Yesterday, I wrote about how the 49ers‘ defense stepped up in a huge way to help propel the 49ers to a victory in Dallas. Now, I’m going to take some time to show why the offense deserves a lot of credit for how they came out and set the tone early in this game, playing a physical brand of football that wore down the Cowboys defense over the course of a game that saw the 49ers run the ball 38 times for 169 yards.
It all started with a near-perfect opening drive that saw the 49ers go 75 yards on seven plays, to jump out to an early 7-0 lead. Six of those seven plays resulted in a first down or a touchdown, and the only real blemish was a carry by Deebo Samuel that was stopped for a short gain (something we wouldn’t hear very often in this game). They ran the ball four times for 27 yards on this drive, mixing in a couple of carries for Samuel as well.
Additionally, Jimmy Garoppolo started this game hot , completing all three of his passing attempts for 43 yards, including a 17-yard completion to Travis Benjamin, which happened to be the receiver’s first reception of the year. Again, the ball was spread out well on this drive, as all three completions went to a different receiver, and four different skill position players recorded a touch on this drive.
I place so much emphasis on this opening drive because of the statement it made. It showed the Cowboys that it doesn’t matter whose stadium it is. The 49ers are a team who aren’t afraid to come out in a big game and punch their opponent in the mouth. It established that the 49ers were going to play this game on their terms and force the Cowboys to adapt to playing a style of football they were not comfortable with.
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell continued his impressive rookie campaign, rushing for 96 yards on 27 carries. What really stands out is that 85 of those 96 yards came after contact, as Mitchell repeatedly broke through tackles and made the Cowboys fight tooth and nail for every single stop. If you only counted Mitchell’s yards after contact, he still would have more rushing yards than any other player during Wild Card weekend (Josh Jacobs was second in rushing yards during the wild card round with 83).
Deebo Samuel got in on the action in the running game as well, recording 10 carries for 72 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run that put the 49ers up 23-7 in the 3rd quarter. This season, it was the fourth time that Samuel finished a game with an average yard per carry of at least 7.2 yards and a touchdown. Samuel continues to be a nightmare for opposing defenses, with no real answer for his unique blend of vision and physicality. Samuel also recorded 3 catches for 38 yards, with two of those catches going for first downs and gains of 15+ yards.
As good as Samuel was, Brandon Aiyuk was actually the one who finished as this game’s leading wide receiver. Aiyuk caught 5 passes for 66 yards, with 3 of those receptions going for a first down and the other two both going for 9 yards apiece. Aiyuk has been on fire as of late, establishing himself as an invaluable weapon on this offense to close this season out.
In Aiyuk’s first 10 games, he recorded 22…
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