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49ers vs. Cowboys offensive grades: Why did the offense struggle?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jan 24, 2023 at 11:00 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers eliminated the Dallas Cowboys for the second consecutive postseason, this time by a score of 19-12 to advance to the NFC Championship Game, where they'll face off against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

The 49ers faced their share of offensive struggles, but ultimately gained enough momentum in the second half to defeat the Cowboys, who only led for just under six total minutes in the entire game.

Here are the offensive grades for the 49ers against the Cowboys.


Quarterback: C-

To provide more insight, I did an in-depth breakdown of Purdy's deficiencies against the Cowboys. Click here to see.

Running Backs: B+

Christian McCaffrey was held in check statistically, but still played an important role in establishing the run for the 49ers in the second half.

For the second straight week, the 49ers looked to pass more often in the first half, due to the heavy personnel that opposing defenses placed in the box, before hammering with the run game in the second half.

The 49ers ended up rushing 21 times in the second half, with only 10 pass attempts.

Despite averaging under four yards per carry, the 49ers ran the ball effectively, setting up longer drives in the second half and pushing them into scoring opportunities that ultimately won the game.

McCaffrey had a pair of catches, including one where he took a brutal hit, but held on, while rushing for 35 yards on 10 carries.

However, it was Elijah Mitchell that was the more effective running back for the 49ers in this game, as the second-year halfback rushed for 51 yards on 14 attempts.

Mitchell benefitted from good blocking, but ran with power and a level of shiftiness that generated extra yards after contact, with his biggest run being a 13-yard gain off the edge, although he made the mistake of going out of bounds with the game nearing an end.

The 49ers were content to grind on the Cowboys with shorter gains and their physicality was vital in the second half of a defensive showdown. Head coach Kyle Shanahan schemed up well-blocked plays to eventually put San Francisco on top.

Wide Receivers: B

The 49ers receivers probably won't get the love that they deserve after the statistical performances from this weekend's game against the Cowboys. But, their on-field performances are different than what the stats say.

Brandon Aiyuk ran some nasty routes, gaining consistent separation for quarterback Brock Purdy, but the two didn't always connect when opportunities were present, leaving Aiyuk with a two-catch, 26-yard game.

Deebo Samuel led all wideouts with four catches for 45 yards, with 28 coming after the catch, per usual.

Samuel could've had more opportunities had Purdy found him on certain routes, but also failed to get open on some downfield routes as the first read, due to the Cowboys' game plan of taking away rookie quarterback Brock Purdy's first option.

Jauan Jennings served as a reliable third down option again, catching a quick-out route to convert a first down, as well as a deep crosser during San Francisco's two-minute drill.

The 49ers wideouts also had some nice plays while blocking on the edge, with Aiyuk contributing to Elijah Mitchell's big rush to the edge, and Jennings doing his weekly work on some runs as well.

Tight Ends: A

George Kittle had a phenomenal game, catching five passes for 95 yards, including the game-defining play when he hauled in a bobbled pass for a deep downfield gain that eventually resulted in the 49ers' lone touchdown.

Kittle's route running was on display against both cornerbacks and safeties, and was evidently Purdy's go-to option against the Cowboys.

In addition to his game in the air, Kittle had a pretty solid blocking game, aside from some 1-on-1 reps against Micah Parsons, putting together a strong all-around game.

Backup tight end Charlie Woerner was also vital on certain blocks, having a strong game in his limited role, which led to a nice Christian McCaffrey run and another Elijah Mitchell gain.

Offensive Line: B-

At first, it seemed that the offensive line had a rough game against the Cowboys, especially when given the fact that Brock Purdy was pressured on a whopping 48.5% of his dropbacks.

However, after further review, the offensive line actually held up fairly well in both aspects of the game, despite some obvious whiffs, but also blocking really well on key plays that ultimately decided the game for the 49ers.

The biggest example of this phenomenon? Right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who was beaten in both pass protection and run blocking, but held up on some significant reps against Micah Parsons, while paving the way for several runs to the right side, including Christian McCaffrey's touchdown run.

Trent Williams had a strong game, especially against Parsons, allowing just one pressure on 15 opportunities in the matchup.

The right guard position is still the position most in flux for the 49ers, not only because of the timeshare between Daniel Brunskill and Spencer Burford, but also because of the up-and-down play.

Both players had their fair share of mistakes, especially Brunskill, whose whiffs ended up killing some plays for the 49ers.

But, while the offensive line certainly had their hands full with the Cowboys' defense, the position group did not play nearly as bad as many claimed following the game.
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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