The Cowboys played another slowball game tonight, partly by design. The offense missed starting WR Roy Williams and backup Sam Hurd. The Cowboys nonetheless showed the ability to move the ball in methodical fashion, dividing 18 first half carries between Marion Barber (13 carries) and Felix Jones (five more) en route to a 10-3 halftime lead.
Dallas could have had more points but took three points off the scoreboard with a penalty. The first team offense dominated time of possession and nearly doubled the 49ers yardage output. Some fine tuning remains, but the fundaments are promising. The top line offered superb protection to Tony Romo, who often had several seconds to scan the field for targets. The backup wideouts performed adequately. Miles Austin made a couple of impressive catches. Kevin Ogletree, the oncoming rookie from Virginia, worked easily with the starters, running crisp routes and beating 49ers starter Nate Clements.
The 49ers reserves outplayed their Cowboys counterparts, as third stringer Nate Davis led a late, 91-yard TD drive to give San Francisco a 20-13 victory, the winning score coming with 33 seconds left. Here are some snap notes from the contest.
Play of the Game
Every NFL team has a stock number of runs in its arsenal. Dives, off tackles, counters, sweeps,etc. They are run out of every offensive package. Good teams are good at disgusing their base runs and therefore making the ordinary look novel. When they can do this to a defense, the results can exceed expectations.
Tonight the Cowboys ran a 2nd quarter wrinkle on power right, a counter play that is a staple of their running game. The Cowboys had run power run and left a few times early in the game, but in the 2nd quarter Jason Garrett sprang it on the 'Niners D from a two tight end set.
On 1st and 10 from the San Fran 30, Dallas deployed in a one-back, two TE set, with Martellus Bennett in the traditional TE spot outside RT Marc Colombo, with Jason Witten on a wing outside Bennett. Before the snap, Witten flexed into the backfield and lined up as an offset-I fullback behind and between LT Flozell Adams and LG Kyle Kosier. At the snap, both Kosier and Witten pulled right and led Marion Barber around right end.
This is a twist on the classic Green Bay Packers sweep from the '60s. In those days, guards Fuzzy Thurston and Jerry Kramer would pull to the strong side, where the linemen and tight end would block down on the linemen on that side. One would hook the outside linebacker while the other would kick out the inside backer. You can almost hear Vince Lombardi exclaiming, "you get a seal here and a seal here and you run the play in-the-alley!"
Dallas ran it the way Lombardi drew it up. C Andre Gurode sealed off WILB Patrick Willis; RG Leonard Davis took out the nose tackle, and RT Colombo and TE Bennett double teamed the strong side DE. Kosier slammed the crashing OLB inside. Witten locked on to SILB Takeo Spikes and rode him towards the sideline. The textbook blocking slashed a huge seam in the 'Niners front and Marion Barber romped fourteen yards upfield.
Somewhere, the old Rock of Granite was smiling.
-- Dallas first team offense has been very effective at ball control the last two weeks. The Cowboys amassed 41 minutes of possession time against Tennessee and had over nineteen minutes in the first half tonight. Is this a teaser for the season?
I doubt it. Jason Garrett likes to throw the ball down the field. He's kept much, in fact all of his deep game under wraps. That's typical. Three years ago, Bill Parcells didn't install any of his blitz packages until the team had broken camp. It's still a vanilla world. I'll take Dallas' ability to move consistently while playing simply as a positive.
-- Kevin Ogletree take a bow. He worked as the split end when Dallas went three wide and caught two quick passes for 36 yards. He was well open on a third but Tony Romo overthrew him.
-- Last year, when Dallas played the 49ers, the Receiver Who Cannot be Named lit up CB Nate Clements, who tried covering him without safety help. Tonight, Patrick Crayton and Kevin Ogletree had 50 yards on him in just over 15 minutes of play and just missed a couple more. Is Clements losing some of his mojo or is Ogletree a find on par with that 81 guy? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
-- David Buehler showed the value of a long leg tonight. When kicks are fielded two to three yards behind the goal-line, good coverage holds them inside the 2. The "bad" coverage play saw the ball returned to the 30. This was the average starting spot last year.
-- What's a top rusher worth? Early in the 1st Demarcus Ware blitzed off the weakside. The 49ers kept a back in to assist the left tackle with Ware. Keith Brooking, who had the back in coverage, sprinted untouched on a delayed blitz and got a hard shot on the quarterback.
-- Good recognition. The Niners ran a couple of plays from their "wildcat" package at the 1st Dallas defense and did nothing. Marcus Spears crashed down the LOS on one play and dropped Frank Gore for no gain. It was good to see that none of the trickery fooled the front seven.
-- Dallas should be prepared for the screen pass. The 49ers ran them about ten times tonight.
-- Felix Jones missed a block and let a blitzer get into Tony Romo's face. Romo tried loading up on a deep throw to an open Ogletree, who got behind Clements on a go route. Romo could not follow through and his duck was picked off by Dre Bly.
-- The second and third team DL need work. I don't see anybody after the top six of Ratliff, Spears, Olshansky, Hatcher, Bowen and Siavii who stood out. The 49ers backups pushed the third teamers around.
-- We may have watched footbal natural selection at work tonight. NIck Folk ended Dallas opening drive with a 49 yard field goal. A holding penalty on Cory Proctor negated the score. Dallas signed veteran Duke Preston to challenge Proctor this week. This penalty doesn't help Proctor's cause.
-- Isaiah Stanback may be suffering a similar fate. He played hard on the coverage teams and made a decent return of a kickoff, but fumbled after catching an eight-yard out in the 4th. How much sand remains in his hourglass?
-- That goes triple for Courtney Brown, who kept a late 49ers drive alive when he committed an interference penalty directly in front of Wade Phillips, who make his displeasure unknown in a loud and emphatic fashion.
-- LB Jason Williams limped off the field early in the 4th quarter with an ankle injury. X-ray results unknown.
-- Backup S/CB Alan Ball was smacked in the head by a teammate after making a tackle on a kickoff. His neck was examined by the team doctor and Ball walked off unassisted after lying on the turf for a couple of minutes. He's presently described as having a "neck strain." More as I hear it.
-- Rookie S Michael Hamlin had his wrist x-rayed. Results are unknown.