It’s not often that an NFL team believed to be a contender loses a game 42-10, but that’s exactly what happened when the Dallas Cowboys failed to show up for their highly anticipated matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers team that had unceremoniously booted Dallas from the playoffs two years in a row.
It became clear relatively early in the game that despite spending two offseasons allegedly trying to become a tougher team to close the talent gap that was so evident between Dallas and San Francisco, the team was no closer to beating Kyle Shanahan’s team, and in fact the gap may have widened.
There will be a lot of analysis that takes place over the next couple of days, and lots of conversations about Dak Prescott, and Mike McCarthy, and their positions as the Cowboys’ quarterback and head coach respectively.
But the clearest picture of the Cowboys loss that you’ll see all week. Is this one, provided by Daniel Houston (@cowboysstats):
A lot of the negative EPA that made this game a blowout came late.— Cowboys Stats & Graphics (@CowboysStats) October 9, 2023
But we can see which units did most to drive the Cowboys win probability from 39% at the start to ~0% by the late 3rd quarter.
Pass offense: -5 % points of WP
Rush offense: -12
Pass defense: -34
Run defense: +9
It’s pretty stark to see in such clear and concise terms, just how much of this Cowboys loss sits on the shoulders of the passing defense. The area that was supposed to be the Cowboys biggest strength, was without a doubt their greatest undoing in the biggest game of the 2023 regular season.
The pass rush was a non-factor, and there were 49ers skill players running wide open in all areas of the field. Kyle Shanahan put on a master class in play-design and play-calling, and the vaunted Cowboys defense played right into it. Dan Quinn had no answers, and the Cowboys never had a shot.
It was a sobering night for a lot of Cowboys fans, and unless something changes in the building, it likely won’t be the last such night in 2023.