CJ Beathard’s first start was an absolute disaster. The 49ers mustered only 10 points and 290 yards of offense, but allowed 40 points and 501 yards to the Cowboys. The offense looked clunky and disjointed all game, and the defense looked like it did last year, getting gashed for huge plays. It was just an overall disappointing day for the 49ers as they honored legendary wide receiver Dwight Clark at halftime.
The best way I think I can describe the 49ers offense on Sunday is that it was a “stop-and-start” offense. It just seemed that almost every drive, there would be a big play or a string of solid plays followed by nothing. The best examples were in the first quarter when the 49ers opened the drive with a 48-yard strike to Goodwin over the middle of the field, only to be followed by 3 plays combining for -13 yards, including a sack; and in the second quarter where the 49ers drove all the way to Dallas’ 5-yard line before a Demarcus Lawrence strip-sack gave the Cowboys the ball. Speaking of sacks, the offensive line allowed 5 sacks in total to the Cowboys defense, as well as 6 QB hits and more pressures. It was just an all-around terrible showing that the offense must learn from if they intend to win a game this season.
The defense was terrible, showing none of the improvements that we had been seeing throughout the year. Allowing 265 yards on the ground is reminiscent of last year’s group, which ranked third worst in NFL history in run defense. Ezekiel Elliott had an absolute field day, going for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns, while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. His backups, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, also put up big numbers (10 rushes for 76 yards), while Dak Prescott added 26 yards and another TD on the ground. Prescott also had an efficient day passing the ball (16-25 for 234 yards and 3 TDs), but his biggest pass was to Elliott, who took a screen pass 72 yards to the house. No matter how you slice it, this was the worst defensive showing by the 49ers this season.
The one play that particularly stands out as game altering was Trent Taylor’s fumble on the punt return in the first quarter. The 49ers defense had forced a three and out to start the game and were going to get the ball around their own 20. However, Cowboys special team player Kavon Frazier forced Taylor to cough up the football, which was recovered by Xavier Woods at the 49ers 20-yard line. This led to Zeke’s first of three TDs and a 7-0 deficit.
No one really deserves this honor. Since I’m forced to give the award to a player, I’m giving it to Beathard, almost by default. He didn’t exactly have a good game, but it wasn’t terrible, I guess? He scored the 49ers only TD on a 4-yard designed run, and added 26 more yards on the ground. In the passing game, he looked like a guy best suited as a backup rather than a starter. He missed some throws, but hit his guys when they were open and needed the ball. The one thing that stood out was his toughness — he took a lot of hits in this game, but kept getting back up. But he needs to make some major improvements if he wants to show that he can be the future of the franchise.
I could put the whole team on here if we’re being serious, but the run defense and offensive lines, specifically, did not do their jobs. Allowing 265 rushing yards is wholly unacceptable if the 49ers want to win a game this year, and they cannot make this a trend if they want to see any type of success. The offensive line had a hard time keeping the Cowboys out of the backfield all game. Their struggles (5 sacks and 6 QB hits) were documented earlier, but bears repeating. This type of game from the guys up front is almost impossible to overcome. If the QB does not have time to throw and the run game can’t get consistency, the chances of winning are slim to none, especially when your defense can’t keep up with opposing offenses.
Play of the game
These two plays from DeForest Buckner on the Cowboys opening drive show just how effective he is, even when he doesn’t get to the QB. Using his huge frame and massive hands, Buckner often disrupts passing lanes and bats down passes. Plays like this are part of the reason he has blossomed into one of the game’s best young defensive linemen (#2 DL per PFF)
The 49ers schedule does not get any easier next week as they go back on the road to Philadelphia to play the (currently) 5-1 Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles play Monday night against the Redskins at home, so they have a short week, but they don’t have to travel. The Eagles have a blistering offense (ranked 3rd) led by budding star QB Carson Wentz and veteran RB LeGarrette Blount, and a stout run defense (ranked 2nd). It is a tall task for the 49ers to bring down a team like this, but nothing is impossible in the NFL, especially in this crazy season. These two teams haven’t met since the last year of the Harbaugh era (2014) where the 49ers won at home 26-21.