It’s playoff time, meaning our Madden simulation this week is that much more interesting. The Cowboys scored the ‘W’ but the telling thing is how they handled their business. Let’s review.
Dak Prescott was efficient if unspectacular
Dak Prescott completed 19 of 24 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. While that’s a great completion percentage, the sub-200 yards and lone score might give some in Cowboys Nation pause. Was Prescott only ‘okay’ in the team’s biggest game of the year to date? Far from it.
Dak was aggressive in this game, but relied more heavily on his legs than we’ve seen in previous weeks, taking advantage of man coverage often to pick up first downs on runs needing seven, eight, even twelve yards to convert. The stress this placed on the 49er defense opened things up for Cowboy receivers to find soft spots in zone coverage and haul in easy catches to keep drives alive.
Dallas burst out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, with Prescott’s two lone mistakes coming on a near interception in the first quarter near mid-field and a costly seven-yard sack on 2nd-and-10 that forced Dallas to settle for a field goal on its promising opening drive. Outside of that, you really couldn’t ask more of your franchise QB.
Dallas’s run game isn’t scared of a tough San Francisco front
Ezekiel Elliott might not have had a monster game but he punished the 49er defense with hard running and a couple of goalline scores that helped the Cowboys leap out to that 17-0 first half lead. All that clanging and banging opened holes for Tony Pollard to change the pace, cutting and slicing through the heart of the ‘Niner defense to maintain perfect balance.
By the time Prescott tossed his first touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass to Dalton Schultz that made it 31-3 Dallas, San Francisco’s spirit was wholly broken. Whatever grit may have remained was swiftly stamped out by Elliott’s vicious running to run out the clock, dragging defenders and powering forward for gains of seven, ten, and eight yards respectively to make sure Dallas’s statement was well-heard.
We can only hope Elliott is similarly impactful Sunday afternoon.
Dallas’s defense was in top form
To say the Cowboys dominated this game would be an understatement. Aside from the 31-3 final, Dallas won in every box score category imaginable. They threw for 184 yards. They rushed for 201 yards. They averaged 6.7 yards per play, and they forced a pair of takeaways, one of which was returned for a touchdown. But it was more than that. The defense decided this game more than anything else.
DeMarcus Lawrence recorded an absurd four sacks, the last of which resulted in a fumble which San Francisco recovered. Trevon Diggs intercepted a pass for Samuel and returned it 38 yards to the house to make it 24-0 Cowboys. With the Cowboy offense sparking early to 10 quick points, thanks to the Cowboy defense forcing a three-and-out on the 49ers opening drive, the San Francisco offensive attack was forced to look to the air to try and climb back into the game – something they would prefer not to do.
Jimmy Garoppolo was never able to settle in and find his receivers, San Francisco’s hole grew deeper and deeper, taking what looked coming in to be a slugfest waiting to breakout and ended up being a one-sided bludgeoning by the Cowboys. The 49ers didn’t score their first points of the game until the third quarter when they settled for a mid-range field goal to cut the Cowboy lead to 24-3. That concession on 4th-and-2 meant the game was already over despite it being early in the second half.
Without a run game and with Garoppolo’s penchant for costly mistakes on display, Dallas pinned back its ears and got after the quarterback behind its leader, Tank. It was a perfect recipe for a Cowboy win on Sunday.
You can watch the entire simulation below:
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