The Cowboys stout run defense will be tested by the 49ers bread and butter

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San Francisco loves to run the football. Kyle Shanahan has built a reputation for being one of the most creative and effective play designers in the NFL. And it’s all done with an extremely unstable quarterback situation. The 49ers haven’t missed a beat since moving to Brock Purdy at quarterback. San Francisco’s third baseman has pretty much picked up where Jimmy Garoppolo left off, driving the Shanahan train and splashing in big plays along the way.

But make no mistake, this is a serious crime. And for the Cowboys to find success in Sunday’s divisional matchup with San Francisco, Dan Quinn’s defense will need to find a way to shut down the engine that makes Shanahan’s offense go.

In almost every situation, the 49ers run the ball at a higher rate than expected and it works out well for them. As of Week 13 (a date based on the addition of Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey), San Francisco ranks 1st in the NFL in EPA/game (expected points) and 10th in passing rate (snaps). a game that increases the probability of winning).

Their run-heavy approach forces defenders to move players up to stop the run, to which the 49ers respond by throwing the ball downfield into loose coverage .

In the wild card round, only two of Brock Purdy’s 30 attempts were flagged as “tight coverage (defender within 1-yard)” indicating that completions have come easy to the rookie starter.

The Cowboys won’t be able to sit back in shells like they did against the Buccaneers and just run their opponent. They need to play the run first because this is the base the 49ers offense runs for

“I think our biggest focus this week is tackling,” McCarthy said. “We have to have a great performance in tackling because they do a great job breaking tackles.”

The Cowboys have been very successful in stopping the run lately. By measuring the Cowboys’ run-stopping defense over the same period we just measured in San Francisco, the Cowboys are fifth in pass completion rate and second in EPA allowed.

Quinn has made a big effort to replace girth on the defensive end with speed, length and endurance. Carlos Watkins and Chauncey Golston are the most recent examples of that.

Both players have been steady defensive linemen for Dallas down the field and both have largely beaten their girthier brothers, Neville Gallimore and Quinton Bohanna, down the depth chart.

The 49ers are one of the best rushing teams in the NFL. The Cowboys have become one of the best run-stopping teams in the NFL. Something has to give on Sunday.


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The story first appeared on Cowboys Wire

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