The Cowboys got back to their winning ways on Sunday with a 40-10 shellacking of the San Francisco 49ers. While beating a winless team isn’t anything to brag to your friends about, the manner of which the Cowboys won certainly is. The 49ers have lost several close games this season, but this wasn’t one of them. Dallas jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. The last time the Cowboys won a road game by 30 or more points was way back in 2006.
There were plenty of things to get excited about and yet still some reasons for concerns. Here are three winners and three losers from Sunday’s game.
The offensive line
This was hands down the best performance by the Cowboys offensive line this season. As a team, they had 265 yards rushing which is more than any other team has had in any game this year. The resemblance to the 2016 rushing attack was back and it could be here to stay awhile. Over the first three games, the Cowboys averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Over the last three games, they’ve averaged 5.9 yards per carry. La’el Collins and Jonathan Cooper are starting to gel nicely with the group.
Dak and Zeke
Ezekiel Elliott had 219 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Dak Prescott threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. When the dust had settled, the Cowboys scored 40 points and had over 500 yards of offense. It was great to see this group continue to play well. For the third straight game, the offense has scored 30 or more points. Last year’s rookie sensations are taking full advantage of the tools around them and carrying the offense.
Elliott was finally able to show off his speed when he gets in space. He can hurt you in the running game and in the passing game as he exploded for another big screen play where he scampered down the sideline for a touchdown. Prescott is a dual threat of his own. Not only is he throwing perfectly placed passes to Jason Witten, but he uses his legs at the right time. Whether it’s from a read option or quarterback draw, Prescott continues to be effective running the ball.
Tank and Dino
Believe or not, the Cowboys pass rush is alive. It’s one thing when you have DeMarcus Lawrence recording a sack in each game this season for a grand total of 9.5 sacks on the year. But it’s another thing altogether when you have David Irving returning to action and recording a sack in each game he’s been in too.
Not only are these two getting to the quarterback, but they are creating all kinds of havoc on the field. They will tackle backs for a loss, knock down passes, and keep finding ways to knock the ball out of the hands of their opponent.
These two are turning into something special.
The Cowboys kicking game
The Cowboys suffered one casualty due to injury in this game and it just so happens to be to the NFL’s all-time leading kicker. Dan Bailey injured his groin while he was warming up on the sideline during the second quarter of the game.
Safety Jeff Heath stepped up and performed admirably. He had a couple cases of the shankopotamus, but still managed to convert two of three extra point attempts. On kickoffs, he was very effective, allowing an average starting field position of the 23-yard line and even had two touchbacks.
The Cowboys will bring in an actual kicker and sign him to fill in during Bailey’s absence. Heath won’t be part of the mix going forward, but that doesn’t make fans feel much better. We’ve come to rely on Bailey as being a sure-fire leg to get the job done and now we’ll have to endure what many other teams go through when they hold their breath on field goal attempts. Let’s just hope Bailey’s absence doesn’t prove costly.
Two things happened in the 49ers game that really hurt Kellen Moore’s chances to remain on the team. First, Cooper Rush was made active for the first time all season which meant Moore didn’t dress. The Cowboys liked what they saw out of Rush in the preseason, but wanted to take their time with him until he was ready. Well, apparently that time has come. Not only was Rush active, but he even saw the field in garbage time. He looked poised and made a very nice run on third down to keep the clocking moving.
The loss of Bailey also means the Cowboys are going to have to carry two kickers on the roster until he returns. That means somebody is going to have to be cut to make room and Moore looks like a prime candidate.
The Cowboys corners
The pass rush was phenomenal. They were in C.J. Beathard’s grill all night and recorded five sacks. The linebacker group played great as well. Between Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens, they had a total of five tackles for losses. Even Jaylon Smith got in on the action with a nice sack/fumble.
But if there was one area that didn’t look so great, it was the Cowboys corners. The Cowboys forced three turnovers but they were real close to having more. Orlando Scandrick almost had a pick, but couldn’t get that second foot down in bounds. Anthony Brown did have a pick, but it was nullified because he was called for pass interference.
And even though Jourdan Lewis got burned at the end of the game against the Green Bay Packers, he still struggles getting his body turned around to make a play on the ball. The 49ers went after him in the end zone and once again he had his back to the ball.
The 49ers had seven players that caught passes of 10 yards or more. Granted, the defense is going to give up more plays like that when the opposing offense is forced to air it out, but there were still some instances that the secondary was allowing too much space.
Are you pleased with the Cowboys win over the 49ers? Do you think this team is showing signs of being a legit playoff contender? Share your answer with Dan on Twitter @DannyPhantom24.