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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Notebook: Cowboys blindsided by blowout; Nick Bosa excited about Randy Gregory; Fred Warner for DPOY?; Why did Arik Armstead get bored vs. Cowboys?

Oct 9, 2023 at 12:11 AM--

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Sunday night's game between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium was nowhere near the playoff-caliber dogfight many expected it to be, and no one was more surprised about that than the Cowboys.

Both teams were widely thought to be among the league's best heading into Sunday, but the 49ers made the Cowboys look like they didn't even belong in the discussion. The 49ers turned in their most complete performance of the season so far in a 42-10 victory, while the Cowboys were left wondering what hit them.

"It's a punch in the gut. It's a kick in the ass," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said, per Jon Machota of The Athletic. "… I didn't see this coming."

The Cowboys were determined to put on a strong performance after losing to the 49ers in the playoffs each of the past two seasons. But what they wound up with was an even more confusing showing than the one they produced earlier in the season during an unexpected 28-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

"[We] didn't see it coming," said Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw three interceptions in the loss. "We put everything into this and got punched in the mouth. I called it a couple of weeks ago humbling against Arizona but this may be the most humbling game I've ever been a part of. Felt good about the preparation, felt good about everything, honestly, coming into this game, matchups too, and they beat us in every aspect."

Perhaps the Cowboys will rebound and the 49ers will see them again in the postseason. But they've got a long road ahead, with an occasionally brutal schedule that includes road games against the Chargers, Eagles, Bills, and Dolphins, with home games against the Eagles, Rams, Lions, Seahawks.

"We got to be complete," wide receiver CeeDee Lamb said, per Machota. "We can't go out there one week and look like a super team and then the following week s*** the bed."

Meanwhile, the 49ers look like the team to beat in the NFL. There's a long way to go in the 2023 season, but at the moment, even the 49ers think they're the best.

"For sure," cornerback Deommodore Lenoir said Sunday. "When you look at that game, when you look at other teams, it's not even close. I even try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it's not close."

In addition to the Cowboys' confusion over what happened Sunday night, we've got a bunch of other goodies for you in this version of 49ers Notebook. Let's take a look:

They saw it coming

Maybe the Cowboys couldn't foresee what happened on Sunday, but the 49ers could.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters he thought his team could have a big performance on Sunday given what they showed throughout the week.

"Yeah, I did," Shanahan said. "I was real excited about us this week. I knew it was our biggest game so far this year, as far as nationally and just media wise and the hype. Sometimes you get worried your team might get too up for stuff. But just watching them all Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, they were so locked in all week. They didn't make too big of a deal of this game. They seemed so ready to go and kind of from a coaching perspective, we didn't feel like we had to do much all week, but just coach them, show the film, put in a game plan and our guys were ready."

Linebacker Fred Warner agreed.

"Yeah, everybody was locked in," Warner said. "I'm really confident in our team, our leadership, the way that we operate day in and day out. It's not luck, right I think these things happen for a reason, and, I mean, we talk about the detail at which we operate day in and day out, meetings, walk through practice. All of it is just for moments like this."

Warner for DPOY?

Warner had a monster performance Sunday night, totaling eight tackles with a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery while leading the defense to a dominant showing. After the game, Warner's name got thrown around a bit by 49ers reporters as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

Not surprisingly, Warner took a humble and level-headed perspective when asked about that subject.

"I mean, if they put me in that conversation, great. To me, I know what I have to contribute to this team," Warner said. "I know the caliber of player I am. I don't need anybody else's recognition or people to tell me how great I am. I want to be the best person I could be, best player I can be for my teammates and for this team. We know what we have ahead of us and the goals that we've set out for ourselves. All that other stuff takes care of itself when you're just doing things the right way day in and day out."

If Warner does wind up being in that conversation, he'll have plenty of support from his teammates, starting with linebacker Dre Greenlaw.

"I think you're right," Greenlaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. "The way that he played, the way that he prepares in and out every day, it's unreal. To come out here on the biggest stage and have a forced fumble, then to have a sack and a get pick too, that's a trifecta you want. He deserves it. Just the amount of work that he puts in every day, he deserves it. I'm proud to play beside him."

Defensive end Nick Bosa summed up his feelings on Warner more succinctly.

"He's the best in the world, and it's not close," Bosa said.

Over early?

The 49ers took the opening kickoff and turned it into points, taking a 7-0 lead over the Cowboys on a touchdown pass from Brock Purdy to George Kittle. Less than five minutes were gone from the game, but that was all Warner needed to see to know the 49ers had the Cowboys' number.

"As soon as the offense went down on that first drive and scored, I was like, 'We got 'em,'" Warner said.

It's easy to see why Warner was so confident. The 49ers have been playing at a high level offensively, scoring 30 points or more in each game this season. Once Warner saw the offense clicking early, he knew the defense would be in a good position to do what they needed to do.

"The way that they're operating right now is unbelievable," Warner said. "I've been a part of a lot of good teams since I've been here, but the way the offense is playing is unlike anything I've seen.

"That right there just lets me know as long as the defense is doing our job, we're always going to have a chance."

More help on the way

The rich got richer late last week when the 49ers added a talented and experienced pass rusher to the mix by acquiring Randy Gregory via trade from the Denver Broncos. Gregory didn't suit up for the 49ers on Sunday, but Nick Bosa expects him to make an impact when he does.

"I think it's going to be huge adding depth to that position," Bosa said. "We're not thin, but depth always helps, and I think he fits our scheme perfectly. He's extremely physical."

Making the trade even better for the 49ers was the fact they only had to swap a late-round pick to get Gregory. Gregory is signed through 2026 after inking a 5-year, $70 million deal with the Broncos in 2022, but the 49ers can release him after the season at no cost, plus Broncos are paying all but $1.08 million of his salary this season.

"I met him the other day, seems like a really good dude, and he's an $80 million defensive end who we got for a bargain, so it could get even better for us," Bosa said.

* Arik the Bored: Things got so lopsided Sunday night that the 49ers started pulling their starters in the third quarter, meaning a number of players who are used to playing until the end got an unexpected chance to watch a chunk of the game from the sidelines.

Defensive lineman Arik Armstead found that to be a bit dull.

"It was fun, but it was a little boring at the same time," Armstead said. "It was a lot of fun. It's hard to win in the NFL, so it's a lot of fun anytime you can get a win. But you know, I didn't even play in the fourth quarter. Sometimes the close games with the pressure can be a little more fun, in my experience."

A number of fans may disagree with that sentiment, especially considering the fact that one of the 49ers' biggest rivals was on the other end of Sunday night's shellacking. But Armstead will certainly have his chance to play in more exciting games in the weeks ahead.

"It was a huge win for us and our team. We came ready to play, and we were anticipating a great game, and the score got lopsided," Armstead said. "It's a whole lot of fun -- guys are flying around, making plays. I'm just saying for me personally, being out of the fourth quarter, I've had some more fun in football games."

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