I am going to make a confession today. I have an inordinate amount of pride at being listed among the names down at the bottom of this page. Getting Dave's invitation to step up and write for BTB was just a huge thrill. That pride has just increased as I have started paying more attention to other fan sites. To put it politely, it is nice to be able to observe you are writing at one of the best.
Well, this week, I can say that BTB is not the only high-quality, well-written fan site out there. Niners Nation is full of interesting, nicely-researched, and quite objective material on the San Francisco 49ers. Sometimes, I am only interested in what sites are saying about my Dallas Cowboys, and to see how credible they seem. Niners Nation is a site where just about all the articles are interesting in and of themselves, not just because they relate to the Cowboys. There was no problem finding interesting articles to excerpt here. The problem was trying to pick among all the good stuff over there.
Dallas Scouting Report is a good but not too lengthy overview of what the author believes the 49ers will face with Dallas. It is right up the alley for those of you who like discussing the kinds of offensive sets used and what gaps are played when the defense is on the field.
One of the things I look for when I read things written from another viewpoint about the Cowboys is whether their take is radically different from the consensus at BTB. If it is, I tend to dismiss the article as not well-researched and likely just one of the less than accurate memes out there. If it seems to see the same things we see at BTB, then I become more interested. This article passed the test for me when it picked up on the fact that the Dallas defense had a better game than the offense against the Jets.
The Cowboys defense definitely caused me more of a scare. They 1-gap penetrate in base 3-4 just like the 49ers. In fact, the defenses look very similar in alignment. The difference is that Dallas likes to blitz from different angles and features a more athletic defensive line whereas the 49ers have more size up front.
Nicely said. Overall, this is a pretty perceptive take on the 'Boys.
Taking a bit more narrow focus, Scouting The Cowboys Passing Game looks at the Dallas aerial attack, and breaks down some key pass plays from the Jets game, complete with screen shots. The writer notes both the fumble and the interception that doomed the team in that game, but he also acknowledges that those two plays do not define the Dallas passing attack. Towards the end of the piece, he makes it clear he does not disrespect Tony Romo and his receiving corps.
This week's match-up against the Cowboys scares me though. I'm not worried about the 49ers stopping the run, but the Cowboys have an explosive passing attack with Witten, Austin and Bryant. Felix Jones can make plays out of the backfield as well. Bryant showed the ability to make plays both in traffic and in the open field. Witten has been the most reliable target for Romo the past four seasons and Miles Austin is one of the better receivers in the game.
Thank you, sir. This article was just one example of the lack of blind or excess homerism at Niners Nation. They talk about the good and the bad, and do so with a pretty good balance.
I also like to see articles that take a little different approach to things. Good Enought To Stop Miles Austin fits right into that category. It has a frank look at the problems the 49ers have had the past few years in defending the past, and how premiere receivers like Miles have torn them up.
Time and time again, the 49ers pass defense has been unable to stop the number one receivers; recently getting handled by guys like Roddy White, Vincent Jackson and Desean Jackson. Miles Austin is in that same category of receiver and will provide a tough match-up 49ers defenders trying to contain him.
It then goes on to come up with what the team has to do to stop him from beating them, and it includes some aspects you don't normally think of as part of pass defense, like winning the trenches and stopping the run. I like the way this writer thinks.
Of course, I also like humor, and the full title of Just Punch it in Already! got my attention. It then doubled down by discussing what I though was the biggest problem SF had in the Seattle game, their inability to get the ball across the goal line once they reached the red zone. It uses some phrases I would have been proud to coin (his description of Pete Carroll was particularly trenchant) and also makes a nice argument about how the failure to score is related to the conservative play calling, which is driven by Alex Smith's limitations. And then he wins me over completely.
So, I think the play calling was to protect Alex Smith from himself and the lockout retarded offense in general. When a lockout slows the implementation of an offense like it did this year, one should expect to see more conservative play calling.
Anybody who stresses the suckitude of the lockout is all right in my book.
Speaking of Alex Smith, there is a transcript of an press conference with him, Are Alex Smith And The O-Line Prepared To Adjust On The Fly? The lead in is interesting, because the writer thinks that seven runs by Smith was a positive. I am not as sure about that, since I thought some of them were definitely because he had nowhere to throw the ball and his protection was breaking down. But the Q & A has some good insight into what Smith, and I would assume by extension the coaches are thinking. This was my favorite.
Dallas seems to move around a lot and is constantly shifting, what's the challenge there?
"Yeah, (they) put down a lot of different looks, a lot of different fronts and coverage. Things that are a little unorthodox you don't necessarily see traditionally. You have to be focused, have to be into it, have to be ready to adjust on the fly. Things happen quickly, shifting, during the kick, at the snap, so all 11 of us have to be seeing the same thing and have to be able to adjust."
Respect for Rob Ryan's schemes is nice to see. I don't know if Alex can finally overcome the bust image this year, but reading through this article, I do like how he comes across. I sort of hope he has a good year - starting in Week 3.
There were three other interviews of some interest. I won't pull quotes from them, but will link to them if you would like to see what the SF staff is saying. There is the head coach interview, Jim Harbaugh Discusses 49ers-Cowboys As Benchmark, the defensive coordinator one, Philosophy Of The 49ers Defense, and the offensive coordinator's view, whose title says a lot, SF Offensive Coordinator Discusses DeMarcus Ware.
I said at the top that there were articles on Niners Nation that interested me even if they had nothing to do with the Cowboys. The best example was NFL Kickoffs Not As Dire As You Think. It looks at the fact that the opening weekend for the NFL saw records set for kickoff returns (including Ted Ginn Jr. becoming the first player to return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown on opening weekend), and goes on to propose that the increase in returns is because of the new rule change, which is pretty much the opposite of what everyone expected. It uses screen shots of Ginn's 102-yard touchdown return to illustrate why. These pictures do illustrate the main points of the argument:
1.) More and more players will be bringing out the ball when it's in the end zone.
2.) Coverage units are going to be going full out based on needing to make up 10 yards that they no longer need to.
3.) This will put coverage units deep into opposing territory by the time the ball is caught. This means they're already committed to their angles before the runner even starts moving.
4.) Since they're committed to their angles they have zero margin. They have to get the right angle or they're done for and it's off to the races.
I love the observation about getting too deep and being trapped in their angles. That's some good analysis there, Vern. (If you don't get the Vern reference, well, sorry, I'm old.)
One area of the team where both the 49ers and Cowboys are strong is the defensive front seven. A Scouting Report on the Cowboys Front Seven focuses (correctly, I would say) on DeMarcus Ware. The writer looks at some of his standout plays and acknowledges his ability in disrupting things.
I'll start with and focus on the obvious: DeMarcus Ware is insane. He's phenomenal and he scares the crap out of me. The Cowboys are going to move him all over the field and exploit every mismatch possible (that could end up being the entire 49ers offensive line).
I hope he is correct.
I like seeing the stuff that praises the Cowboys (for obvious reasons), but as I said, they do a good job assessing themselves and pointing out both the good and the bad. On the good, an article on Special Teams talks about one thing that could help them a lot against us.
We've been talking about the 49ers key battles against DeMarcus Ware or their ability to contain Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. In reality, the 49ers best chance at springing an upset is if they can once again dominate the special teams battle.
You can't argue that their ST performance was far ahead of ours the first game, and something the Cowboys need to address.
The final article I read with interest was our own Dave Halprin answering five questions about the Cowboys. This is a feature each week where the blog sites have complimentary posts. Just interesting to see how he presents the BTB view of things.
That wraps it up. Next week I get to go to Hogs Haven and see what the charming and lovely fans of the Washington Redskins have to say. It should be a very different experience, and I am looking forward to seeing if there is as much vitriol as I expect. But meantime, we have a game in San Francisco coming up.