Cowboys vs 49ers Wild Card game: history, key players, projection
By Riley Donald
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Cowboys vs Eagles: Gut Projection
Projection: Dallas Cowboys 27, San Francisco 49ers 23
Wild Card weekend never sees many blowouts. Now that it’s SUPER Wild Card Weekend, we get even closer games. That is what I expect on Sunday. This one won’t get out of hand either way, and I think we see a final drive with a shot to win it. Let’s see how we get there.
As discussed in the last slide, the 49ers can defend the run. They don’t get gashed, and I don’t suspect that changes a ton this weekend. That is where we turn to Dak Prescott and the trio of Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Cedrick Wilson.
There’s only one correct stance on how you feel about Dak Prescott this weekend. You’re either with us or you’re against us.
It’s the playoffs. Whether you like or dislike Prescott, it goes out the window right now. The offseason is where we can debate that. Not right now. There is only one side and that is backing Prescott. I am swinging the bandwagon door wide open right now and inviting everyone aboard the Prescott Hype Train.
I like Cooper on a few deep comebacks for chunk plays. Lamb gets involved in quick hitters and between the hash marks on deep digs and seam routes. Wilson continues to be a clutch performer on third and fourth down and gives us a huge fourth-down conversion in the second half.
The 49ers are more susceptible to the aerial attack and we saw it against the Rams last week. Cooper Kupp put up 118 yards and tight end Tyler Higbee added 55. Don’t sleep on Dalton Schultz being another one of our unsung heroes. The Cowboys will get their chances this game as long as they contain Nick Bosa, their sack leader with 15.5. While Pollard may be a better matchup in the run game, Ezekiel Elliott could help this team win the game with his pass block and blitz pick-up. That isn’t often noticed but keep an eye out for it Sunday as it could prove to be hugely important.
On the other side of the ball, there’s absolutely no secret to what the 49ers want to do. They are going to run the ball. Run it again. And then run it again. They want to pound the rock. With 2,100+ rushing yards, 4.3 yards per carry, and 22 rushing touchdowns, the 49ers don’t just try to run it, they do so extremely effectively.
Running back Elijah Mitchell has nearly 1,000 yards even with missing time and Samuel has 365 rushing yards to go with his 1,405 receiving yards. My point is the 49ers want to run it and know their best chance is running the ball to shorten the game. They don’t want a shootout with Dallas.
The Cowboys would be best suited to load the box in an effort to stuff the run and force obvious passing situations. Garoppolo isn’t overly mobile, and Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Micah Parsons would benefit greatly from him having to try and sling it 35+ times this weekend.
If the Cowboys can force the 49ers into a shootout or high-tendency passing downs, that gives them an advantage. The 49ers give up a touch over two sacks per game and that number would likely be inflated if their run game gets shut down.
This game stays close throughout. The 49ers and Kyle Shanahan are going to scheme guys open, and they will get a few. I mean, they still are a playoff team. Nothing comes easy at this point in the year. Something deep in my gut is telling me this game ends on the final drive. There are two ways I see that happening.
The first way is the Cowboys down 23-20 late and Dak Prescott tosses a touchdown pass late to CeeDee Lamb in what is a coronation into history amongst Cowboys fans for the both of them. Just imagine AT&T Stadium in a whiteout with a late touchdown to go on top. Goosebumps.
The second ending I keep envisioning is the Cowboys hanging onto a 27-23 lead and the 49ers in a two-minute drill. The Cowboys lean on their defense one final time like they have much of this year. Parsons gets pressure and Garoppolo tries to unload the ball to avoid a sack. One of the ball-hawking secondary members comes down with it and Jerry World goes seismic in the celebration.
I don’t plan on having a healthy heart rate at any point Sunday afternoon. I can barely control it right now as I’m typing my thoughts of how the Cowboys could win this thing. Buckle up. This is what we all wanted and it’s finally here. Playoff football, baby.
Final Projection: Cowboys 27, 49ers 23. Onto the Divisional Round.