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Instant Analysis -- 49ers

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After three weeks, a personality is starting to emerge for the '05 Cowboys. So stock up on your tylenol. Keep you ice bags handy. Load up on your spirits of choice -- well before the game starts. Save some for the post game too. From all evidence, you're going to need it. Keep your rosary beads within reach. For better or worse, here come the Cardiac Cowboys.

Bill Parcells' guys lived up to the big plays of week one, outscoring the 49ers 15-0 in the fourth quarter to seize a 34-31 win. In doing so, they put the 0-14 letdown of last week's fourth quarter behind them, at least until they face the Raiders. What remains to be seen is whether this is the end of a bad streak, or the next phase in the on-again-off-again play that charactizes young teams going through philosophical changes.

One sign that indicates the former was the leadership exhibited by veterans who had forgettable first halves. Leading the way was Drew Bledsoe, who mixed a second quarter TD pass to Jason Witten and a TD run of his own with his first INT of the season, which was returned by 49ers safefy Tony Parrish for a score. In the second half, Bledsoe was a white-hot 15 of 21 for 202 yards. He was picked again by Parrish, but got a TD of his own and a key two point pass to Keyshawn Johnson on a dubious call by the officials.

Joining Bledsoe were Terry Glenn, who had 108 second half receiving yards and a key 58 yard reception on the last play of the third quarter, when the Cowboys were staggering; Dat Nguyen, whose linebacking corps was slow reacting on running plays and shaky in tackling when they did, who plucked an Arnaz Battle fumble off the ground and sealed the game with an interception in the final minute; and Terence Newman, who tipped the ball that Nguyen intercepted. He and corner mate Anthony Henry had by far their worst games of the season.

The game, which resembled a Tom Landry era-shootout, had Bill Parcells doing his worst Bad-Tom impersonation. In the third quarter, after two Dallas stops and a touchdown had pulled the Cowboys to within 24 to 19, Parcells inexplicably called for a line plunge out of a punt set on 4th-and-one from the Dallas 34. The play, which failed miserably, evoked the failed 4th-and-one in your own zone "No, Danny, No!" call that sent Dallas to defeat against the Redskins in '83. Parcells should be credited for motivating his team to a comeback, but he should also thank them for overcoming his mental freeze.

Notes:

  • You don't hear Rob Petitti's name much anymore, do you? The Cowboys gave him lots of help, regularly keeping Julius Jones in to block, or having Jones or a tight end chip the end Petitti was blocking. But the mental breakdowns of the preseason have been gone the past two weeks.

  • Dallas is still carrying just three safeties on its roster. Look for that to change. Keith Davis made a catastrophic mental gaffe that led to San Francisco's 89 yard TD pass to Brandon Lloyd. Willie Pile replaced him at the end of the first half in a funky, combination coverage 4-3-4 package. Pile is a play-it-safe kind of guy, who keeps everything in front of him. He shows no signs of being a playmaker at this point. If a veteran FS can by pried loose from another team for a reasonable (I'm thinking 6th or 7th round pick) Dallas should make the move. Davis' mistakes are too frequent and too big to be tolerated much longer.

  • The package Dallas ran at the end of the first half had four linemen, with Roy Williams lining up shallow next to LBs Dat Nguyen and Scott Shanle. The three Cowboys CBs, Newman, Glenn and Henry, had man coverage outside. Williams and the LBs had a three across short zone while Willie Pile played deep centerfield behind them.

  • Jerry Sullivan is one of the most respected WR coaches in the league and today his kiddie corps showed why. Lloyd had that breakout game the Cowboys needed to prevent. He turned Anthony Henry around several times and burned him on the 49ers lone second half TD.

  • Larry Allen tried a novel midfield strangulation of K Jose Cortez after Dallas missed its first PAT. Allen should have necktied snapper Jon Condo, who rolled the ball to the holder.

  • Bledsoe's late performance is all the more impressive because the 49ers knew it was coming; Julius Jones ran only three times for 4 yards in the game's final 20 minutes.

  • Early in the week, Bill Parcells mentioned that Andre Gurode's mental mistakes might end the center rotation. Today, Al Johnson went the distance in the pivot.

  • Some good news for Keith Davis. The coverage teams have been much better since he was moved there full time after week one.