Cowboys vs 49ers: Gut projection
Projection: Dallas Cowboys 27, San Francisco 49ers 24
This game will be a bit of a defensive feeling out process early. Both teams’ defenses are very stout and neither offense is going to want to make a costly mistake early, especially the 49ers with a rookie quarterback.
The key for the Cowboys here on defense is pressure. They were living in the backfield against Tom Brady and need to do so again with Purdy. Flustering the rookie could be monumental in speeding him up, forcing some ill-advised throws, and creating turnovers. Purdy is just mobile enough to evade pressure but he had just 13 rushing yards in the regular season. The Cowboys can pin their ears back if they can force passing downs.
On offense, the Cowboys meet a defense allowing 77.7 rushing yards per game. Running the ball won’t come easy here. To keep them honest, Dallas needs to find a way to grind out 100 yards in this one. If Dallas can earn hard yards on the ground, the 49ers are middle-of-the-pack in passing defense, an area Dallas is feeling great in.
Dak Prescott is hot and he is confident. This game goes through him and his ability to process fast will be key here. The 49ers are tied for the league lead with 20 interceptions and know how to turn the ball over. Dak has to be smart, accurate, and not try to win this game with one throw. As we saw last week, Dak was keen to use his legs in key situations. Watch for that again this week to be a key factor.
What Brock Purdy has done has been incredible. He is talented. But his last four games have been against the likes of Seattle, Arizona, Las Vegas and Washington. They are a combined 27-40-1. They aren’t good teams. Dallas will be the best defense he has faced and a true test. Only four rookies have ever made their conference championship. That statistic speaks volumes to me. The Cowboys would be wise to do everything they can to turn this into a shootout and see if the rookie can sling it.
Dallas, Dak Prescott, Jerry Jones, and this fan base exercise demons here on the road against the 49ers in a win that signals so much more than just a win. It turns things from believing to realizing this may be a special ride. Let’s enjoy it.