-pack against the run (#16 rushing D) against a very powerful (#7) run offense that tore up the Rams (#6 rushing D) last week.

    Every game and matchup is different, but it’s looking to be potentially very ugly on Sunday.

    If I was making a game plan for SF, I’d grind down the Dallas D with the run game while flooding the short and intermediate zones to stop the run and force Dak to hold the ball and try to beat them down the field before their formidable pass rush (Bosa, Armstead, Ebukam) gets there.

  2. You know, I would like to see some bat sh-t crazy mad genius game planning while not straying from the team’s strengths. Spread out in empty backfield with coop-lamb-cedric, dalton and pollard/jarwin. Go no huddle. On D, why not try a base 5 man front with tank, osi, neville, hill and gregory with dorance and golston coming in for spot relief. Go 2 lb with kearse, hooker/kazee, diggs and brown. Blitz jourdan lewis on the edge and kearse into running lanes. Take the 49ers soul. Leave no doubt

  3. Cowboys need to stop running Zeke up the middle. Hit him with short passes and let him get going. Dak is holding the ball too long. Quick releases to his receivers who can fly. Just quit with sideline pass that hardly ever get a yard or two. Once the Niner d starts cheating up close Lamb will be open long. Boys can get it done. They have the talent. Need to play smarter.

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