49ers crush the Cowboys 42-10

For the third consecutive matchup, the San Francisco 49ers dealt the Dallas Cowboys a crushing defeat. In each of the last two postseasons, the Niners sent the Boys home by prevailing in close games. On Sunday night, it looked like the gap between the two teams had widened considerably as San Francisco controlled the proceedings from the start and was never seriously threatened as it prevailed by a final score of 42-10.

The 49ers held the Cowboys to a combined 8 yards on their first four drives, forcing three three-and-outs and a fumble and eventually staking themselves to a 14-0 lead before Dallas even recorded a first down. After the Cowboys finally got on the board, the Niners answered right back, and they never allowed the Cowboys to make it a one-possession game for the rest of the night. 

San Francisco looked unstoppable offensively, racking up over 400 yards and efficiently moving the ball at more than 6 yards per play. The vaunted Dallas pass rush never had a chance to get going, and Brock Purdy calmly tore up the secondary for 252 yards and four touchdowns (three of them to George Kittle) while completing 17 of 24 pass attempts as his receivers ran completely wide open all night long. Even with Christian McCaffrey largely getting bottled up on the ground, the Niners just kept driving right down the field for scores. There was nothing Dallas could do about it.

The Dallas offense, meanwhile, looked inept for pretty much the entire evening. With the exception of an 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive early in the second quarter, it was a disaster zone littered with stuffed runs, limp check-downs, sacks, and turnovers. The Cowboys kept trying to go east-west against a 49ers defense that is much faster than their offense, and it did not remotely work. The Niners defense had Dak Prescott absolutely flummoxed all night long, giving him nothing down the field and picking him off three times.  

As if the final score wasn't bad enough, the Cowboys also lost several players to injury during the contest, including defensive starters Leighton Vander Esch, DaRon Bland and Donovan Wilson, as well as core special-teamers KaVontae Turpin and C.J. Goodwin. 

In this game, the 49ers reasserted themselves as the class of the NFC, and a team that is a good deal better than the Cowboys. It's really that simple. 

Why the 49ers won

Kyle Shanahan ate Dan Quinn's lunch, Steve Wilks did the same to Mike McCarthy, and the roster the 49ers have assembled overwhelmed the Cowboys in every facet of the game. This was a team that had an answer for absolutely everything Dallas wanted to do on both sides of the ball. 

The Cowboys came into this game having pressured opposing quarterbacks on nearly 55% of their dropbacks. They barely touched Brock Purdy all night in this one. The Cowboys had limited opposing passing games all year long. Niners receivers were running in wide open space all night long. 

The much ballyhooed offensive changes the Cowboys made this offseason to account for the fact that they simply couldn't solve San Francisco's defense appeared to be for naught as Wilks' unit practically squeezed the Dallas offense to death. Dak Prescott had basically nothing available to him farther than 10 yards down the field, and the Niners rallied to the ball with relative ease when he tried to take the underneath stuff. And even that wasn't available to him all that often. 

It was a complete performance from a complete team. 

Why the Cowboys lost

Dallas just made far too many mistakes, and did so right from the jump. On the opening play of the game, Donovan Wilson was whistled for a face-mask on Christian McCaffrey. A few plays later, Micah Parsons was called for an offsides penalty. Then, Markquese Bell lost George Kittle in the scramble drill and gave up a touchdown. Tony Pollard lost a fumble. Jayron Kearse lined up offside on third-and-5 to gift the 49ers a first down. Wilson was called for a personal foul on what would have been another third-down stop, and the drive ended with a Christian McCaffrey touchdown. And those were just the players' mistakes. In the first half. Prescott was intercepted three times after halftime, and the run defense sprang leak after leak as the Niners tried to kill the clock with Jordan Mason.

Coaching was also an issue. Trailing by 14 points and having only stopped the Niners offense on a drive where McCaffrey fumbled, Mike McCarthy sent out the punt team on fourth-and-2 from his own 42-yard line. On the Cowboys' opening drive of the second half, they chose to run the ball on third-and-5 from just outside the 30-yard line, then kicked a field goal instead of going for it. Naturally, the Niners immediately drove for a touchdown and pushed their lead to three scores, and the game never got closer than that.

The Cowboys made mistake after mistake against a team that routinely makes you pay for mistakes, which is exactly what happened here. 

Turning point

It honestly might have been Dallas winning the coin toss and then deferring to the second half instead of taking the ball. That allowed the 49ers to have the first possession; and San Francisco marched right down the field for 75 yards on its opening drive, which ended with George Kittle finding the end zone from 19 yards out. The Niners had the Dallas defense off balance for pretty much the entire night after that. (It certainly didn't help that right from the start of that very first drive, the Cowboys kept gifting the 49ers free first downs with penalties.)

The Cowboys have now lost two games this year, and it's not a coincidence that they were the only two games in which their opponent has started the game with the ball and immediately driven down the field for a score. This is a team that needs to play from ahead so its defense can tee off against the opposing quarterback, and it never got into that kind of game script tonight. 

What's next

Dallas falls to 3-2 with this loss and are now two games behind the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys play on "Monday Night Football" next week, heading to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers. They then go on the bye in Week 7. 

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