Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers’ Path to Victory against the Cowboys

Brian Renick
Jan 14, 2022 at 9:00 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers are renewing a long-time rivalry when they travel down to Texas to face the Dallas Cowboys in a Super Wild Card Weekend matchup.

The Cowboys are a formidable opponent, earning the 3–seed in the NFC after a regular season that saw them go 12-5 on their way to winning the NFC East division title. The 49ers are going to have to bring their A-game if they hope to leave Big D with a win on Sunday afternoon.

Let's take a look at what the 49ers will have to do on each side of the ball if they hope to be victorious.

On Offense

The 49ers ended the regular season with the 5th ranked offense according to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric—the first time they have finished in the Top 5 during the Kyle Shanahan era. If you break that down even further, they ranked 5th in both rushing and passing DVOA. In other words, the team was incredibly balanced.

It's no secret that the 49ers first priority in every game is to establish the run. Kyle Shanahan's offensive system is predicated on the run game opening up opportunities for explosive plays in the passing game. In fact, according to Ben Baldwin (@benbbaldwin on Twitter), the 49ers passed only 43% of the time on early downs in neutral situations, which was the third lowest mark in the league.

Even though opposing teams know that Shanahan and the 49ers offense want to run the ball, they are still incredibly difficult to defend because the team gets to their base outside zone scheme from so many different formations. It causes opposing defenses to think first, rather than react, and it's that split second that can make all the difference in the world. It also doesn't hurt that they have the best blocking tight end, fullback and left tackle in the game.

When the running game is hitting on all cylinders, it keeps the offense ahead of the chains and in advantageous positions on third down. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo thrives in the quick passing game. His release is one of the quickest in the NFL, and when the offense finds itself in third and manageable distances, that quick release gets the ball into the hands of his playmakers in space, letting them rack up yards after the catch and explosive pass plays.

The Cowboys defense finished #2 overall in defensive DVOA, but their rush defense finished 16th. They gave up 14 rushes of 20+ yards on the season, which tied for third most in the NFL. That stat has a lot to do with the run support, or lack thereof, in the secondary.

The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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