All three Cowboys wins this season have been blowouts, but none would be bigger than getting past the 49ers on the road in week five.
After the Dallas Cowboys dominated the New England Patriots 38-3 at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, the subject turned to next week’s opponent, the San Francisco 49ers.
In each of the past two years, the Cowboys’ season has ended with a playoff loss to San Francisco, including a 19-12 loss at Levi’s Stadium in the divisional round on Jan. 22. While that defeat is more than eight months old, it still drives Prescott.
“I mean every eff —,” Prescott said, catching himself. “Every day. Every day. Every day. Every day.”
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones called the win against the Patriots “surreal” and admitted it was hard to believe the Cowboys handed coach Bill Belichick the largest defeat of the future Hall of Fame coach’s career.
But even the owner is ready to think about the 49ers.
“There’s nothing early about that,” Jones said. “Here it is.”
Since walking out of Levi’s Stadium last January, the Cowboys’ driving force has been to find a way to beat San Francisco. They added veteran pieces in cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks in trades. They added a big defensive tackle in Mazi Smith in the first round, in part, to slow the running games of the 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’d like to think we’re able to stop the run — which that, in and of itself, would be meaningful — and then hopefully we can do a good job of not turning that ball over,” Jones said. “We’ve worked in both areas in the offseason. We’ve tried to strengthen our run defense and we’ve tried to work on turnovers and [not] giving the other team the ball.
The Cowboys offense not finishing drives in the red zone has put a cloud over their wins, even with Dak Prescott taking care of the ball and leading them to a 3-1 start.
Just before being asked about his emotional state after last year’s playoff loss, Dak was asked about preparation for and the significance of the Cowboys’ upcoming away game against San Francisco.
His response addressed not only the fact that he was ready to “turn the page” and focus on the divisional foe, but also the idea that the road to a championship would likely go through the 49ers again.
But all of this was understood long before Sunday’s postgame press conference.
One need only revisit Dak’s words immediately following the divisional round playoff loss to understand how he felt when it happened.
“I’m disappointed in the way that I’ve played. Those guys in that locker room gave it all. Both sides of the ball. And put me in a position to go win the game. And I wasn’t able to do that,” Dak said, “And, yeah, I mean, I put it on my shoulders. When you play this position, when you play for this organization, you’ve got to accept that. That’s the reality of it. And as I said, it will make me better.
“It sucks, as I said, that I don’t get another shot at it for a long time, but I know that when I wake up tomorrow, it will be the first thing on my mind, and it will as I carry it through in my training throughout this offseason, as we get to the start of next season.”
A list of the feelings and emotions detected in that statement might contain words like regret, shame, frustration, and guilt. I don’t know anyone who voluntarily revisits any event that brings up those feelings.
As a follow-up, Todd asked about the Cowboys as a team being motivated by that loss. Prescott stopped himself from swearing before replying with, “Every day. Every day. Every day, Todd, every day.”
Throughout the off-season, Dak has been more vocal than usual about his intent to get to a Super Bowl and win it.
The Cowboys knew the matchups to win up front would be there against Mac Jones, and took full advantage forcing three turnovers.
Mac Jones benched after latest dud. Jones turned the ball over three times, leading to 18 Dallas points, and completed only 12 of 21 attempts for 150 yards before being sent to the bench in favor of Bailey Zappe with 3:41 left in the third quarter. The Patriots’ woeful blocking didn’t help, but Jones’ ball security and mental mistakes exacerbated the issues. Jones never looked comfortable, often fleeing the pocket too early and throwing two atrocious interceptions that never had a shot to be completed. He’s lucky to have only thrown two. The third-year QB either couldn’t or wouldn’t stretch the field, attempting only one deep pass. Zappe fared a little better behind a sieve offensive line, completing 4 of 9 attempts for 57 yards. When asked after the game about whether Jones would start in Week 5, Bill Belichick told reporters “Yeah. I didn’t think there was any point in leaving him out there, so I took him out.” The question is how long will the leash be if the struggles continue?
Cowboys’ red-zone issues persist. It didn’t bite them this week, but Mike McCarthy’s red-zone offense remains a work in progress. Dallas started 0 of 3 in the red area, extending its streak of possessions inside the 20-yard-line without a touchdown to seven straight dating back to last week. It took a 3-yard run from fullback Hunter Luepke late in the blowout to end the streak. Dallas’ red-zone offense remains an amalgam of negative plays, head-scratching play calls and sacks. Through four weeks, Dallas is 7 of 19 in the red zone. The Cowboys moved the ball between the 20s, earning 377 yards and 22 first downs while going 8 of 15 on third-down conversions. The red-zone problems become background noise when the defense plays like it did on Sunday. But it’s something McCarthy will need to clean up to keep pace in tighter contests.
Next Gen stat of the game: Mac Jones completed 7 of 10 passes for 69 yards and two INTs when not under pressure. Jones averaged -0.85 EPA per dropback when not under pressure, his lowest mark in a game on such dropbacks in his career.
Cowboys RB Rico Dowdle will ‘have a chance to play’ vs 49ers after MRI on hip - Todd Brock, The Cowboys Wire
Dallas turned to Deuce Vaughn to run out the clock late in the game versus New England, so having Rico Dowdle back in San Francisco would be a welcome sight.
Running back Rico Dowdle exited Sunday’s Week 4 game before halftime and did not return to the team’s 38-3 win over New England. Early reports suggested that he had suffered a hip injury.
MRI results show the fourth-year ballcarrier has a hip contusion, or in layman’s terms, a deep bruise. Head coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday that Dowdle will work with the rehab group on Wednesday (after the team’s off day Tuesday) and “have a chance to play” this week when the Cowboys travel to San Francisco for a primetime NFC showdown against the undefeated 49ers.
According to Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, the team is “more optimistic than we were yesterday” about Dowdle’s availability moving forward.
It was a preseason hip injury that cost the undrafted free agent out of South Carolina his 2021 season. Dowdle’s comeback season of 2022 ended early due to an ankle injury.
This year, Dowdle has been getting carries as Tony Pollard’s primary backup. Through four games, he has logged 20 carries for 80 yards and added five receptions for 50 yards and a receiving touchdown against Arizona.
In just one week’s time, DaRon Bland’s play has greatly helped ease the loss of Trevon Diggs for the Cowboys defense.
Inside the Fake PAT
John Fassel pulled a unique trick out of his bag on Sunday when punter/holder Bryan Anger took a snap on a PAT attempt and set up a hold before immediately pulling it, standing up and firing a pass to defensive lineman Chauncey Golston who did the rest in running it into the end zone for two points.
“Every week, we’re looking for anything and most of the time there’s nothing there,” Fassel said. “If you get the look you’re hoping for and you have the guts to call it – and Coach McCarthy called it at the right time. We practiced it all week. After the first PAT, we liked the look that we saw based on what we studied and said, ‘Let’s do it on the second one.’”
The conversion was the NFL’s first successful fake PAT since the league pushed back extra points to the 15-yard line in 2015.
Nothing Bland About Bland
Second-year cornerback DaRon Bland has impressed everyone in the building from the moment he was being evaluated as a draft prospect out of Fresno State in 2022 to when he was called upon to step into a major role once again in 2023 when Trevon Diggs went down with a season-ending injury.
“There’s never been anything that’s been too big for him. He has a small school background but he doesn’t come across that way,” Quinn said. “He really took to the coaching. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a real competitor. He’s someone that we really count on.”
Bland’s two interceptions on Sunday – including one that was returned for a touchdown – have him at the top of the list of most interceptions across the NFL since he entered the league in 2022 (8).
NFL power rankings: Bills bump Chiefs, Dolphins to challenge 49ers; Steelers, Bengals plummet for Week 5 - Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News
In some power rankings, the Cowboys will be going up against the top team in the NFL this week. Stay posted here to BTB as we have our own rankings later today.
NFL power rankings Week 5
1. San Francisco 49ers 4-0 (previous ranking: 1)
Christian McCaffrey might allow the 49ers to literally run away with the NFC all the way to the Super Bowl. Brock Purdy isn’t just along for the offensive ride — he keeps making big plays too.
5. Dallas Cowboys 3-1 (7)
How about the Cowboys having a third blowout win in four games? The defense took care of business early to let the offense mostly relax. They need Dak Prescott to raise his game with a trip to the red-hot 49ers next Sunday night.
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