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Preview: Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at San Francisco 49ers (1-2)

Al Sacco
Sep 30, 2016 at 10:06 AM


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There was a time when a matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys was must see television. The rosters were loaded with stars and quarterback matchups like Joe Montana vs. Danny White and Steve Young vs. Troy Aikman were front and center in games that meant everything. Those days are long gone however, as it's been a while since these two storied franchises have faced off with much of anything on the line. As for the present day versions, Dallas looks to be in good position at 2-1, despite having rookies playing important roles at quarterback and running back. Things aren't looking as bright for the 49ers though, as they appear to reeling at the moment at 1-2 and look lost on both sides of the ball after back-to-back routes on the road. Will coming back home help San Francisco right the ship?


Recent History


Expectations were still high for the 49ers the last time these former rivals met in Week 1 of 2014, and San Francisco didn't disappoint. CB Chris Culliver started things off by bringing back a fumble 35-yards for a score less than a minute into the game, and that play would set the tone for the day. Dallas turned the ball over four times overall, and were down 28-3 by halftime. The Niners slowed down in the second half, but would still hang on for a 28-17 win. TE Vernon Davis paced the San Francisco attack with two touchdown catches and WR Anquan Boldin led all pass catchers with 99 yards.

Players to Watch


The NFL is a passing league and, at some point, a team's quarterback has to make plays. Right now, that's not happening for the 49ers, and no team is scared of anything QB Blaine Gabbert has to offer. Gabbert is basically playing offense in a box right now, and there is no threat of the big play. San Francisco is last in the NFL with 5.5 yards per pass attempt and, if you take away the 75-yarder in Week 2, it goes down to an unbelievably bad 4.7. You can't win games like that, and Gabbert has to show he can make a play or two down the field or the 49ers will have no shot here.

If RB Christine Michael and a bad Seattle Seahawks offensive line can gash the Niners on the ground, what might an elite Cowboys rushing attack do to them? After a slow start, Dallas exploded for 199 rushing yards in Week 3, with their star rookie RB Ezekial Elliot accounting for 130 of them. Look for Elliot to get the ball early and often as the HC Jason Garrett will want to limit what Elliot's rookie counterpart, QB Dak Prescott, is asked to do through the air.


Stats to Know


The 49ers are currently 14th in scoring with 73 points, but that may be the most misleading stat in the league right now. The offense has scored 45 of those points off turnovers, and has had a lot of trouble sustaining drives otherwise. The Niners actually lead the NFL in number of drives (42), but are 31st in average plays per drive (4.8). They are also last in time per drive at 1:55, and average yards per drive (20.9).

PFF's Top Week 3 Grades
Cowboys 49ers
S Byron Jones, 86.9 LB Nick Bellore, 81.8
C Travis Frederick, 82.9 NT Mike Purcell, 81.3
QB Dak Prescott, 82.1 S Eric Reid, 79.2
RG Zack Martin, 82.0 LB Gerald Hodges, 77.4
T Doug Free, 80.7 DE Arik Armstead, 76.8

Game Changing Factor


There was reason to worry when the 49ers hired DC Jim O'Neil to run their defense, as his scheme apparently confused some of his players in Cleveland. Those concerns are at an all-time high at the moment, as San Francisco has been terrible on that side of the ball. In Weeks 2 and 3, O'Neil's group gave up 83 points and 947 total yards. To make matters worse, they've allowed two 100-plus yard receivers and a 100-plus yard rusher in back-to-back games, and that hadn't happened in the previous 971 contests. For a team that was supposed to be built around their young, up-and-coming defense, this is a bit of a red flag to say the least.

By the Numbers


Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


Through the first three games of the season, the 49ers offensive line has allowed just 2 sacks, tied for the fewest in the NFL (Oak - 2, NYJ - 2). The team's 2 sacks allowed are the fewest given up by the 49ers in the first 3 weeks since 2000.

The 49ers' 45 points scored off of 8 takeaways in the first 3 games this season are the most by the team since 1997.

The 49ers have committed the fewest penalties in the NFL with only 12.

Carlos Hyde has 4 rushing touchdowns this season, which is tied for the most in the NFL. Others with four are Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount, Falcons RB Tevin Coleman, and Chargers RB Melvin Gordon.

News from the Week


OT Anthony Davis retired from the NFL for the second time in 15 months. He reportedly retired due to health issues, which is the reason that he retired last offseason after suffering a concussion in 2014. Following the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams, Davis suffered another concussion. This time, it was during a practice as the team was preparing to play the Carolina Panthers. He had not practiced since. Davis played in just three offensive snaps this season, all against the Rams.

CB Jimmie Ward remains week-to-week and has not practiced since suffering a quad muscle injury in the second quarter of the 49ers loss against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The 49ers signed WR/KR Keshawn Martin to a two-year deal. A fourth-round draft pick in 2012, Martin started his NFL career with the Houston Texans and spent last season with New England after the Patriots traded a sixth-round pick for him in September. Martin's best season came in 2013 with Houston when he had 22 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

Matchup Information


Kickoff: Sunday, October 2, 2016 at 1:25 p.m. PT

Where: Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California

All-Time Matchup: 49ers lead series 17-16-1

Last Meeting: 9/7/14, 49ers win 28-17, at Dal.

Current Streak: Won 1

Betting: The Cowboys are 2-point favorites

NFL Fan Picks: 70% pick the Cowboys to win according to Yahoo! Sports

49ers Fan Picks: Within our Pick 'em Contest, 58% believe the 49ers will win

49ers Schedule: View full schedule

Cowboys News: Cowboys news at Problitz.com

Follow Game Online: NFL.com's Game Center

Discuss: Niner Talk forum

Follow Us: Facebook, Twitter, Google+

Television and Radio


The game will be televised on FOX (Check 506 Sports to see if it is local).

Play-By-Play: Joe Buck
Color Analyst: Troy Aikman
Sideline Reporter: Erin Andrews

DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket: Ch. 715

KGO 810 AM and The Bone 107.7 FM (Other markets) will carry the radio broadcast with Ted Robinson doing the play-by-play and Tim Ryan as the color analyst. ESPN Deportes and KKSF 910 AM will carry the spanish broadcast.

San Francisco 49ers Injuries


Out: CB Jimmie Ward (quad)

Questionable: TE Vance McDonald (hip), TE Garrett Celek (back)

Dallas Cowboys Injuries


Out: G La'El Collins (toe)

Questionable: WR Dez Bryant (knee), DE Jack Crawford (shoulder), LB Justin Durant (not injury related), T Doug Free (quadricep), LB Andrew Gachkar (neck), S Jeff Heath (knee), LB Mark Nzeocha (achilles), QB Tony Romo (back), CB Orlando Scandrick (hamstring, hamstring), T Tyron Smith (back)

Game Averages (Rank)


Cowboys 49ers
25.7 (11th)
Offense Pts
24.3 (14th)
385.0 (8th)
Offense Yds
292.0 (29th)
251.0 (16th)
Offense Pass
175.3 (30th)
134.0 (6th)
Offense Rush
116.7 (11th)
20.0 (10th)
Defense Pts Allowed
27.7 (23rd)
379.3 (22nd)
Defense Yds Allowed
377.3 (20th)
290.0 (23rd)
Defense Pass Allowed
254.7 (14th)
89.3 (10th)
Defense Rush Allowed
122.7 (23rd)

Individual Statistics


Team Leaders
Passing Comp Yds TD INT
Dak Prescott, DAL 66.7 767 1 0
Blaine Gabbert, SF 55.2 532 3 3
Rushing Car Yds Avg TD
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL 71 274 3.9 2
Carlos Hyde, SF 58 225 3.9 4
Receiving Rec Yds Avg TD
Cole Beasley, DAL 20 213 10.7 0
Jeremy Kerley, SF 12 114 9.5 0


Poll

  • Who will have more rushing yards on Sunday?
  • Carlos Hyde
    71%
  • Ezekiel Elliott
    29%
  • 70 votes
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