19 Jan The Niners Corralled the Cowboys Despite Two Glaring Weaknesses
This week, I tried something new. You won’t find a play-by-play section in this article. Instead, I did a live tweet + pictures & commentary (that you can find a link to in the 2nd to last tweet)!
The San Francisco 49ers won a huge road playoff game in Dallas against the Cowboys on Sunday. They were the only road team to pull off an upset in Super Wildcard Weekend.
As predicted, the 49ers’ defense was incredible, even though DE Nick Bosa (concussion) & DE Jordan Willis (high ankle sprain) were both out for more than half of the game due to injuries. The defense, coached by DeMeco Ryans, held the Cowboys’ #1 scoring offense to just 17 points at home, despite Jimmy Garoppolo gifting them a short 51-yard field, following his INT, that lead to 1 of their only 2 total TDs.
It wasn’t just the defensive line either. The 49ers’ LBs stifled RB Ezekiel Elliot (2.6), RB Tony Pollard (3.5), WR CeeDee Lamb (5.0) & QB Dak Prescott (6.8, most of which came on the ill-advised last run) to just 77 yards on 21 carries. Once I saw Al-Shaair would play, I felt comfortable picking the Niners to win.
One of the biggest takeaways from Sunday, has to be the secondary continuing to improve with third-round pick, CB Ambry Thomas, leading the way. The Cowboys feature one of the league’s best WR room, and that’s with losing Michael Gallup earlier this year.
Veteran K’Waun Williams was hot & cold. He gave up the only passing TD the Niners surrendered, but he also had the only INT of the day by the defense, which came right after the biggest sack for the day, by DJ Jones and just before the rushing TD by Deebo Samuel – what a massive 3 play swing!
I expected the 49ers’ offensive line to be very good; however, I did not expect an elite performance. The Niners ran for 169 yards (nice) & didn’t give up a single sack! Bravo, gentlemen!
It wasn’t just the Niners’ offensive line handling the run blocking though. #BullyBall was in full effect, with Kittle, Juice, Jennings, Aiyuk & Deebo all imposing their wills on the hapless Cowboy defenders, including All-Pros LB, Micah Parsons, & CB, Trevon Diggs, who were clearly upset very early into the game.
Speaking of the Niners’ weapons, surprise, surprise…They were elite too. WR Brandon Aiyuk had 5 catches for 66 yards & was PFF’s highest graded player of both teams.
Deebo Samuel was my MVP, as usual, with 10 carries for 72 yards & 1 TD + 3 catches for 38 yards. The way Kyle Shanahan is able to use him all over the field is just unfair. We’ve come a long, long way from his rookie year when we thought seeing him run Jet Sweeps was special. Deebo now lines up in the backfield and runs in between the tackles regularly. He is the best player in the NFL that doesn’t play QB.
WR Jauan Jennings continues to be a clutch possession WR, personified with 3 catches for 29 yards, all of which were on third down and resulted in first downs.
The Cowboys did everything they could to keep TE George Kittle from beating them. Unfortunately for them. that simply opened things up for everyone else. Kittle still had a great day blocking & one really nice catch.
RB Elijah Mitchell was very reliable & had many tough runs (27 carries for 96 yards & 1 TD). He finished with the most yards of any RB from Super Wildcard Weekend! That’s pretty impressive from the rook!
K Robbie Gould was elite with 3/3 FGs (14/14 post season for his career), including one from 52 yards out & one from 53. I complained about Gould’s contract extension, but he made good on it in Dallas (& at the Rams).
The rest of the Niners’ special teams unit was pretty far from special (again). They were penalized for roughing the kicker penalty after getting a huge stop on 4th & 14, which resulted in 15 yards and a first down for the Cowboys. There is no reason to dive into the plant leg of the punter, as it will be penalized every time.
Also, the Niners’ special teams allowed their second fake punt conversion this year. This one was a pass, with Josh Norman in coverage (you’re shocked, I know). Literally everyone else on the field was aware they were running a fake besides Norman, who immediately sprinted back as soon as the ball was snapped like his life depended on it.
This brings us to Jimmy Garoppolo. He played pretty well in the first half, despite at least 5 high throws. Unbeknownst to us, he reportedly suffered a sprained shoulder in the second quarter, which could explain his subpar performance in the rest of the game (5/12, for 39 yards & INT). Let’s hope he heals up quickly, because I do not think those numbers get the job done against Aaron Rodgers next week in The Frozen Tundra.
For the full game, Garoppolo was 16/25 for 172 yards 64% completion rate, 0 TDs & 1 INT. Yes, the 49ers won the game, but it was more despite of Jimmy G, than because of him. Beyond the INT & incompletions, there were at least 5 very high throws that were caught & 2, or 3, that weren’t. There were a couple of off target passes that were tipped and could’ve easily been intercepted. Without Dak’s terrible play (23/43 254 yards, 53.5% completion rate, 1 TD & 1 INT) & the Cowboys’ 14 penalties, the 49ers likely would’ve lost this game, despite heroic efforts by their defense, offensive line & stars like Deebo & Mitchell.
As bad as Jimmy G’s stats were, they didn’t even include his botched sneak, which easily could’ve cost the Niners the game.
See all the biggest plays & 12ish bad throws from the game here:
It’s time to end the the Jimmy G. experiment. Whatever minimal trade value he has left, is not worth killing their playoff chances. This elite team is being held back by the anchor aka mediocre G. The Packers game, in week 3, is when I first soured on Jimmy G. They were able to stack the box, because he isn’t able to throw deep or outside the numbers. That clogged the running lanes & made blitzers more difficult to identify by the offensive line. Lance even scored the 49ers’ first TD, vs GB, just before halftime. It’s Trey Time!
Since it’s a short week, I’ll do my best to get my Packers preview out on Thursday, instead my usual Friday release day!