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Coaching From The Couch: Can Cowboys' Defense "Bully" 49ers Into Mistakes?

This is another building block challenge for the Dallas Cowboys. Can they perform as well as they did last week against an inferior team?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

So, after weeks of calling for the Dallas Cowboys to jumpstart the running game, that's exactly what we got this past Sunday night. The Cowboys were rolling on the ground with just one yard shy of a 200-yard rushing performance led by Ezekiel Elliott's 140 yards. The Cowboys also had three rushing touchdowns, bringing their total to seven rushing touchdowns on the year and one shy of their 2015 numbers. So, in three games they've almost eclipsed what they were able to do in an entire season of rushing touchdowns last year. That certainly bodes well for them moving forward.

Speaking of moving forward, now they must forward to this week's matchup with Chip Kelly's 49ers team. A team that is 1-2 and another team the Cowboys must figure out how to get past. Dare I say it? This is a game that should play into the hands of Rod Marinelli because like Chicago, the 49ers are not very good on offense and their defense is giving up points in bunches. After shutting out the Los Angeles Rams in week one, San Francisco has yielded scores of 46 and 37 points in their last two contests.

Offensively, the 49ers know how to do one thing pretty well and that's run the football with Carlos Hyde. They are currently just outside the Top 10 rushing teams with 116.7 rushing yards per game. Bryan Broaddus made no bones about it Wednesday on The Break where he essentially said stop Hyde and you win the football game. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that they are riding with Blaine Gabbert as their quarterback.

He's roaming right around the 68 passer rating, 69 at QBR with three touchdown passes and three interceptions. He's completing about 55.2% of his passes but is only getting 5.5 yards per throw. Compare that to Dak Prescott who's at a 93.3 passer rating, 87.2 QBR, 67% completion percentage, one passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns and we have two guys going opposite directions.

The 49ers don't have the weaponry on offense. Sure, Torrey Smith is a good run-after-catch receiver but he's not the number one they thought they were getting. They are successful if they can run the football and Dallas hasn't exactly been great but they are only allowing 91 rushing yards per game (12th in NFL). If Dallas can load up against the run, there isn't much on the outside that scares you. If the Cowboys want, this may be a game where you see them take some chances defensively speaking.

They may just sell out to stop the run and force Gabbert to make a play, a plan that could force mistakes. Dallas has redefined what it means to be a "bend but doesn't break" defense. The Cowboys have to put their defense into position to make some plays like they have done over the past few weeks. As long as the Cowboys defense can find ways to disrupt the Chip Kelly offense, they'll be able to dominate them.

Switching over to the San Francisco defense, they, like the Bears, are struggling. After bottling up Todd Gurley in week one, they've gone on to allow an average of 122.7 yards per game on the ground (23rd in NFL). They're also giving up nearly 400 yards and 28 points per game. With Dallas averaging 130+ rushing yards (sixth-overall) and 385 yards per game, this is going to be a difficult game for San Francisco. The Cowboys are dealing with some injuries that will play into the hands of the 49ers' defense but Dallas still may be too offensively powerful. These two defenses are so similar as they both give up a ton of yards. However, they differ in one key statistic, the 49ers are giving up the points.

The talk will center this week around La'el Collins and Dez Bryant but give Dallas credit for what they have been able to do with their rookie quarterback. Collins being out may actually help their chances at running the football as Ron Leary is the mauler-type at left guard. Not having Dez will hurt and he's not likely to be cleared to play with his hairline fracture for a few weeks. Still, Dak has been the quarterback that throws to the open target and that's a good sign for the offense. There is just more confidence in Dak Prescott than there was in any of the signal-callers from last season not named Tony Romo.

The Cowboys' gameplan is going to be about the same as it should every week. Run the football down their throats until they can stop it. They haven't shown the ability to be able to do that and that also allows for passing lanes to open up. This is a game where the Cowboys have to take advantage of weaker competition again. They were able to do so against the Chicago Bears but can they make it two weeks in a row? You have to find a way to stack up these wins when you can get them because they have the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers on the horizon, two teams that are going to bring a whole new bag of obstacles.

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