The Dallas Cowboys have been preparing for this game the past few weeks by reviewing film on potential opponents they’d be facing in the playoffs, and now the time has come for that work to pay off. The Cowboys players and coaching staff had already begun meeting about the San Francisco 49ers immediately after they found out they were their next opponent. This 49ers team is quite different from when they started the season with a strong commitment to the running game and three receiving threats to go along with it. For those thinking this will be an easier win for the Cowboys than other teams, you might want to think again after we go through their stats on this season in this week's opponent preview.
San Francisco 49ers
2020 Record: 6-10
Last Meeting: 12/20/2020 - Cowboys 41 - 49ers 33
Head Coach: Kyle Shanahan
Key Additions: C Alex Mack, CB Josh Norman
Key Losses: DE Solomon Thomas, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Kendrick Bourne
Offensive Statistics and Analysis
Offensive Ranking: 13th (ppg)
Passing Offense Ranking: 12th
Rush Offense Ranking: 7th
The last time these two teams faced off, it was the battle of the beaten and battered, as both teams dealt with major injuries all last season. This year both have returned to form and are renewing their historic rivalry in the playoffs once again as the San Francisco 49ers head to AT&T Stadium to try and upset the favored Dallas Cowboys. Flying under the radar most of the season, the 49ers offense has put up solid numbers when they are on their game. Averaging 6.1 yards per play and 26 touchdowns through the air and 22 on the ground this offense looks to be pretty balanced.
The focus for many will be on this 49ers offense and their run-first mentality trying to physically dominate the line of scrimmage against this aggressive Cowboys defense. They have the firepower to do it with a stable of running backs led by Elijah Mitchell. They are averaging a healthy 4.3 yards per carry this season that averages out to 127.4 yards per game on the ground. They also average the most runs in the NFL with just under 30 attempts per game. The Cowboys are going to have their hand full-on defense trying to slow down this potent rushing attack.
But that isn’t all they have to worry about as the 49ers passing attack with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk has come alive late this season and now gives the Cowboys defense another issue to deal with. This group is averaging 7.7 yards per catch and 261 yards per game on average as well. They are also some of the most physical pass catchers that you’ll find in the league.
Defensive Statistics and Analysis
Defensive Ranking: 9th (PPG against)
Pass Defense Ranking: 6th
Run Defense Ranking: 7th
There were some out there that thought with the loss of then defensive coordinator Robert Saleh that the 49ers defense would struggle, but thanks to the talent they have along their defensive line they have been able to continue to have success on that side of the football. Led by Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead this aggressive defensive pass rush has tormented quarterbacks much of the season to make up for injuries in their secondary. A secondary that is also getting healthy at the right time and played well against the pass-heavy L.A. Rams attack.
This defense is very good at getting pressure on the quarterback with 48 sacks on the season, but they are also good at forcing fumbles with 21 so far on the season. The 49ers can get pressure without resorting to the blitz as they only blitz around 19% of the time which puts them at the bottom of the league in that category. They get pressure with their front four so Dak Prescott will have to read through a lot of defenders on most pass plays.
The 49ers tend not to hurt themselves through penalties so they make an offense earn everything they can get. The secondary is their weak point and they are not very good at creating interceptions, only getting nine on the year. They will, as noted above, force fumbles and they are a sure tackling team, ranking in the top ten of that category. They are going to try and pressure the quarterback without blitzing and make sure tackles to force offenses to work to move the chains.