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Cowboys @ 49ers: Dallas just crushes San Francisco 40-10

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There were good things to see everywhere in this performance by Dallas, though it wasn’t quite perfect.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers
Zeke ate.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Call them inconsistently dominant.

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t just get a much needed victory to get their record to 3-3 by beating the San Francisco 49ers 40-10. They won the game convincingly, with huge plays in all three phases of the game. There were moments they looked bad, but they seemed to overcome those brief rough patches with ease as they built up a big lead and cruised to the win.

There were certainly some things that did not go right for the Cowboys during the game. They had some three and outs that could have led to problems. The 49ers got more big plays than you would like, especially on the ground where Dallas’ run defense still was not dependable, particularly in wrapping up on tackles. And the biggest issue was that Dan Bailey injured his groin and left the game in the first half. That especially is going to be a source of concern going forward.

But there was much more good for the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott picked right up where he left off at the end of the Green Bay Packers game. He had 89 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, playing an instrumental part in staking Dallas to a 20-3 halftime lead. And he had the longest pass reception of the game on a 72 yard screen play for a touchdown on the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half - that incidentally led to Jeff Heath’s first PAT of his career in relief of Bailey. It bounced off the right upright, but it got through, which is what mattered. (Heath would go 2 for 3 on PATs and handle the kickoff duties the rest of the way after Bailey’s injury.) Elliott would wind up with 147 yards rushing, 219 yards total from scrimmage, and three total touchdowns. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott had 234 yards and three touchdowns passing, and added a rushing score of his own.

The pass rush continued to produce sacks. And the team found a way to take the ball away. The special teams got a fumble early in the game after the Cowboys went three-and-out on their first possession, setting up their initial touchdown of the game. And Demarcus Lawrence continued to look like one of the best pass rushers in the game this year. His strip-sack and recovery snuffed out a scoring opportunity for the 49ers late in the first half that had a great deal to do with keeping things in hand for Dallas. Those two plays were major turning points in the game, as the first got the Cowboys off to a fast start and the second killed any chance of the 49ers getting back into the game before it was beyond their reach. The Cowboys would add a third forced fumble after halftime to give them a nice plus three turnover margin for the game.

There is always going to be a caveat that this was, after all, a winless San Francisco team, but there was also the much-repeated fact that they had been staying so close over the past five games. However, they also were starting rookie C.J. Beathard at quarterback, and despite him making some very nice throws, overall he looked exactly like what he is. The Niners’ team also was increasingly beat-up on both sides of the ball as the game advanced. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten both had good days, with the Senator making a very nice one-handed touchdown reception in the second quarter.

It was a much needed win for the Cowboys, no matter who they beat. And there may have been something in it that is very important going forward. Jonathan Cooper was the starting left guard, while Chaz Green was apparently designated as the swing tackle for the game, taking warmup snaps at both tackle spots. It may not be just a coincidence that they were running the ball so effectively against San Francisco. It certainly looks like the offensive line has finally come together, and that the Cooper reclamation project is working. Now the Cowboys have four former first round draft picks up front offensively, and a fifth in La’el Collins that would have been taken in the first round except for a freakish series of events just before the draft that year. That heavy investment has been the key to the offensive success for the Cowboys, and it is going to be crucial if the team is to make a run the remainder of the season. The results in this game were highly encouraging, with the Cowboys putting up more yards on the ground than they did through the air - and totaling 501 yards overall to go with the forty-burger on the scoreboard.

There were even some interesting developments when the inactives were announced for Dallas. In a surprise move, Cooper Rush moved up to the QB2 position while Kellen Moore was held out of the lineup. It may be the signal that the staff thinks he is now ready to be the backup going forward. It remains to be seen if Moore even stays on the 53 man roster. The fact the coaching staff saw fit to put Rush in to close out the fourth quarter after the game was decided is just more fuel on the fire. Rush wasn’t the only backup to take advantage of the opportunity, as Rod Smith got some carries late, including a 45 yard carry to pad the offensive stats.

Additionally, both Damontre Moore and Benson Mayowa did not dress for the game. This seemed to indicate that the team was going with a bigger group up front on defense, including Richard Ash, who was just brought up from the practice squad this week. It seemed to work for the most part, especially as the game wore on and the Cowboys began to clamp down on the 49ers’ offense, at least before garbage time in the fourth quarter.

Another really positive thing for Dallas was that they forced three fumbles, including the first of Jaylon Smith’s career as he came in on a blitz and knocked the ball loose from Beathard. It set up the touchdown pass to Bryant that tied the team record for touchdowns, held for a very long time by Bullet Bob Hayes.

The Cowboys were still not a perfect football team, but they were obviously a much better one than their opponent. It was a game they should have won going in, and that they very much needed to win. They took care of business, and did so in a convincing manner, and even got several of the down roster players some reps late (Green came in for Tyron Smith in the fourth quarter as well). A loss would have been almost crippling to their hopes for the playoffs. This win not only kept those alive, it added more than a bit of evidence that the team is finally getting things on track in all phases.