Everyone has a memory of watching the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a tale as old as time that’s adding another chapter to this storied matchup.

Whether it’s games like “The Catch”, ANY of their matchups in the playoffs from the early 90’s, “The Star Game” “4th and Long” featuring AtoZ Dallas’s own Jesse Holley, whenever these 2 teams play each other, it’s magic for the NFL.

This time, it features a pair of Defensive Player of the Year candidates, a number of offensive Pro Bowlers and a head coaches with long, successful resumes, looking to get back to the Promised Land.

Dallas just finished it’s statistically greatest offensive season ever, and a revamped defense showcased by players like Micah Parsons, Randy Gregory, Trevon Diggs Jayron Kearse and others.

A complete 180 to what this team was in 2020. At the same time, so is their opponent.

The 49ers are one of the hottest teams in the league, having won 7 of their last 9 games, fighting their way for a playoff spot. It’s this streak that concerns many Dallas Cowboys supporters, and has analysts on the San Francisco trolley.

However, despite being arguably the hottest team in the playoffs, this is actually a good matchup for the Cowboys. There are a number of vulnerable areas that San Francisco has, and that Dallas has the capability to exploit.

The Cowboys and their Turnover-Heavy Defense

What Kyle Shanahan has done a great job of running an offense based around protecting the ball, and controlling the flow of the game. Even with Jimmy Garoppolo playing less than stellar at times, does a good job of getting the ball out and away from danger.

Still, there have been times when the 49ers offense has been plagued with turnovers,  given up 24 turnovers on the season. Teams who have taken advantage of San Francisco in the turnover department have had success.

They’re 2-5 against teams in the Top 10 turnover defenses. An area that Dallas has thrived all season long, ranking number one with 34 on the year. They’ve forced 2 or more turnovers a game in 12 games this season, winning 10 of them. The only losses coming at the hands of last year’s Super Bowl quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

In that same regard, San Francisco has committed 2 or more turnovers in 8 games this season, winning only 2 against Detroit (week 1) and Los Angeles (week 18), who they’ve beaten 6 times in a row.

While Dallas’ turnover-heavy style hasn’t been active in every game, they’ve done it for the majority. If they can do it again in round 1, San Francisco will have a hard time keeping up.

San Francisco vs. Top QBs

San Francisco has 1 of the highest rated defenses in giving up yards and points, but have struggled against top quarterbacks.

Based on total QBR, the Cowboys have a top 10 player in Dak Prescott, ranking 9th in the league. Whys is this important?

The 49ers defense has faced a quarterback with a top 10 QBR ranking 8 games. In those 8 games, they only have 3 wins, 2 of which came against Matthew Stafford and the LA Rams. As mentioned, they’re on a 6-game win streak versus said team.

In the playoffs, most of the time it can come down to who has the better quarterback. Not only do the Dallas Cowboys statistically have the better quarterback, but the 49ers defense struggles against the best ones.

The 49ers Secondary

San Francisco has a great front 7. Their secondary, however, isn’t up to the same standard. The Dallas Cowboys defense has been maligned with teams making big plays on the secondary, but the 49ers are not immune.

They have given up 65 plays of 20 or more yards, 11 of which have gone for 40+. Not only do they give up plenty of plays down the field, opposing QBs are completing over 68% of their passes on this secondary. 3rd highest in the NFL.

It’s easy to see players like Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead or Fred Warner and raise your eyebrows. However, a secondary comprised of players like Josh Norman or Ambry Thomas should have Amari Cooper licking his chops.

Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Mosley are both solid players, but ones that this Dallas Cowboys passing attack can exploit.

Jimmy G Throwing the Ball Where he Doesn’t Want to

An article from USA Today’s Touchdown Wire brought up a re-occurring issue that has been mentioned before regarding Jimmy G: His struggles throwing in the middle of the field.

In it explains how Garoppolo, specifically in weeks 10-15 threw only 3 interceptions, but all came in the middle of the field.

In fact, his passer rating drops significantly in the middle, as opposed to the left or right side. Next Gen Stats charts that the only place he’s worse at throwing the ball is to his left, 20+ yards down the field.

We’ve talked already how Garoppolo is able to protect the ball in Shanahan’s offense, but that turnovers can happen, and crush this offense. Forcing him to throw it in area’s where he clearly struggles will alter how their offense can move the ball.

The Cowboys 3rd Down Offense

A simple concept is keeping your offense on the field and your defense off. How you do it is continuing drives. Keeping San Francisco’s offense off the field as long as possible, so they can’t extend drives like they want to do.

This starts on 3rd downs, a place where San Francisco actually struggles to defend, and Dallas has success.

The 49ers defense is 17th on successful 3rd down stops, and is even more than 6% worse on the road. At the same time, the Dallas Cowboys have the 11th best 3rd down offense, converting over 43% of their 3rd down attempts per game. Just barely below the league’s best.

It might sound easier than it is, but despite the fire power on the 49ers defense, keeping them on the field is a huge win for Dallas. Converting these 3rd down attempts not only breaks down their strength but sharpens the Cowboys’ iron.