IRVING, Texas – My game day prep for the 49ers continues with a look at two matchups I think will go a long way toward determining the outcome.
There are both crucial matchups, one for the Cowboys offense against the 49ers defense, and a test for their defense against San Francisco's offense.
Cowboys OT Doug Free against 49ers OLB Ahmad Brooks:
Of all the outstanding defensive players on this San Francisco roster, Ahmad Brooks might be the one that presents the biggest issue when it comes to rushing the passer. In the 3-4 scheme 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes to use, he is going to find ways to get his best players in position to have the most success.
Brooks is one of those players that can attack the offensive tackle from all angles. It is rare to see him use the same pass-rush technique over and over. He is not going to let the tackle get any type of feel or rhythm in how he is rushing. Free is going to have to be ready for a player that plays with outstanding lower body bend and flex. He is also going to have to be ready for a player that plays with some surprising power and hand use.
Brooks shows the ability to extend his arms, control and then quickly shed to get to the ball. The biggest mistake Free can make in this game is not finishing his blocks on Brooks. Where I worry about Brooks the most in this matchup with Free is his ability to create turnovers in the [embedded_ad]
pocket. Even when he is getting pushed past the quarterback, he is still reaching for the ball. With no Aldon Smith in this game the 49ers are going to rely on Ahmad Brooks to be that disruptive player off the edge and Doug Free cannot allow that to happen.
Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli against 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick:
If I am Rod Marinelli I am worried about the potential of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick -- not throwing the football, but running with it. Marinelli needs the type of plan that will force Kaepernick to stay in the pocket and attempt to throw the ball. In my film study of Kaepernick, there's a clear picture that when he is allowed to use his legs he is far more dangerous.
Kaepernick has yet to prove he can stand in that pocket and make consistent, accurate throws. He makes the majority of his mistakes in the pocket and becomes careless in his approach to throwing the ball. There are snaps where you see his timing and anticipation are thrown off and it affects the way he throws the ball. The more Marinelli can make him play as a true quarterback, the better chance he has for a mistake. When Kaepernick is at his best is when he can use his rare speed and mobility to escape the rush, turning a negative situation into a positive one.
His escape and lateral movement to scramble causes the defense the most trouble. It's nice to talk about special coverage and spying on Kaepernick, but once he breaks outside that pocket and that athletic ability takes over, there is little Rod Marinelli can do. The plan is simple -- make Colin Kaepernick play quarterback in this game.