FRISCO, Texas -- These are the two biggest keys I think will determine the Cowboys' trip to play San Francisco on Sunday afternoon.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
What we've learned the previous two weeks is that with this team, scoring 30-plus points offensively doesn't necessarily guarantee a victory. With
that being said, scoring is a major part of the game -- so I will continue to focus on that.
Where the Cowboys have been outstanding through five games is their ability to not only score touchdowns but score them inside the 30-yard line, as well as when they reach the opponent's red zone. The Cowboys are hitting 63 percent of those opportunities inside the opponents 30 and 66 percent of the time when travelling inside the 20.
Their opponent, the 49ers, are one of the best in the league when it comes to playing defense inside the 30. As a unit they've only allowed opponents to score 41 percent of the time. If you want to take it step further, they've only allowed opponents to score a touchdown 48 percent of the time inside the 20.
To give you an idea, the league average is right at 53 percent.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the 49ers have created two turnovers defensively in the red zone through six games this season. The Cowboys have done a nice job of protecting the ball in the red zone and finishing drives.
If the Cowboys win this game, it is going to come down to points -- even with a rookie quarterback starting for the 49ers. I know that C.J. Beathard is not Aaron Rodgers or Jared Goff, but forcing him to have to score right along with you will put a strain on him. If they continue to be good inside the 30 and then down inside 20 -- they win this game.
San Francisco 49ers Win If:
The 49ers are a dangerous team and if you don't believe that, then get ready to take a loss.
Kyle Shanahan made this quarterback switch, not because of their record, but because he knew that his team deserved a chance to win. Brian Hoyer has always been good enough to get you beat each week. His check down passes on third and long is all you really need to know about his game.
Shanahan saw C.J. Beathard have some success throwing the ball in a desperate situation in Washington, but I have a feeling that he doesn't want to go that route again. Shanahan will do everything in his power to protect Beathard and he will tailor his game plan that way.
The 49ers are very similar in their offensive approach. They like to play with multiple tight ends and use a fullback. Shanahan will even put his quarterback under center, which is not as common as we once saw. Shanahan knows that offensive balance is his best recipe to winning this game. The Cowboys have struggled with teams, especially the previous two weeks, dealing with opponents that have been able to stay in manageable down and distance situations.
How has this happened? Having success running the ball. The 49ers are just as capable of doing that as the Packers and Rams were in their victories. Dallas will get Sean Lee back this week and along with Anthony Hitchens should help their ability to defend the run -- to a point.
Even with those two in the lineup, I expect the 49ers will test this Cowboys defense with Carlos Hyde and rookie Matt Breida. If Shanahan can get that balance and protect his rookie quarterback, they've got a shot to get that first victory.