clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 49ers have to do what the Cowboys couldn’t against the Cardinals

Dallas had no issues moving the ball, but it was converting in the red zone that was a struggle for the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images

It’s not often that a team is favored to win by two touchdowns in the NFL. Last week, oddsmakers projected the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Arizona Cardinals by 12.5. Dallas lost outright.

When you are on top, you get everybody's best shot. In the same vein, it’s difficult for teams, even early in the season, to get up for an opponent when they clearly have an advantage.

Dallas didn’t have a problem moving the ball. They lived in Cardinals’ territory and had five trips to the red zone. But the Cowboys only converted one touchdown in a handful of trips. The 49ers have been below league average through three games, as they’re converting 53 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns, which ranks 20th.

One area where the Cowboys excelled just so happens to be where the 49ers thrive: Yards after contact. Arizona allowed 140 rushing yards after contact, and an average of 4.67 yards after contact. Dallas also forced 11 missed tackles on 30 attempts, per PFF.

Dallas had similar success with yards after the catch, as 57 percent of the Cowboys passing game came via yards after the catch, and they forced an incredible 14 missed tackles on 25 receptions.

And it’s not like the bulk of those were coming from CeeDee Lamb or Tony Pollard. Eleven of those forced missed tackles came from players you may not have even heard of: Rico Dowdle and Jake Ferguson.

And it’s not as if this was just a Week 3 issue for the Cardinals. On the season, they’ve missed 37 tackles, per PFF, allowing 275 yards after contact in three games. For reference, the 49ers have missed 18 and allowed 87 yards after contact.

Niners’ wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is expected to play Sunday. Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey should make the most of their matchups in Week 4. And this time around, Brock Purdy won’t have to worry about facing a blitz on every play as he did against the Giants.

The 49ers offense goes from a defense that blitzed at the second-highest rate in the NFL to a Cardinals defense that blitzes at the second-lowest rate. The Niners playmakers will have space an opportunity to match the missed tackles the Cowboys forced. The only question left is whether the offense will convert their red zone trips into touchdowns.