The San Francisco 49ers are two wins away from hoisting their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy. DeMeco Ryans's name rings bells in head coaching vacancies, and we see why by holding the Dallas Cowboys to one touchdown. Let’s look at four uplifting and deflating plays from the Divisional Round before moving on to the Philadelphia Eagles.
T.Y. Hilton’s 15-yard catch
Cowboys offensive play caller Kellen Moore tried to make things easy on Dak Prescott by running the ball often and targeting the sidelines on passes. Money Ward’s name isn’t in the hat of lockdown cornerbacks, but he’s a physical corner who can make plays.
Ward’s early bail could be the reason Prescott looked his way. T.Y. Hilton’s comeback route stresses Ward’s deep third responsibility, but you would love to see the 40.5 million dollar man make a play here.
Deommodore Lenoir runs the route
Deommodore Lenoir’s sticky coverage earned him interceptions in back-to-back games. Ryans calls a man-blitz with Fred Warner and Jimmie Ward rushing, and Dallas blocks it well. Prescott thought he had an open Michael Gallup until he saw Lenoir break on the ball. Lenoir can become a lockdown corner with more consistency.
Hufanga misses CeeDee Lamb on 4th and 1
We can chalk this one up to Moore for making it easy on his guys. Hard ask for Talanoa Hufanga, but he looks to be in a position. Hufanga is unable to break down with so much ground to cover. I figured the All-Pro safety would make a play, but Lamb’s fourth down conversion led to Dallas’ lone touchdown.
Hufanga gets pressure, plus Jimmie Ward’s tackle
I despise safety blitzes from the roof. They never affect the play, as the quarterback can see the blitzer running from 15 yards out.
But other teams are not equipped with The Trojan Missile like Ryans is. Hufanga gets pressure from the roof to force Prescott to dump it down. Jimmie Ward cleaning up the check-down throw was just one of his many plays made in space.
Lamb’s 46-yard reception
Lenoir had a solid day, but here’s his worst play of the game. Prescott throws an underthrown ball where Lenoir can make a play, but he does not get his head around. Lamb made the catch through contact, which is worrisome, with two better receivers scheduled next week. Lenoir will see A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith a lot more on the outside next week.
Jimmie Ward and Fred Warner force Prescott’s 2nd turnover
Jimmie Ward and Fred Warner were last week's best defenders on the 49ers. They constantly flew from sideline to sideline to make play after play. Ward has caught major flack for failing to force turnovers, and he rewrote that this season by creating a new high in interceptions (3).
He nearly caught another interception as he made a play while in a squat in zone coverage. Instead, Warner cleans up Ward’s tip and gave the 49ers the ball as the Cowboys were knocking on the door.
Dre Greenlaw drops a pick-six
Dre Greenlaw was an All-Pro snub. I was completely sold on Azeez Al-Shaair replacing him this season before Greenlaw got extended. Why pay him when Al-Shaair played at an All-Pro level last season? An uncoachable amount of physicality and a tremendous improvement in man and zone coverage by Greenlaw.
Greenlaw is known for his hard-hitting play, and he almost put the game away with this near pick-six above.
Ebukam's sack puts the game on ice
Samson Ebukam was one of five 49ers that needed to step up for the Divisional Round. Nick Bosa leads the edge group with little to no help at times. Prescott was forced to step up when the pocket collapsed, and Ebukam cleaned him up for a sack. Kris Kocurek’s defensive line must get to Jalen Hurts next week. Hurts has a better feel when he needs to scramble and isn’t easy to bring down.