ARLINGTON, Texas – The staff writers of DallasCowboys.com shared their instant reactions and looked back at their gut feelings following a 28-17 loss to the 49ers at AT&T Stadium in the opener.
Nick Eatman: Again, just like before the game, it seems just as difficult to assess afterwards. Yeah, the 49ers were undoubtedly the better team and we probably knew that coming in. You don't get to the NFC Championship three straight times by accident and even though their preseason was below par, they turned it on when it counted. This game comes down to a three or four plays that went against the Cowboys early on. It's 28-3 at the half when it probably could've been 17-14 or better for the Cowboys.
But that's the difference between good teams and average teams. The good teams find a way to make it 28-3 when it falls in their lap. I guess Bruce Carter played Ok, but it wasn't good enough. And I couldn't have been more of on Witten. This gut feeling turned out about like the Cowboys' offensive plans for Week 1.
Rowan Kavner: I don't think anyone expected this kind of a rout. I thought if that was going to happen, it would be a result of the ground game. Turns out, the 49ers scored 21 points before ever needing a rushing play. By the end of the first quarter, the 49ers led, 21-3, Colin Kaepernick was 4-for-4 for 75 yards and a touchdown, the Cowboys had committed two of their four turnovers and no San Francisco player had run the ball once. The one bright side for the Cowboys was the play of their linebackers. Rolando McClain did have a couple of those "woah" plays, but my prediction of a Lance Dunbar touchdown came a couple yards short. It all ended in an 11-point loss, but it was never a close one in Dallas.
Bryan Broaddus: I wasn't one bit surprised by the way that Cole Beasley was able to play against the 49ers today. In studying their games this week, he was going to be a matchup problem for them. He is such an elusive receiver when coming out of the slot because he can take his route anywhere he wants to go on the field. He was targeted five times and ended up with four receptions. I felt like he should have been 5-for-5 if Romo didn't miss him on a 3rd down crossing route when he threw the ball too high.
On the route he drove hard up the field from the left slot and was able to create some separation inside. It's a shame that he was not rewarded after executing that route because it would have been able to keep the drive going instead of punting.
David Helman: I said before the game I thought the 49ers would win a "wild one," and I guess I was right. This game was definitely pretty crazy, but it wasn't the back-and-forth shootout I was expecting – more like a comedy of errors. Four turnovers in the first half and several miscues in the redzone told the story, and it didn't even wind up mattering that the defense played surprisingly well. The 49ers didn't score in the second half, which I suppose is a positive, but they also didn't need to as they held a 25-point lead at the break. The Cowboys actually cranked out 382 yards of offense – including 127 on the ground – but it doesn't matter much if your turnover margin is minus-four.
Here were the first gut feelings for the regular season opener from Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, Bryan Broaddus and David Helman, posted Saturday afternoon.
Nick Eatman:Well, it's finally here. How is it that I haven't seen one practice from the 49ers and I know what to expect from them. But the Cowboys, a team I've seen every minute of practice in OTAs, minicamp and training camp and the four preseason games and yet I have no clue what they're going to do. There are some negative vibes about this team and it stems from defense. I think we're going to be surprised how well they play. It doesn't mean it will be good enough but Rod Marinelli's defenses don't get smashed around that often. He will have a good plan for this game. Bruce Carter is going to play well and will come up with a key turnover. On offense, I'm predicting at least eight catches from Jason Witten, who takes advantage of the way the 49ers cover Dez. I really can see either team winning this game but my gut keeps drifting towards the visitors.
Rowan Kavner: At first, everyone had written the Cowboys off for this opener. Then, they became a popular upset pick, particularly with the key injuries to the 49ers. All the focus will be on this defense, and until they show differently, it's hard to expect a drastic change from last year's group. The 49ers rushing attack, including what Colin Kaepernick can do with his legs, may be too much. Dan Bailey makes three field goals, Lance Dunbar finally bursts onto the scene and gets his first career touchdown, J.J. Wilcox makes a big momentum-shifting play - possibly his first career interception (finally not called back) – and Rolando McClain has two "woah" hits. But the 49ers are the only team to reach 30 points, pulling out the opener by a touchdown.
Bryan Broaddus: Of all the weapons on this Cowboys offense that Scott Linehan can use, Cole Beasley will be the one that shines the brightest against the 49ers. In preparing for this game, my gut feeling is that it could very well come down to how well the Cowboys convert on third down opportunities to keep drives alive. Beasley is one of the best when it comes down to finding that open space in the secondary and making a secure catch. He will be matched up against the talented but inexperienced Jimmie Ward out of the slot and I fully expect to see Tony Romo take advantage of that situation. [embedded_ad]
David Helman: The one positive about a defense with this many unknowns is that we truly don't know 100 percent what to expect when the Cowboys take the field for Week 1. We should finally get a look at guys like Henry Melton and Morris Claiborne, who missed the preseason, and Rolando McClain, who appears to be ready for a full game. Maybe they'll surprise us all. That said, I've seen enough of the defense's struggles in training camp and the preseason to feel pretty pessimistic. I think Colin Kaepernick is going to have a strong day running the ball, and either Michael Crabtree or Vernon Davis – or maybe both – will excel, as well. The Cowboys offense should have success against a 49er defense that isn't at full strength, but I still think San Francisco is more capable of making stops than Dallas. The Niners win a wild one, something like 31-27.