Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers vs. Cowboys defensive grades: DeMeco Ryans impresses once again in win

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jan 24, 2023 at 3:00 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 19-12 in a defensive showdown, advancing to the NFC Championship Game where they'll face off against the Philadelphia Eagles, who earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC this season.

Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was faced with his toughest challenge of the year aside from the Kansas City Chiefs and succeeded to great lengths, confusing the Cowboys' offense with various looks, which resulted in a two-interception day for Dak Prescott.

Here are the grades for the 49ers' defense against the Cowboys:

Defensive Line: B+

The stats didn't necessarily show it, but the defensive line disrupted Dak Prescott for a good portion of Sunday's game.

Prescott was pressured on 32.5% of his dropbacks, with the 49ers recording 18 total pressures as a team, despite not sending more than five rushers often.

Defensive end Nick Bosa had his second-straight zero-sack game, which is the first time he hasn't recorded a sack in two consecutive weeks since Weeks 16-17 of the 2021 season, including the playoffs.

However, Bosa led the team with five pressures, as well as a run stop, recording a pass-rush win rate of 25.7% on the day. Additionally, Bosa forced a holding penalty against rookie left tackle Tyler Smith, as well as a false start.

After the game, Bosa iterated his beliefs that he played a good game, even when lined up against Cowboys right tackle Tyron Smith.

Arik Armstead continues to be a game-changer on the defensive line.

While he didn't record a sack, which has become a norm in his eight-game playoff career, the defensive tackle had five pressures as well, while disrupting Dak Prescott on his first interception to Deommodore Lenoir.

Samson Ebukam had four pressures, albeit with a low win rate, while Charles Omenihu had two pressures and a 15.4% pass-rush win rate, but played minimal snaps in comparison to his counterparts.

With the quick game being a focus for the Cowboys offensively, the 49ers' defensive line didn't get as many opportunities for pressures, but still ended with 19 as a unit.

But, the 49ers need to improve on finishing and working against mobile quarterbacks. They allowed Dak Prescott to scramble four times for 22 yards and only got one sack on his 38 dropbacks.

Linebackers: B+

Fred Warner continues to showcase how phenomenal he is. Sunday's Divisional round game was a statement performance by the All-Pro linebacker, who recorded nine tackles, three run stops, and an interception that came off a deflection from Jimmie Ward.

However, Warner's most impressive play came in coverage on an incompletion to CeeDee Lamb, where the linebacker was step-in-step with the esteemed wideout, despite beginning the play mugged up to the line of scrimmage in a simulated pressure look before sprinting back to cover Lamb up the seam.

Dre Greenlaw, on the other hand, didn't have an inspiring performance. While he recorded six tackles and a run stop, he was out of place in coverage at times, leading to easy completions.

Additionally, the linebacker recorded an inexplicable 15-yard personal foul on a drive where Dallas ended up in the redzone, although he did record a big-time third-down tackle to force the Cowboys to go for it later in the drive.

While Ceedee Lamb had a productive day playing out of the slot with ten catches for 117 yards, the 49ers held Dalton Schultz to just five catches for 27 yards, collapsing over the middle when he touched the ball.

With another tough assignment next weekend against Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert, the 49ers will need to replicate their coverage over the middle from this past week.

Cornerbacks: A

Charvarius Ward bounced back from a tough performance against the Seattle Seahawks, allowing many underneath catches and giving up just 7.2 yards per target.

However, second-year cornerback Deommodore Lenoir continued an impressive postseason with another interception, this time off an acrobatic play early in the game that provided the 49ers with early points on the ensuing drive.

Lenoir did give up a big-time catch to Ceedee Lamb while also drawing a pass interference penalty as well, but was solid outside of that play, allowing just two catches on five targets with a pass defensed and the interception.

Slot cornerback Jimmie Ward played fairly well against the Cowboys, breaking up two passes, including a very impressive break on a play that resulted in Fred Warner's interception.

Ward gave up just 5.1 yards per target, which came primarily from underneath throws while the 49ers were in zone coverage, as the average depth of target was just 4.8 yards.

It was a solid day for the cornerbacks, who held up against a good Dallas corps of skill-position players, limiting Dak Prescott to just 206 yards and a 62.2% completion rate.

Safeties: B

Talanoa Hufanga had an impressive well-timed blitz that forced Dak Prescott to check a pass down well short of the line of scrimmage, showcasing his instinctual ability and intelligence.

However, the safety did have a couple of ill-timed missed tackles, failing to wrap up on a 3rd & short that allowed the Cowboys to convert inside 49ers' territory.

Apart from that, the 49ers allowed just one explosive play on the day and primarily forced Dak Prescott to resort to underneath throws, as the Cowboys quarterback completed just three passes beyond 10 yards.

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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