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Film finds: Missed opportunities underline a disappointing loss vs. 49ers

The Cowboys fail capitalize against the 49ers and fall short once again in the postseason

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Days later after the Dallas Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 19-12, Cowboys Nation is trying to move on quickly. At this time last week, there was hope, there was excitement, and dare I say belief. The belief that this team was different and the belief that this team had the makings of a champion.

Sadly, the fanbase has to come to grips with a harsh reality that they’ve become familiar with for far too long. Having lost to the 49ers in the postseason for the second consecutive season, it drives home the point that this team isn’t as close to being a legitimate contender as some may have thought.

Perhaps more disappointing is that while this team was flawed, they were talented enough to win last week and advance to the NFC title game. The problem is they were simply unable to cash in on the opportunities afforded to them. Before you begin your mock drafts and dive head first into scouting notebooks, here’s the final edition of Film Finds for the 2022 Dallas Cowboys.

Micah’s impact beyond the box score

To start the game, the Dallas Cowboys’ defense did an excellent job at getting a feel for what the San Francisco 49ers were trying to do offensively. The 49ers are known for getting opposing defenses to out-leverage themselves and use that to their advantage. They’re also unique in how they use wide receiver Deebo Samuel. This play set the tone for what would be a defensive struggle for much of the game.

San Francisco is in the pistol with Samuel as the tailback and running back Christian McCaffrey lined up as the wide receiver. Kyle Jusczyk is also in the backfield, flanking Brock Purdy. To counter their personnel, the Cowboys are in a nickel defense with safety Jayron Kearse serving as the fifth defensive back and is in the box.

What the 49ers are trying to do is set up a screen to get Samuel the ball out in space with lead blocks from McCaffrey, Jusczyk, and tight end George Kittle. You have four defenders in this area and four blockers. If the 49ers get Samuel the ball, it’s likely a huge gain.

Though Osa Odighizuwa gets the credit, this sack is caused by Micah Parsons and his immediate penetration in the backfield. Parsons gets up the field so quickly on Trent Williams that he’s directly in the passing lane the second Purdy turns his hips to throw to the left. Purdy is forced to double clutch the ball, before falling into the waiting arms of Odighizuwa. Another example of Parsons creating an opportunity for his defense by merely his presence.

This close to breaking one

A lot of people were critical and downright disappointed KaVaontae Turpin’s 44-yard kickoff return wasn’t returned for a touchdown. Many had said if he took the outside path he likely scores. There’s a reason he didn’t, and that reason saved a touchdown for San Francisco to allow them to keep a 16-9 lead to start the fourth quarter.

As you’re going to see this is an intentional directional kick by Robbie Gould toward the left sideline. Besides Turpin, the key players to this return are Luke Gifford, Sean McKeon, and CJ Goodwin.

When Oren Burks #48 crosses Ferguson’s face it creates a seam for Turpin to attack. Jake Ferguson and Markeese Bell also do a great job with their assignments. Luke Gifford has Charlie Woerner perfectly blocked to form the other side of Turpin’s return lane.

Luke Gifford sustains his block on Charlie Woerner before pancaking him and with Turpin’s speed, it looks like a house call. That is until Janoris Jenkins forces Turpin to make a quick decision. Turpin looks like he’s only got Gould to get past on his way to the end zone but since Goodwin never gets a clean block on Jenkins, Turpin is forced to cut back inside for Gould to make the tackle. The Cowboys would fail to score a touchdown on this drive but were so close to tying the game on this return.

Long ball to Lamb

It’s easy to forget the Cowboys led for much of last week’s game. Turnovers played a major part in that but also the case can be made that they were nowhere near as aggressive as they should have been. They faced a 49ers secondary that demonstrated that they were susceptible to big plays down the field the prior week against the Seattle Seahawks. That’s why it’s disappointing that the Cowboys didn’t attack vertically more often, especially after CeeDee Lamb’s 46-yard gain that’ll well examine here.

After shifting Ezekiel Elliott back behind Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are in a single-back Ace Pair set. (Two tight ends to the right) The 49ers will show split safeties before walking down Talanoa Hufanga for a single safety high look.

San Francisco is in a cover 3, which is essentially a one-on-one for CeeDee Lamb matched up against Deommodore Lenoir. Dak Prescott does a good job of holding the middle safety Tashaun Gipson in the middle of the field with his eyes before uncorking the pass to Lamb.

On the outside, Lamb eats up Lenoir’s cushion right away. Nothing fancy, pure straight-line speed. The pass is a bit underthrown, and Lamb is interfered with by Lenoir. No problem. Lamb smoothly adjusts to the flight of the ball, playing through the contact, and hauls in the pass for the big gain. Again, it’s puzzling why the Cowboys didn’t try to advantage of this more often but overall, a great catch by Lamb.

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