Dallas Cowboys (0-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
When: 3:05 PM CST
It is a tale of two teams as the Cowboys enter San Francisco for their match up against the 49ers this Sunday. Dallas is coming off a heart breaking loss to the Jets in a highly emotional New York last week. The Cowboys watched as Tony Romo became the lightning rod for the fourth quarter collapse, that saw the Jets rally from 14 points down to win the game. The 49ers are coming in riding two special teams touchdowns from Ted Ginn Jr. that launched them over the Seahawks last week.
The temperature is quite different for each team. While this is not a must-win for the Cowboys, it is for the fans. After all, it is only the second game of the season, but Cowboys fans need something to reassure them that this is a different team than the one that got off to a 1-7 start last year. While all signs point to the fact it is, the Cowboys are entering a couple of “should win” games the next few weeks, and they need to start winning. The pressure is on Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense to protect the ball and score some points.
The 49ers, who are not expected to do a lot this season, are riding high after a win over the Seahawks, despite the lack of a consistent offense. The 49ers took advantage of their stud return man, Ted Ginn Jr., to ease past a terrible Seahawks team 33-17.
This game will boil down to injuries for the Cowboys. The Cowboys defense is without two of their top three corners, and their healthy one, Mike Jenkins, is beat up. The Cowboys will play without Terrance Newman and Orlando Scandrick. They will be looking to Alan Ball, Bryan McCann, and newcomer, Frank Walker, to contain the 49ers receivers.
Tony Romo will also look to bounce back after a fourth quarter meltdown in New York. Romo does have the support of his teammates that came to his defense during the week. While many media members and fans were attacking Romo, teammate Keith Brooking came to his defense publicly, “That’s not the rap in this locker room,” the linebacker said of Romo, “Who cares what everyone else thinks? I’ll take that guy over anybody in this league. Y’all might think I’m crazy, but I’m telling you right now, he’s going to have an all-time year…I’ve seen enough football to know the guy’s ready for the next level.” While the support is a good sign for the Cowboys, it will be Romo’s play on the field that will ease the talk surrounding the quarterback.
The 49ers are looking for a much stronger offensive performance this week. While QB Alex Smith was efficient (15-20, 124 yards), he was not going down the field to his receivers. Wideouts, Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree, were both quiet catching only 4 passes. The 49ers defense looked good against the Seahawks, but right now that doesn’t mean a lot. The Cowboys will present them with a much greater challenge.
The 49ers will also be looking to build on RB Frank Gore’s performance. Gore gained only 57 yards on 22 carries. He will be looking for a bounce back game against a Cowboys defense that did very well against New York’s vaunted rushing attack.
The Keys For Dallas:
Obviously, Dallas will need to protect the ball this week, especially in the fourth quarter. If the Cowboys get a lead, the offense and special teams will need to help out their defense by keeping the defense out of short field situations. If the Cowboys limit their turnovers, the 49ers will have a hard time driving the length of the field with the Rob Ryan’s exotic blitz schemes.
Tony Romo will be the biggest difference maker in this game. If he is the Romo from the first three quarters last week, the 49ers will find it difficult to keep up with the Cowboys. If we get a fourth quarter Romo, this game will go to the wire. The 49ers defense will also see a lot of Felix Jones to try to establish a balanced attack. Look for G Derrick Dockery to make his first start for Dallas on the offensive line. The big man will fill in this week for the injured Bill Nagy. If Dockery does well he may supplant Nagy as the starter.
For the Cowboys defense, pressure will be the key. If they can get pressure on Smith, he is prone to making a lot of mistakes. The Cowboys will have 2nd and 3rd team players in the secondary and will need DeMarcus Ware and the rest of the front seven to really mess with Smith’s head in this game. A heavy pass rush can cover a multitude of weaknesses in the back end.
The Keys For San Francisco:
The 49ers will want to force Romo into making some of those plays he made last week. If they can fluster the quarterback in the pocket and force him to scramble around, they may get chances for some fumbles or ill-advised throws. The 49ers have a great front seven, led by LB Patrick Willis. If Willis and company can stop the run effectively, they will be able to unleash on Romo when he drops back to pass.
For the 49ers offense, TE Vernon Davis is the key. Davis has amazing speed for a man of his size. He is a matchup nightmare for the Cowboys. Linebackers cannot stay with him, and safeties are too small to handle him. Look for Smith to exploit the Cowboys with seam passes to Davis, and also use him as a safety net. With wideout, Michael Crabtree, nursing a sore ankle, it is Braylon Edwards that will provide the biggest threat outside. The 49ers will have to use quick hitting plays to get the ball in Edwards hands. The Cowboys defense will be coming fast and furious.
Players To Watch:
Tony Romo. Coming off this week, Romo needs a good showing here to inspire some hope in him and take some pressure off this team.
Other than Davis, Frank Gore. Gore is an unbelievable weapon at running back. He needs to get back on track, and the Cowboys aggressiveness on defense might allow Gore to find cutback lanes and sneak out on some delayed handoffs.
While I went against my ‘Boys last week, I just don’t think the 49ers can hang with them this week. Dallas wins 38-13.