49ers vs. Cowboys: Preview, prediction, what to watch for

An inside look at Sunday Night’s Cowboys-49ers week 5 matchup at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Marquee Matchup

49ers Offensive Line vs Cowboys Defensive Line

In the season opener at Pittsburgh, 49ers right tackle Colton McKivitz allowed T.J. Watt to sack Brock Purdy three times. Next up for McKivitz is Michah Parsons.

Parsons is the Cowboys top pass rusher. He has recorded four sacks, four quarterback hits and 19 hurries through the first four games.

Slowing Parsons down won’t just be up to McKivitz. The Cowboys linebacker moves around the formation, forcing the entire offensive line to prepare for him.

For Dallas, it is not just Parsons who can heat up opposing quarterbacks.

The Cowboys have recorded 97 total quarterback pressures this season. DeMarcus Lawrence is right behind Parsons. The defensive end has recorded a pair of sacks and pressured opposing quarterbacks an additional 13 times.

Along the interior, defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa could cause problems for Spencer Burford and Aaron Banks. Odighizuwa is second on the Cowboys in sacks with three on the season.

Jack’s Pick: Dallas is the only team to hold the 49ers under 20 points with Brock Purdy at quarterback, holding San Francisco to 19 in their NFC Divisional round matchup last year.  They won’t do that this time around.

San Francisco has scored on 13 of its 19 first half possessions. They have punted just three times and knelt to run out the clock another three.

The Cowboys offense has done a good job of moving the ball but has struggled in the redzone.

These patterns will continue Sunday night.

49ers 30 Cowboys 20

Four Downs

Not you, Tony: It is imperative for the 49ers to contain Tony Pollard on Sunday night.

The Cowboys running back is one of the best in the NFL. Through the first four weeks his 311 rushing yards ranks fifth best in the NFL. He comes into this game having rushed for 70 or more yards in each of the last three weeks.

Making those numbers more impressive is Pollard has been putting those numbers up behind a makeshift offensive line. All signs point to the Cowboys putting their starting offensive line on the field for the first time this season.

San Francisco needs to take Pollard out of the Cowboys game plan. This will allow them to turn up the heat on Dak Prescott which is a recipe for generating turnovers.

CeeDee in the slot: Steve Wilks’ defense has been inconsistent in the slot over the course of the first four weeks as he’s bounced between Deommodore Lenoir and Isaiah Oliver.

Whoever Wilks chooses to play inside on Sunday will primarily be matched up with CeeDee Lamb.

“They move him around quite a bit, but they’re always trying to find and create matchups, so yes,” said Wilks when asked this week if he expects to see Lamb in the slot quite a bit on Sunday.

Lamb comes into the game as the Cowboys leading receiver with 23 receptions for 309 yards. He has lined up in the slot on 150 of his 220 snaps this season.

The 49ers will need to find the balance of playing tight coverage while not allowing Lamb to be explosive.

In the playoff game last season Lamb had a 46-yard reception but was held to just 71 yards total on his other nine receptions while holding Dallas to just 12 points.

YAC Attack: There has been a lot of talk this week whether Brock Purdy is a product of Kyle Shanahan’s system. Regardless of what side of the discussion you fall on, everyone can agree the 49ers are one of the best teams in the league at generating yards after the catch. San Francisco is averaging 5.6 yards after the catch this season, seventh best in the NFL.

Getting opposing receivers to the ground has not been a strong point for the Dallas defense.

The Cowboys have allowed 5.7 yards after the catch per reception over the first four weeks. That is the sixth most in the NFL. This plays right into the strength of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey.

Player of the Week: Christian McCaffrey was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after recording 177 all-purpose yards, including 106 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, in the 49ers week four victory over Arizona.

On Sunday he will face Cowboys defense which has allowed 4.6 yards per rush attempt, the seventh highest average in the NFL through its first four weeks.

It was a bit of a slog on the ground for McCaffrey in the playoff game last season. Dealing with a calf injury, he gained just 35 yards on 10 carries against Dallas.

McCaffrey is healthy now and leading the league in rushing with 459 yards rushing while averaging 5.7 yards per attempt. Dallas has faced just one team this season with a balanced offensive attack like San Francisco. They allowed 28 points and lost.

This article has 16 Comments

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  1. This is going to be the toughest game for the Niners. The Cowboys are motivated by two playoff losses. If we mess up too much with excessive penalties or allowing big plays we will lose our first game of the season. I also think that this will be the first game where we won’t score 30 points. But that doesn’t matter if we win the game. That’s more important.
    Keys to the Game:
    Play sound football. And I do mean the Mental Game, too. They CANNOT get too many stupid drive killing or Cowboy helping penalties.
    Give Colton Mckivitz some help against Micah Parsons.
    Pressure Dak Prescott into making mistakes and he won’t be able to get the ball to playmakers like Ceedee Lamb and that other beastly wideout.
    Slow down Pollard.

  2. Dallas is obviously a good team but I believe their defense is overrated. We should be able to run on them. I think clearly our offense is better than theirs. Jack predicts 30 points and I hope he’s right. We definitely should win if we score 30, but nothing is guaranteed.

  3. Good stuff, Jack. 10 points is a big number. I’m not as confident. I think the 49ers win 21-20. I’ve mentioned a few different times some football resources I respect. If you want to learn football then watch Jack’s Youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/@JackHammer49

    A few other sources I respect are:
    JT O’Sullivan’s “The QB School” on Youtube (His breakdowns of Brock Purdy are absolute Fing GOLD)
    Bet the Board – Sports betting podcast

    From these sources come a few quotes and facts:
    If the 49ers beat the Cowboys and score at least 30 points, they will be the 5th team in NFL history to go 5-0 and score at least 30 points in every game. None of the other 4 teams to accomplish this have won the Superbowl.

    “The 49ers have played the 19, 27, 21, 23 ranked teams In QB pressure rate. The Cowboys are ranked #1 in QB pressure rate. This is going to be a problem for the 49ers.”

    “Kyle Shanahan’s genius as an offensive coach masks a very weak offensive line.”
    “Trent Williams is propping up a bad O-line statistically.”
    “Spencer Burford is the 92nd ranked Guard out of 94 Guards with qualifying snaps in pass block win rate.”
    “Jake Bendel is the 37th out of 44 Centers with qualifying snaps in pass block win rate.”
    “Colton McKivitz is a Guard playing RT and he ranks 58th in pass block win rate.”
    “Aaron Banks has taken a step back and is playing well below average.”
    “The bad O-line means Kittle will be forced to stay in and block which means the 49ers won’t be able to exploit the main Cowboys defensive weakness – Tight Ends.”
    “Why don’t the 49ers use George Kittle. They are wasting one of the best TE’s in the NFL.”
    “Kyle Shanahan plays buddy ball with Kyle Juszczyk. Sending him out on digs and flags is a slap in the face to Kittle and the other 49er WRs.”
    “Brock Purdy is ranked 26th out of 35 qualifying QBs in accuracy rate when pressured. This poor O-line is going to cause the 49ers problems against the Cowboys.”

    Seems to be a common theme.

  4. ‘There has been a lot of talk this week whether Brock Purdy is a product of Kyle Shanahan’s system’…..really? Does anybody here really care? Maybe Kyle’s system is running at peak performance because of Brock Purdy’s skill set…maybe Brock is the perfect match for Kyle’s system…that theory should only matter to a team, or teams, considering trading for Brock Purdy…while Purdy is in the Red n Gold, that theory only matters to Trey Lance jock swingers and Purdy detractors…..and if you’re one of those, there’s a channel on YouTube that’s perfect for you…you can commiserate with your brethren, and listen to Cohn bad mouth Kyle, John Lynch and Brock Purdy to your hearts desire..and, of you get tired of hearing Grant whine and complain, he has a stable of Lancers that come on with more sour grapes to wet your appetite…

    1. Reading some of these comments you would think we are 0 and 4, not 4 and 0. So much negativity for the best 49er team we have seen in many seasons.

  5. I’m concerned about all the optimism that we’re going to win this game. It’s not just on this blog. You see it all over the place. The betting spread is only 3.5 points with us winning, which as you know is just home field advantage. The Dallas team has been mightily shamed. It has it’s back up against the wall. And this will be on a national stage. So they’re highly likely to play their guts out. I wouldn’t be surprised if they dominate the first half. I do think we’ll win but that it will be a brutal game and come down to the wire.

    1. Kojak,
      I also worry about all those “Hurrah” pre-game antics.
      I’m hoping that we aren’t peaking to early this year.
      I worry about CMC being able to sustain this level of play.

      1. Well, there will always be something to worry about. Certainly CMC staying healthy is one of them. Today I’m worried about our guys not being ready for Dallas’ onslaught. They have a balanced offense and fierce d, and will be highly motivated.

        1. I have 3 concerns, number one the right side of our O line, our nickle back and Wilks schemes. I’m afraid the Cowboys are equipped to take advantage of all three.

          1. These are all legit concerns.
            It’s good though to have this team tested against a good team that is motivated. Dallas is not the best team in the league, this will either expose us or launch us!

          2. Lamb in the slot will make it interesting to see how Wilks addresses that- does Lenoir follow him? w Ambry Thomas being targeted and Womack out, and Oliver being so-so, I think that that will be our soft spot.

    There appears to be some 9er fan paranoia about the 9ers Dallas game today. How the 9ers may not be up for the game, they’re over confidents, the 9er O-Line can’t handle the Dallas pass rush, especially RT McKivitz matching up with Dallas SLB Parsons. And finally, can the 9er D contain CeeDee Lamb and the Dallas receivers!

    * Dallas has yet to play a team that’s NOT in last place in their division.
    * Dallas lost to Arizona 28 to 16, while the 9ers beat Arizona 35 yo 16.
    * Arizona stopped Dallas RB (Pollard), from scoring a TD, while Dallas could not keep Arizona RB (Connor), out of the end zone.
    * If either Dallas D or 9er D can make the other teams offense one-dimensional and stop the run, they win.
    * Prescott and the 2023 Dallas offense is having trouble turning red zone trips into end zone scoring. The Cowboys came out of the rout of the Patriots 29th in the NFL in touchdown rate inside the 20, at 36.8%.
    * That red zone inefficiency also cost Dallas their only loss, 28-16 to Arizona.
    * If the 9er can hold Ceedee Lamb to less than 100 yards and one TD the 9ers win.
    NOTE: Is Dallas a good team? yes! Are they a top 3 team? I say no. That will be determined by the 9ers game today!

    * The team that doesn’t turn the ball over, will win the game.
    * That means KS and Chris Forester have to figure out a way to help out RT McKivitz and the O-Line, to give BP time to connect with his receivers and opening running lanes for CMC and the 9er RB’s.
    IMO, if the 9ers can’t get up for Dallas, they don’t deserve to win….
    Today is the day we find out who’s the CONTENDER and who’s the PRETENDER.
    * The 9er 27 — Dallas 20

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