‘Make people think’: How the Cowboys plan to contain Brock Purdy and the versatile 49ers offense - Jori Epstein, Yahoo! Sports
The Cowboys have been looking forward to this matchup ever since they lost to the 49ers a season ago in the playoffs. Even with a new signal-caller at quarterback, San Francisco still presents problems for the Dallas defense.
Because in the eyes of Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, this contest will feature a face off of mad scientists. 49ers head coach and play caller Kyle Shanahan stands opposite Quinn, who was Shanahan’s boss when they coached together with the Atlanta Falcons. The Niners offense will threaten; the Cowboys defense will stage their counterattack. Rinse, repeat, diagnose, adjust.
“We kind of work in the same basement lab, just different sides of the same room,” Quinn explained. “Using the different players in different roles, the real mark of somebody who really knows how to attack. ... I do enjoy seeing from them the variety of the way they use the players.”
And on Sunday in an NFC divisional game pitting a rematch of teams who competed in the wild-card round last year, forget to which category of the depth chart players belong. Instead, expect San Francisco receivers aligning at running back, running backs as fullbacks, fullbacks at tight end and more. Expect Dallas safeties creeping into the box as linebackers, linebackers stepping up as defensive ends and edge rushers shifting over to defensive tackle.
Positionless football will abound. Coaches and players on each side of the ball expect their team’s best to emerge amid creative pressure.
The Cowboys have not faced a collection of weapons as versatile and talented as the 49ers this season. And the 49ers have not faced a defense as efficient or opportunistic as Dallas’.
“Best on best,” Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons said. “It’s really matchup against matchup.
“We’ve been working some things, so we get some disguised looks. Make people think…”
Dan Quinn might’ve saved Cowboys secondary with this personnel change - Jerry Trotta, The Landry Hat
There were many questions going into the Wild Card game about the Cowboys' secondary and who would be playing opposite Travon Diggs. It turned out that DaRon Bland was the best option on the outside, but the slot corner was a complete surprise.
A projected starter with Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland, Wright stepped up to the challenge against the Eagles on Christmas Eve before enduring a rough night in coverage vs the Titans the following week. Perhaps it was that performance that influenced his benching, but he still produced an interception.
Whatever the case, Wright lost his spot on the active roster to Israel Mukuamu. The decision indicated Dallas would run a lot of four-safety looks with Mukaumu joining Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson, and Malik Hooker.
That … wasn’t the case.
Instead, Dan Quinn tasked Mukuamu with covering the slot, and the second-year defender made Quinn look like a genius in the process. So much so that Kearse gave Mukuamu a proper shoutout on Twitter after the victory.
Young man a damn player no question @IsraelMukuamu 6’4 getting busy in that slot— Jayron Kearse (@Jayronkearse8) January 17, 2023
Israel Mukuamu needs to be the Cowboys’ third cornerback after he starred against the Buccaneers.
Peep the engagement on Kearse’s Twitter. Sure seems like Mukuamu has the backing of ample Cowboys fans after Monday night.
At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, a wide contingent of analysts and fans have speculated whether Mukuamu would be better served at corner than safety. The Cowboys drafted him as a safety out of South Carolina in the 2021 draft (sixth round), and he’s struggled seeing the field during the regular season despite playing well throughout the offseason program and preseason.
That’s a testament to Dallas’ safety room being among the best (if not the best) in the league, but Mukuamu flashed the goods Monday night.
According to PFF, the former Gamecock allowed just two catches for 16 yards on five targets across 24 coverage snaps. He allowed just a 48.8 passer rating when targeted for good measure. While Tom Brady didn’t have his best night from an efficiency standpoint, those are impressive numbers for a player who hadn’t played more than 10 defensive snaps in a game since Week 8 against the Bears.
Micah Parsons makes bold promise ahead of 49ers showdown - Clark Dalton, Yardbarker
Micah Parsons doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. This week is no different as the All-Pro makes a bold claim before the game on Sunday.
Cowboys superstar Micah Parsons promises 49ers star offensive tackle Trent Williams will have a front-row seat to a phenomenal performance in Sunday’s divisional-round playoff game.
“I want Trent’s best game ever, and he’s going to get my best game ever,” the outside linebacker said Thursday, per ESPN’s Ed Werder.
Lining up across from Williams, a 10-time Pro Bowler, and the rest of San Francisco’s offense will be a test. Pro Football Focus graded Williams as its top offensive tackle (92.5). His blocking helped propel the 49ers, who have the league’s sixth-best offense.
Per Oddschecker, the 49ers have the third-best odds to make the Super Bowl.
In Monday’s 31-14 win over Tampa Bay, Parsons had two pass deflections, a sack and three tackles. Against the Niners, he relishes being the underdog.
“Honestly, I think you should feed into it. You should love that stuff,” Parsons said. “When no one believes in you, that’s the best feeling.”
Cowboys Playoff Revenge at 49ers? ‘Remember The Pain!’ Says Zeke - Adam Schultz, The Tribune
The sting of the Cowboys losing in the final seconds of the Wild Card game a season ago stuck with a lot of the players. It’s something they will use as motivation until the clock hits triple zero.
After sweeping aside the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, attention now turns to the team that ended Dallas’ season last year in a sour way.
That feeling will be revisited this week at The Star with a constant reminder of what happened at AT&T Stadium last January. The loss still haunts running back Ezekiel Elliott. “It hurt,” Elliott said. “You just have to remember that pain.’’
Pain and revenge and “scar tissue’’ can be very motivating factors, and no doubt the Cowboys will be drawing on that as they face the juggernaut that is the 49ers.
So how does Dallas avenge last season’s loss, this time in hostile territory? Many say it’s about the run game with Elliott and Tony Pollard. However, the 49ers boast a superb defensive unit that is one of the NFL’s best at stopping the run.
But that won’t stop Zeke from trying to batter and bruise the 49ers’ defensive line.
“I think the more blows you get, the more tired those guys will get,” Elliott said. “It’s tough for us, but easier for them earlier in the game when they’re fresh. But as they get tired, you start to see those runs gain more and more yards.”
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