Cowboys at 49ers Film Review: Standouts, notes, and observations

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 22: Ezekiel Elliott
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 22: Ezekiel Elliott /

The Dallas Cowboys bested the 49ers 40-10 on Sunday and after carefully reviewing the footage some conclusions can be drawn.

Like every week, I spent most of my post-game hours re-watching the footage. In this, Dallas’ best game of the season, there were many notable performances that may have gone unnoticed in their first viewing so we will address them in this week’s standouts, notes, and observations:

  • Memories of 2016 danced in my head as the Dallas Cowboys offensive line forced it’s will upon the talented San Francisco front seven. As expected, the 49ers stacked the box to stop the run but the Cowboys were able to lock up and win battles nonetheless. This is what was missing from them earlier in the season and it stands to reason their success is sustainable considering how good this front seven is they just faced.
  • This was Jason Witten’s best blocking game of the season. He had been playing poorly all season so it was good to see him get back on track. Maintaining this level of play is key to the success of the running game. Wit, James Hanna , and Geoff Swaim (and eventually Rico Gathers’) carry as much credit and blame as the offensive line does in the running game. All have them have been poor this season.
  • Tyron Smith was powerful but looked really stiff when asked to stop and change direction. He struggled against counter moves and didn’t look as athletic as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
  • Despite the massive success running the ball, the Cowboys mixed things up with their play-calling. Maintaining a balanced run/pass ratio is the goal of this offense and necessary to the long-term health of the club. It’s forcing growth from Prescott and will be needed against the NFL’s better teams. Dak Prescott struggled reading his passing lanes early but some of the blame must be placed on the offensive line. While this was Jonathan Cooper’s best game of the season, he was solely responsible for one batted pass after he was pushed back into Prescott’s face.
  • It was great to see Prescott was able to reclaim some of his conservative play, choosing to dirt the ball rather than gamble on risky downfield pass. He seemed to be pushing earlier in the season and taking some risks that we’re not used to see from him. It’s likely he reviewed this over the bye and made the correction to his game.
  • One of the best plays by Dak Prescott was an unsuccessful 3rd down conversion attempt. On 3rd and nine, Prescott was seeing blitz from his left, he made the pre-snap call and hit Rod Smith on a hot route in the flat on the right just as Prescott was getting hit. The ball was on target and caught but Smith was unable to advance the ball past the sticks because of tight coverage. Even though this was an unsuccessful conversion, it showed the ability to accurately find the hot route under duress. In years past, the Cowboys have struggled dealing with immediate pressure. Garrett/Linehan struggled with having a hot route available and former QB Tony Romo struggled with immediate pressure (preferring to dodge it rather than pop a pass in the face of it).
  • Tyrone Crawford played with excellent quickness and next-level handwork. I’ve been critical of his snaps in the past but his play can’t be denied and he’s easily a top-4 lineman on the Cowboys.
  • As discussed on Saturday, I love David Irving just not at the 1-tech. He’s struggled against the run in this role and Dallas can’t afford any further slippage in this already-troubling area of the game.

Related Story: The Cowboys best solution at 1-tech DT is...

I was curious how Irving would do when gaming/stunting from the 3-technique.

Maliek Collins

has been strong when gaming with

DeMarcus Lawrence

this season and nobody wanted to sacrifice that if Irving took snaps away from Collins at under tackle. Happy to report, Irving and Tank combined to stunt wonderfully.

More from Dallas Cowboys

  • Not many people know this but Jaylon Smith was fantastic pass-rusher at Notre Dame. In his return from injury, he’s struggled in some areas of the game (particularly in coverage) but hasn’t been used much as a blitzer. The Cowboys used him in that role on Sunday and were rewarded with a beautiful strip-sack where he showed natural flow and savvy to crash up the middle without much of any opposition. In other words, he didn’t just duck his head and bullrush, he flowed to open open hole and exploded through it.
  • My favorite part of Ezekiel Elliott’s 72-yard TD catch and run (besides the TD) was the downfield block by Noah Brown. I said before the season Brown was so big, so strong, and so proficient in blocking, he could serve two roles on this offense: as a receiver and as an extra tight end.
  • Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis are going to have growing pains as they learn the game but both are natural ballhawks who are looking to make the play. It won’t be long before these two are annual five-interception cornerbacks. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly in my criticism of Orlando Scandrick, if you can’t intercept the ball, you’re not only a liability but you’re a target.
  • Next: Dan Bailey on IR or roster and a look at free agent kickers

    The Cowboys need Chidobe Awuzie back 100% to take over those inside blitzes from Orlando Scandrick as well. Scandy gives virtually zero effort when met with resistance and relies on going unblocked before he even attempts to make a play. Painful to watch every week.