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Scout's Eye: Elliott's Running, Marinelli's Blitzing, Prescott's Growth And More

  • Film showed me that if the 49ers were going to struggle with their protection, it was likely going to be over right tackle Trent Brown and not left tackle Joe Staley. Brown was extremely slow-footed and with DeMarcus Lawrence to his side, that was the area to attack. I had heard during the week that Lawrence was working with rushes coming off both sides. The sack/fumble that he was able to get right before the half was on Staley's side, which was surprising. Lawrence's jump off the snap gave Staley no chance, and once he saw quarterback C.J. Beathard expose that ball, Lawrence did a great job of not going into him with the body but attacking that ball first to get it out and then jumping on top of it.
  • Did it look like Ezekiel Elliott was back to making that first man miss? From my initial view, I thought there were more of those opportunities. Not every run play is blocked perfectly, and when that's the case, Elliott would make a man miss. I have been waiting five games to see him make those cuts, leaving defenders trying to bring him down. It was the first time all season that I have really felt this way about him carrying the ball. His balance, power and quickness were all working with the ball in his hands.  
  • It appeared that the coaches believed that in their game plan pulling linemen was going to pay off well. There were several snaps where the Cowboys were able to get their guys in space, and the 49ers struggled with that. The majority of Elliott's big runs came from a block from a lineman who was on the move, like Jonathan Cooper and Zack Martin.
  • The Cowboys defensively came into the game holding opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 66.3 when they blitzed. With the early lead, it was clear that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was not going to let Beathard feel comfortable in the pocket. We saw blitzes from the linebackers, like on the Jaylon Smith sack/fumble, as well as cornerback Orlando Scandrick from the slot. Any chance that he could dial up the pressure, Marinelli was going that direction, and it paid off in a big way the entire game.
  • Tremendous effort by the Cowboys to block on the edge in this game. Coaches will tell you that if you're going to have success in the running game that outside blocking is usually the difference. There were several plays where the ball broke in the open field and there were two or three blocks by receivers that allowed the play to gain further yards. When they sit down as a group on Tuesday to study the tape, wide receivers coach Derek Dooley will be proud of his guys.
  • Want an example of Dak Prescott's growth as a quarterback? His pass to Dez Bryant for 27 yards off a free play situation was just that. Prescott kept the play alive with his movement forward in the pocket and locating Bryant down the field. Give Bryant some credit too by continuing to play on the route. He could have stopped or quit on the route, but he was able to win against rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and put the offense in scoring position just outside in the red zone.
  • I wasn't surprised when Jason Witten made that catch from Prescott for his touchdown. People like to talk about Witten's hands as a receiver, but I don't think he gets enough credit for his ability to concentrate on the ball. The pass from Prescott was in a perfect spot, but if Witten is not tracking that ball the way he does, I am sorry but that's likely a drop even where it was thrown.  Witten's concentration allowed him to  know exactly what he needed to do in order to pull that ball in even with one hand. 
  • Interested to see on film where the 49ers had their success running the ball. It surely wasn't on the outside or to the edge. The Cowboys defensively did a nice job of stringing things to the outside, making running backs Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida stay wide. Hyde hit them on a couple of draw plays and some inside traps, but for the most part, it was a really nice effort overall not to allow Hyde to take over this game. The 49ers didn't get the balance they needed, which forced them to have to call on Beathard to make plays in the passing game, and he wasn't able to do that consistently enough.
  • Guess being inactive against the Packers put Kavon Frazier back on track? Frazier struggled badly in the Rams game and the coaches felt it was necessary to give him a seat. With his new opportunity against the 49ers, he made the best of it with a huge tackle that swung the early momentum back in the direction of the Cowboys. His form tackle on punt returner Trent Taylor, knocking the ball loose in the process, was exactly what this offense needed after a quick three-and-out to open the game. Frazier was only credited for that one tackle in the game, but I am sure that when I sit down to take a look at his game, there were other snaps where he was right where he needed to be on his execution.
  • I was trying to keep an eye on David Irving and where he was lining up. I was hearing some whispers this week that he was playing some under-tackle and Maliek Collins was at the nose. It appeared that was the case after Irving played as the nose against the Packers. From first glance, Irving once again looked active attacking the pocket, especially when Beathard held the ball. What makes Irving so difficult to block is that he rarely quits on a rush. I lost track of the number of times he was at or near Beathard when he went back to pass. It was also a positive sign to see him knock down a pass when Beathard tried to throw a crossing route. Speaking of Collins, I thought he played one of his better games as well.
  • Be interested to see if Cooper Rush continues as the backup quarterback going forward. I know the coaches really like Kellen Moore but maybe we've seen the passing of the torch. Was told that Rush and Moore split scout-team snaps like previous weeks with Prescott taking the majority of the snaps with the first team. If Rush or Moore get work, it generally comes on Friday during team period. I thought Rush handled himself well. The game was in hand but he did a nice job of working the clock, and when he needed to execute like he did on the read option, he made the right decision by pulling the ball and securing the first down.
  • The great thing about working at The Star is my office overlooks the practice field. I can honestly report that on that very field I've seen Jeff Heath working on field goals. It has been more than a year of him practicing, but what I do remember is special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia moving him around to various spots on the field and allowing him to get that work. That drill was very much like today. There were some well-struck balls and then others that went off to the side. What I was most impressed about from Heath was how well he kicked off. That could have been a disaster from a field-position standpoint but 49ers kick returner Raheem Mostert only averaged 15 yards a return for the game. I would expect that with the possibility of Dan Bailey missing the Redskins game, Sam Irwin-Hill is likely on his way to Dallas.
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