Playoff Preview: 49ers Perspective

The San Francisco 49ers are set for an ancient NFL playoff rivalry game with the Dallas Cowboys. There was a time when either of these teams met in the playoffs, the winner usually went on to win the Superbowl. Given how both squads have played this season, that could be true this season again. But then again, maybe not. The 49ers have played a very difficult schedule this year, battling injuries all the while. The Cowboys have had similar issues with injuries along their offensive line, defensive line as well as their wide receiver core. Now, both teams are getting healthy at the right time in the season and are set to face off in likely the best game of the weekend.

The Cowboys struggle whenever they cannot break at least 100 yards rushing. They need offensive balance anchored by their run game to have their shot at winning. The Cowboys have played six playoff teams winning only against two of those teams. Their wins came against the Patriots and the Eagles. In all three games the Cowboys rushed for well over 100 yards while the Buccaneers, Raiders, Chiefs and Cardinals all held the Cowboys well under 100 yards rushing on their way to wins against Dallas. Their regular season play indicates that they must be able to run the football to have a shot at success.

The Cowboys other weakness has actually been a strength of sorts. The Cowboy’s secondary has secured 26 interceptions, yet Trevon Diggs has allowed over 1000 yards receiving against him. Like the 49ers, they have 33 sacks to add to a inconsistent pass defense.

The 49ers keys to victory will be to play to their strengths. The 49ers have to establish a strong running game, stop the run and chase Dak Prescott all over the field. If the 49ers can establish their running game, they can slow down the game, control the clock and allow Jimmy Garoppolo to get into a proper rhythm. The Dallas Cowboy secondary is opportunistic. Jimmy G needs to be very judicious with his throws. When he throws 1 interception or less, the 49ers are 7-0. Under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers have yet to lose when they run the ball 30 times or more.

The 49ers have also played six playoff teams this year. They lost to the Titans, Cardinals and Packers. Their losses to the Packers and Titans were both by only three points. Both the Packers and the Titans kept the 49ers under 100 yards rushing. The Niners have beaten the Bengals, Eagles and the Rams twice. In all four games they controlled the ball, the clock and pounded the rock. Jimmy G only threw two interceptions in those 4 games, and it was against the Rams to end the season. In spite of those two interceptions, he led the 49ers to victory to secure their game this upcoming playoff tilt.

Jimmy G seems to thrive under pressure situations. He has played well in big games. He has also struggled at times. He will need to be consistent under center for the Niners to win against the Cowboys. Nothing but a balanced attack will do. The scary thing for the Cowboys is that the 49ers finally have four legitimate receivers to throw to. George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings are all consistent pass catchers and play makers. They make Jimmy G’s job easier. Everyone is healthy. Everyone is confident. Even if the Cowboys game plan to shut one of them down, the other three will pop open for Jimmy G to distribute the ball to. Offensively the 49ers are starting to click at the right time.

Defensively the 49ers only weakness is their corners. They are inexperienced. However, if Emmanuel Moseley and K’Waun Williams are available, Ambry Thomas has showed that he can play with the big boys. He has been thrown into the deep end of the pool and showed us all that he can swim. Thomas is a rookie, but he now has confidence that he can be a playmaker. Nick Bosa leads the team in sacks. If he is not sacking the quarterback, he is occupying offensive lineman so other members of the defensive line can get after the quarterback as well. This week the Niners will likely have all of their starting linebackers on the field for the first time in about 9 games. Aziz Al’Shaair, Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner are great at defending the pass, pass rushing and defending the run. Except for Javon Kinlaw and Dee Ford, the Niners will have all their starting front seven facing the Cowboys running attack. My money is on the Niners. They are fast, furious and nasty. More importantly, they are smart. The Cowboys will have a tough game on their hands.

The biggest key to success will be the synergy between Kyle Shanahan’s game plan and the actual execution of it. Coach Shanahan is the best play caller in football. He has also shown that he can adjust well at half time. Shanahan’s synergy with Jimmy G, and Jimmy G’s exection of the game will determine if they win or lose. The Cowboys will score some points. The question is can the Niners outscore them. I think they can. As Niner Fans, we are all hoping for another classic matchup between these two former champions.

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