The Dallas Cowboys are set to play playoff football in a few short days. An old NFC rivalry is renewed, as Dallas plays host to the San Francisco 49ers in a Wildcard matchup. The Cowboys grabbed the no. 3 seed in the NFC, while the visiting 49ers clinched the no. 6 spot.

San Francisco enters the postseason playing its best football of the year. Kyle Shanahan’s squad has won seven of its last nine games and eight of its last 11. The 49ers have used a strong rushing attack and a stellar front seven to become a dangerous football team.

Deebo Samuel has been the go-to playmaker for the 49ers, emerging as one of the league’s most explosive weapons. His ability to hurt defenses as a receiver and as a rusher has made San Francisco a dynamic team, especially with a healthy George Kittle in the fold.

Add in a defense that gets after the quarterback and stops the run, the 49ers are a problem for several teams. The Los Angeles Rams found that out last week, falling to its division rival 27-24 in overtime. That result cost the Rams the no. 2 seed and punched a ticket to the playoffs for the ‘Niners.

All of this is to say that the Dallas Cowboys must get off to a quick offensive start against the 49ers on Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, San Francisco will have the opportunity to set the tone and play its brand of football.

WHY COWBOYS MUST START FAST

Dallas Cowboys
Oct 10, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) celebrates with Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys offense is one of the best units in the league. Dallas sits atop the league in total offense and in offensive efficiency. That said, the Cowboys have been prone to slow starts over the back-half of the season.

Losses against the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, and Arizona Cardinals all come to mind. Dallas failed to get in a rhythm early, which ultimately cost them. Even in wins versus Washington in week 14 and New York in week 15, the offense took too long to get rolling.

The Cowboys made late rallies versus the Raiders and Cardinals, but it was not enough. Dallas must set the tone and get into an offensive flow against San Francisco; otherwise, it could be a long afternoon.

Kellen Moore needs to draw up a game plan that allows Dak Prescott to find receivers early and often. The easiest way for the Cowboys to get going fast is to play with tempo. Getting Tony Pollard involved is another element that would help the cause.

San Francisco has a defense that is capable of controlling the line of scrimmage. Nick Bosa is an All-Pro-caliber pass rusher, and Arik Armstead is a force in the interior. A game plan that gets the ball out quickly to Cowboys weapons would negate some of that advantage that the 49ers bring to the table.

Additionally, the 49ers play a style that leans on the ground game. San Francisco will likely use a game plan that relies on ball control to play to its strengths while also keeping the ball away from the Cowboys’ offense.

Dallas needs to get off to a fast start and avoid playing from behind. The Cowboys have the quarterback and the playmakers to score on any defense it faces.

The Cowboys cannot allow the 49ers to play its brand of football and dictate the flow of the game. While easier said than done, the recipe for success is simple for Dallas: get into an offensive rhythm early, build a lead, and allow the defense to pin its ears back.

Featured image via Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports