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Cowboys defense preparing for 49ers' versatility, physicality

Abstract: The Dallas Cowboys know that they have their work cut out for them defensively against Deebo Samuel and the multifaceted San Francisco 49ers offense

DALLAS — The San Francisco 49ers offense has a variety of ways to beat teams, both physically and mentally.

The best example is receiver Deebo Samuel. Despite the wideout leading the NFL with 18.2 yards per reception, the 25-year-old is also regarded for his ability to take jet sweeps and handoffs out of the backfield.

In order to counter what the 49ers do well, Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Micah Parsons believes the defense will need to match that level of versatility.

"I think it’s going to be versatility on versatility," Parsons said. "We're going to play like that. We’ve got to minimize their explosives and create our turnovers and explosives on defense, get the ball back. The more we can stay off the field and the more we keep our offense on the field, I think we’ve got a great chance of winning this game."

One of the areas where the 49ers first befuddle teams is in the pre-snap with their motions and shifts.

"I think it’s the motions and shifts that go along with it that challenge you on your leverage more than anything else: a tight end motion, a shift, a receiver in the backfield," Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. "So, challenging you on your leverage and I think that’s one of the things their offense does well. Clearly they’ve got a lot of explosive plays both in the run and off the play pass, but when you marry up the two things together, the run and the play pass, that’s when you can get a linebacker or safety to step up and they’ll try to rip one behind you."

The 49ers finished the regular season averaging 127.4 rushing yards per game, the seventh-most in the NFL. The pass game averaged 8.6 yards per attempt, the second-highest in the league.

"System wise that balance that they have of run and play pass makes them unique," said Quinn.

What has helped both the run and pass is tight end George Kittle, who had 71 catches, sixth-most among tight ends, for 910 yards and six touchdowns.

Said Parsons: "You look at Kittle, the way he’s able to hold blocks and really go into play action and vertical threat. You look at the rest of their running backs. It speaks for itself."

The Cowboys host the 49ers on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Central Time in the NFC wild-card at AT&T Stadium, the eighth postseason meeting between the two franchises.

Do you think Dan Quinn’s unit will show up big against San Francisco? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.