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3 run concepts that were effective against the Cowboys in last year’s playoff matchup

It’s hard to imagine the Niners not being more effective now that they have Christian McCaffrey

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The 49ers and Cowboys will meet in the playoffs for the second straight season. The rivalry has naturally invoked strong feelings from both fanbases and players.

I looked back at last season’s matchup in the Wild Card round and revealed a few run concepts that were effective against Dan Quinn and the Cowboys’ defense. I referenced Bobby Peter’s manual about the 49ers' offense, which can be found on Amazon.

Play 1 - Crack Toss/Outside Zone

The 49ers come out with 22 personnel, with both tight ends to the left. Brandon Aiyuk is the play-side receiver in a tight split and is responsible for Micah Parsons. This concept is great at beating bear fronts, such as the one Dallas is showing.

Alex Mack and Tom Compton head for the second level. Daniel Brunskill and Aiyuk seal their blocks, leaving Kyle Juszczyk one-on-one with the defensive back.

Executed flawlessly, touchdown as Elijah Mitchell wins the foot race to the pylon.

Play 2 - Inside Zone Slice

Jeff Wilson, Jr starts with a return motion to the left. Micah Parsons and the defense use that as a clue the play is headed in that direction. During the 2021 season, the 49ers implemented a toss substituted for handoffs. The idea is to mimic inside zone to get defenders to flow in the direction of the clues and create a cutback lane.

All it takes is one misstep from Parsons to be wiped from the play. The entire line bites to the play's strength, and Deebo Samuel can follow George Kittle to the cutback lane.

Also, not sure why Dallas rotated to a three-high look which lightened the box on this play.

Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel did a masterful job of showing play direction and using defenders’ eyes against them.

Play 3 - Long Trap

Dallas is showing an “over” front. The DT is aligned to the closed side of the formation (TE side), with the NT to the open side.

Kittle takes a step to the DE, but it is a setup for Brunskill, who pulls from the right. Micah Parsons is Kittle’s target as Parsons reads his responsibility to the “C gap.” Parsons reads Brunskill as where the run and block are coming through. Kittle seals him, and Brunskill blocks the DE.

Samuel’s motion moves Parsons and #26 to the right and right into Kittle and Jauan Jennings. Jennings initially misses but seals 26, and Mitchell sees daylight.

Forcing Trevon Diggs to tackle at the second and third levels is a wise strategy.

These play examples are strictly from last year, but they are examples of how to neutralize Parsons regardless of his alignment. The running game is more explosive this year. Expect Shanahan to create similar concepts on Sunday.