The Dallas Cowboys are winners of two straight after a 41-33 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. It was the Cowboys highest scoring output this year, so in this edition of After Further Review, we’re going to first take a look at some plays on offense to get a better feel for what happened. Between some creative play-calling and a new running back carrying the workload, there were plenty of things to check out this week, so let’s get to it.
Dalton to his right
The best two-play sequence came midway through the third quarter with the game tied. The Cowboys were facing a 3rd-and-6 and it looked as if a punt was on the way after the pocket collapsed on Andy Dalton. Fortunately, the Cowboys quarterback was ready for it as he quickly escaped to this right, and launched a deep throw on the run. Rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb got out in front of his man and was able to haul down a 45-yard completion, the team’s longest play of the game.
Dalton rolling to his right was so nice, they ran it twice as on the very next play he hit his tight end on a bootleg. The ever-so elusive Dalton Schultz was able to give 49ers corner Richard Sherman the dipsy-doo and fight his way into the end zone to give the Cowboys the lead.
Dalton only threw for 209 yards on 19/33 passing, but he did have two touchdown passes and didn’t throw a pick. The veteran quarterback continues to handle pressure well and does a good job protecting the ball, which we’ve seen from these last two games just how important that is. He’ll never be the playmaker Dak Prescott is, but his command of this offense has been very satisfactory, and in a league were quarterback play is so critical, the Cowboys can be happy with that.
Kudo’s to Kellen
While that two-play sequence was very nice, my very favorite two-play combo came midway through the first quarter. The Cowboys benefited from a short field on two straight possessions after two fumbles by the 49ers. Dallas converted each of them into touchdowns, but the second one was extra enjoyable due to some clever play designs.
First, tight end Blake Bell motioned across the line of scrimmage twice, but the second time he stopped behind center for an even sneakier-than-normal quarterback sneak. The wide receivers were spread out and Dalton was in shot gun, so the 49ers were unable to crowd the trenches, allowing Bell to easily fall to his left for the third-and-short conversion.
Then, on the very next play from scrimmage, the Cowboys flipped the script and passed the ball when the 49ers were expecting a run.
On the touchdown play, Lamb ran in motion, forcing the defenders to be mindful of the jet sweep. Then Dalton froze the linebacker and the safety with a fake pitch, allowing Michael Gallup to blow right by. This gave Dalton a clear passing lane to the back of the end zone.
And speaking of favorite plays, it’s so easy to forget about a play when it doesn’t produce the results you want, but the double-pass involving Cedrick Wilson was a great play design. Initially, Wilson looked at Amari Cooper running a deep post route, but the 49ers corner was playing back far enough to stay close enough to him to make it a risky pass. Wilson, then shifted to the second option which featured a convoy of blockers versus plenty of vacated space along the sideline. Unfortunately, this backup offensive line couldn’t secure their blocks as both Connor McGovern and Brandon Knight whiffed on defenders forcing Pollard to have to maneuver his way out of trouble.
Despite coming up four yards short of the first down, this was still a great design. If the Cowboys had their regular offensive line unit in there, Pollard likely gets the first down with the possibility of much, much more.
Pollard, the receiver
A huge part of Pollard’s usage against the 49ers wasn’t his rushing as this offensive line just wasn’t giving him much of a fighting chance. So, it was nice to see the Cowboys find a way to get him in space where he can actually be effective. With Pollard the lead back, they utilized him in the passing game as he finished with a career-high six receptions that went for 63 yards.
While that’s the target volume we’ve been waiting for, it shouldn’t take him playing 90% of the offensive snaps to get there. When Zeke comes back, hopefully Kellen Moore will make a concerted effort in getting Pollard more involved in the passing game, because it works. It works well.
Don’t forget about...
The Cowboys caught a break when it appeared that Dalton fumbled the ball after he took off running. 49ers defender Javon Kinlaw clearly jostles the ball loose from Dalton, but the question then becomes whether or not Dalton regained control of the ball before hitting the ground. Considering the ball pops out rather far, it seems evident he did not. This was one of those instances where it was too hard to overrule the call on the field, and had it been initially ruled a fumble, there’s no way that one’s being overturned. This would have given the 49ers the ball at the Cowboys 30-yard line.
Stay tuned for another installment of this video series coming soon as we turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball.