FRISCO, Texas – Having studied the tape, these are the two biggest factors I think will help determine the winner of Sunday's game against San Francisco.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
Watching the tape of the 49ers, there is nothing particularly impressive about their offense with the exception of Carlos Hyde.
I don't see how their quarterback or skill players can cause any type of real concern for the Cowboys defensively, but I do believe that Hyde should. The 49ers are a 55 percent run team on first down, which is the exact opposite of what Chip Kelly was last season in Philadelphia, where they were a pass-first team.
Where opponents have had success offensively is running the ball against this defense. The number of carries per game is not large, but the yards per play is an alarming at 4.96. Where this Cowboys defense gets in trouble is with those "chunk" runs. At times they will play sound fundamental defense with correct fits and gap control, then other times will struggle to get off blocks and get washed out of the hole.
For the Cowboys to win this game, the defense is going to need continued help from their offense with plenty of early points to chase Carlos Hyde out of this game and put it all on the shoulders of Blaine Gabbert and these skill players to have to make plays to keep up. Gabbert is not playing well enough to win this game on his own, but with the help of Hyde he has a much better chance -- and these Dallas coaches know that.
San Francisco 49ers Win If:
Chip Kelly said earlier in the week that Dak Prescott isn't playing like a rookie and through three games this season, he would be correct. It's hard to believe that it was nearly a month ago that he took over as the starting quarterback for the club after an incredible preseason.
What has been the most surprising about the way Prescott has played is the fact that he's yet to make that mistake which has cost his team an opportunity to win. Prescott doesn't turn over the ball, and that is largely the reason why he has had so much success. When you watch him play, there is a calmness to his game. He doesn't looked confused or rattled -- even under pressure. Prescott is making the right decisions and the results have shown that.
If the 49ers are going to win this game, they are going to have to make Prescott play like a rookie. They're going to have to take him out of that comfort zone and force him into those mistakes that we have not seen from him. With Dez Bryant likely out of the lineup, the 49ers can work to focus in on Jason Witten and Cole Beasley to take them away from Prescott, which forces Terrance Williams and Brice Butler to have to make plays.
The 49ers are one of the best defenses in the league when it comes creating takeaways in the passing game. I expect the 49ers to give Prescott a wide variety of different looks on Sunday in the form of linebacker blitzes and games with their front in hopes of forcing him into some errant passes. Making Dak Prescott look human in this game will be the key to their victory.