The 49ers are currently enjoying their best offense of the Kyle Shanahan era. They’ve scored at least 37 points in the last four games, and they have a quarterback with the Midas touch right now. However, on today’s Gold Standard podcast, Levin Black explained why points might be a little harder to come by this week against Dallas.
“First, the Cowboys are a gambling defense. That scares me because even the worst gamblers get lucky one night a year. If the Cowboys get a couple of those turnovers, that might be enough to unravel things.
But also, not enough has been made that the Cowboys’ defense is actually really good at the things that you need to be good at to stop this 49ers offense.
The Cowboys allowed the fourth fewest receptions to running backs in the league. They’re very good at limiting someone like McCaffrey. They also haven’t given up a receiving touchdown to running backs. So McCaffrey might not be the get out of jail free card in this game. So what happens to this offense if that’s taken away? That remains to be seen.
You also look at tight ends. If McCaffrey is taken away, Purdy might want to go to Kittle. They’ve given up the sixth fewest yards to tight ends and only one touchdown to tight ends all year. So they’re really really good against running backs and tight ends.”
None of that sounds particularly great for the 49ers, of course. Since coming over from Kansas City earlier this year, Christian McCaffrey has been an invaluable safety valve for Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy.
George Kittle has exploded under Purdy, catching nearly 23% of his career touchdowns since number 13 became the quarterback. Having those options limited does change the formula for the 49ers.
Fortunately, this offense is so loaded that even if you stop CMC and Kittle, you still have to deal with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk on the outside. As Levin pointed out later in the podcast, that’s where San Francisco will have to do their damage.
Dallas has given up 22 touchdowns to wide receivers this season, which is the most in the league. That could mean a lot of targets for Brandon Aiyuk, particularly in the red zone. Of Aiyuk’s eight touchdown catches this season, six of them have come on targets inside the 20-yard line. The Cowboys might be comfortable deploying Trevon Diggs against him, but Diggs can be a high-risk, high-reward type of player. The success he has against Brandon Aiyuk and/or Deebo Samuel will go a long way toward determining how this game plays out.
Of course, it’s also possible that Kyle Shanahan will make all this hand-wringing moot. In the Wild Card matchup with the Cowboys last year, the 49ers scored on all four of their possessions in the first half (excluding the final 22 seconds when the 49ers were simply running out the clock). While it’s true that the second half wasn’t quite as productive, it was also short-circuited by some costly mistakes from Jimmy Garoppolo that Brock Purdy doesn’t seem to be making right now.
Cowboys 49ers playoff games are almost always fun, and Sunday’s contest is set up to continue that legacy. Levin and I took a deep dive on today’s show (timestamps below).
Other topics in today’s show
People mad at Rob for not being all-in on Brock (3:21)
Don’t give Shanahan’s scheme all the credit for Purdy’s success (6:11)
Brock has two elite skills already (13:32)
Why the offense works better with Brock than Jimmy G. (16:45)
One thing the Cowboys can do that can defeat the 49ers (20:01)
Do the Cowboys have the defense to stop San Francisco? (22:58)
How much does the extra rest really matter? (26:52)
Why penalties won’t be an issues as much as last year (29:42)
Nick Bosa calls out his own defense (32:42)
Stop expecting the 49ers defense to play like they did early in the year (37:00)
Is Dak starting to crack under the pressure? (40:20)
Final score predictions (42:50)