As the Cowboys prepare for their game on Sunday with the 49ers, everybody who covers the team has plans and ideas about how they should go about getting the win. That’s what we do. But, let’s flip it around and ask an expert on the 49ers how they would go about beating the San Francisco team. David Fucillo from Niners Nation offers a winning gameplan for the Cowboys.
Blogging The Boys: How should the Cowboys attack the 49ers offense and defense?
Niners Nation: The Cowboys offense can likely find strong success running screen plays against the aggressive 49ers defense. And that really applies to most of the 49ers defense. The unit has gotten younger, and with that youth comes an exuberance that can work against you. The 49ers defense is generally playing quite well, but they also are among the league leaders in explosive plays allowed. That's an indication of a defense that sometimes will play a little bit undisciplined.
The matchup to watch on that side of the ball would probably be Dez Bryant vs. Rashard Robinson. While Robinson has had some solid performances the last couple weeks, he has been inconsistent much of the season. I would not be surprised to see Dak attacking him regularly on Sunday to force him to prove he can keep up.
The Cowboys defense faces an offense that is certainly in flux. The switch to C.J. Beathard means the Cowboys won't have a lot of film to look at. That being said, with any young quarterback, you want to work to confuse him. I imagine the Cowboys will look to disguise their blitzes and coverages to keep Beathard from getting too comfortable.
The matchup to watch on that side of the ball would probably be DeMarcus Lawrence if he faces off against right tackle Trent Brown. Through the first month, Trent Brown was playing as well as most any tackle. However, the past couple weeks have been a struggle for him. Brown often plays up or down to the competition, so if he gets Lawrence in one-on-one matchups, he very well could show fine form again. If not, it could be a long day for C.J. Beathard.
Advocating for the Cowboys to run screen passes isn’t going to do any good, the Cowboys rarely run it and when they do they just aren’t very successful. But, they could run other plays that can take advantage of an undisciplined and aggressive defense. Quarterback draws and read-option plays for Dak Prescott might lead to some nice gains. It’s something the Cowboys should take advantage of more often, maybe this week they will. Just remember, slide Dak, slide.
With David Irving back in the lineup, it’s going to be harder for defenses to double-up on DeMarcus Lawrence. Sliding extra-protection from the line is hard to do if it means singling up the blocking on Irving. Instead, the 49ers might have to keep in a back or tight end to chip/double Lawrence. That’s to the Cowboys advantage because it would take safety valve receivers out of the route pattern for Beathard. Here’s hoping Lawrence can exploit that matchup.
BTB: Give us your thoughts on what will happen on Sunday. Can the 49ers finally get their first win of the year?
NN: The safe bet is the 49ers lose by two or three points! I would say I'm kidding, but this has become kind of a ridiculous pattern.
I do think the 49ers can keep this thing relatively close. Their run defense has been stout for the most part, so it will come down to how they handle the passing game. I remain worried about the screen passes, and that really could be the difference-maker in this one. The 49ers also will be short-handed in their pass rush, with both DL Arik Armstead and edge rusher Aaron Lynch sidelined for the game. The 49ers have some quality replacements, but it's going to be tough.
The 49ers are a six-point underdog in this game, and the slight edge in public money is on the Cowboys. I'm still trying to figure out how I see this playing out. The 49ers are 4-2 against the spread, and played teams close each of the past five weeks. More importantly for the 49ers is the potential return of rookie linebacker Reuben Foster. He is the team's best linebacker, and in the running with a handful of players for best defensive player. He could be the key to the 49ers containing some of these big running back pass plays. If he plays a sizable workload on Sunday, I think that's enough for the defense to keep this relatively low scoring.
The game will be an emotional one, with the team celebrating Dwight Clark Day. The 49ers legend announced this year that he is suffering from ALS. He will be on hand, and nearly 40 members of the 1981 49ers squad will be there to honor him. It could prove to be an electric atmosphere (assuming 49ers fans don't sell their tickets!), which could help this squad. I think it's close either way, but for kicks, I'll say the 49ers win this won 20-16.
It sounds like utilizing Ezekiel Elliott in the passing game could be a key this Sunday. While as mentioned above, the Cowboys are not big screen pass team, they could hit Elliott on some throws in the flat or routes over the middle. Better yet, maybe Scott Linehan can create some plays for Ryan Switzer on bubble screens, jet sweeps or other plays that might take advantage of an undisciplined defense.
If you were designing the game plan, what would be the emphasis?