49ers are on to Green Bay

KWaun Williams

The 49ers. The Cowboys. The history! The drama! 1998 was the last time the 49ers and the Cowboys were in the playoffs at the same time. Neither made it to the Superbowl that year. In the early 90s, the 49ers and the Cowboys met at the NFC Championship three years in a row. The winner of that game went on to win the Superbowl. In January of 1982, during the NFC Championship, the infamous “Catch” occurred against Dallas, in the waning seconds of the game, catapulting the 49ers to the Super Bowl and their first title. The 49ers and Cowboys have had shared Charles Haley, Deion Sanders, Terrell Owens, Ken Norton and Larry Allen. These are not insignificant players. They are all in the hall of fame except Ken Norton. The shared history of these two squads is significant. So is the rivalry.

The 49ers shocked the Cowboys with their physicality on both sides of the ball. The 49er’s opening drive was a balanced attack of three runs and three pass plays. Yet, as you watched the 49ers execute their offense, it was apparent they were blowing the Cowboys defensive line off the line of scrimmage. That trend continued the next three 49er drives. In fact, the 49ers scored their first four possessions of the game, heading into half time with the score of 16 to 7. Conversely, on defense, the Cowboys were forced to punt three times and they executed one touchdown drive on a relatively short field. On the Cowboys first drive, they accumulated negative thirteen yards. Zeke Elliott was stoned three yards behind the line of scrimmage by Dre Greenlaw on 2nd down, and Nick Bosa sacked Dak Prescott for a 10-yard loss on third down. That is how the day started of the Cowboy offense. Over the course of the first half, and most of the game, the 49ers defense consistently penetrated the Cowboys front. The 49ers defense had scouted the Cowboys offensive line well, executing several different stunts to harass Dak Prescott and control their running game. They identified that the weak link in the Cowboy line was left guard Connor Williams. He was consistently getting beat by whoever lined up over him or near him.

The normal keys to the 49ers offensive success are execute an effective running attack and limit Jimmy Garoppolo from making too many big mistakes. The 49ers accomplished those goals for most of the game. They ran the ball 38 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Jimmy Garoppolo only had two bad throws the whole game. He overthrew a wide open Aiyuk on a key third down late in the third quarter. Then, with nine minutes to go in the fourth, he threw a costly interception giving the Cowboys excellent field position. The score was 23-10. Dallas capitalized on that untimely mistake with a touchdown drive, bringing them within six points of the lead. That is as close as the Cowboys would get. Importantly, Coach Shanahan noted that those throwing mistakes were due to Jimmy G’s game fatigue. This is likely true as Jimmy G is battling significant pain in his throwing thumb.

George Kittle had a relatively quiet game. He was huge in the run blocking game but only caught one pass out of three targets. Jauan Jennings caught three critical 3rd down conversions. I really think Jimmy G likes Jennings because of his size. Jennings is 6’3 and 218 pounds. He has a wide catch radius which gives Jimmy some comfort. He also runs great routes and has soft hands. Couple that with his smash mouth run blocking and you have a great receiver!

Deebo Samuel continued his dual threat role as running back and wide receiver, catching 3 passes for 38 yards, and running ten plays for 72 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown run was a thing of beauty. The Cowboys had seemingly bottled him up on the parameter, and he just turned the ball to the opposite side of the field and weaved his way thru Cowboy defenders, splitting two safeties as he raced into the endzone. Once again Brandon Aiyuk collected the most receptions. Lastly Elijah Mitchell ran the ball 27 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. He did a lot of dirty work, keeping 49ers drives alive while wearing out the Cowboy defensive front.

Deebo TD

The biggest thing I noticed is the fact that the 49ers did not have one pass interference call against their secondary. Additionally, none of the secondary players were burned by the likes of Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb. Conversely, the Cowboys committed a grand total of 14 penalties. Two of their penalties negated first down receptions made by CeeDee Lamb. Dalton Schultz did the most damage against the 49er defense, collecting 7 passes for 89 yards. As I have noted all year, if you can hold the Dallas Cowboys to under 100 yards rushing, your team should win. Dallas could only manage 21 carries and 77 yards. Still, while Zeke Elliott did not run the ball well, he did his best in pass protection. On one particular play in the 2nd half, he blocked two 49er defenders allowing Dak to throw for a first down. That drive was short lived, as the 49ers forced yet another punt. The 49ers pass defense benefited greatly by having K’Waun Williams back as he collected an interception as well as a quarterback hit. The 49er defensive line sacked Dak five times, hitting him another 14 times. Dak was under duress the whole game. On the other hand, while Jimmy was under duress, he suffered no sacks as his quick release was faster than the Cowboy defensive front. In fact, the 49er offensive line kept Jimmy G’s jersey clean. He was hit four times the whole game. The little things matter in games such as these. Things like quarterback hits add up.

The end of the game was a chaotic mess. The 49rs had forced the Cowboys to turn the ball over on downs on the San Francisco 47-yard line. There was a 1:49 on the clock. All the 49ers needed to do was get a first down. The Cowboys had three time-outs and they used them after every down. On third down, Coach Shanahan called a brilliant end around misdirection run by Deebo Samuel. The ball was spotted as a first down. However, after a lengthy review, the ball was re-spotted and the situation was now 4th and inches. Shanahan called a quarterback sneak. Trent Williams motioned to the right to create an unbalanced line. Jimmy G got a bit excited and snapped the ball before Williams was completely set. Penalty Flag. Fourth and 5 and now the Niners have to punt. With 32 seconds left on the clock, the Cowboys had 80 yards to go to score seven and win the game. The Niners played prevent defense. The Cowboys drove the ball to the 49er 41-yard line. With only 14 seconds left on the clock, the Cowboys executed a 17-yard quarterback draw play. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Dak gave the ball to his center instead of the referee. The clock ran out. He could not spike the ball to give himself one last shot at the endzone. That’s it. The playoffs are over for the Cowboys. Instead of traveling they are staying home.

The 49ers were the underdogs in this game. The Cowboys were a 3-point favorite. The 49ers won by six. The game wasn’t close until Jimmy G threw his untimely interception. Things happen. It’s football. The enemy always gets a vote. Jimmy G isn’t perfect. No one is. Even Tom Brady made mistakes on Sunday. The point is football is a team sport. The better team won in Arlington. The 49ers are on to Green Bay.

We all hope that Fred Warner and Nick Bosa recover quickly from their injuries.

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