Get ready for an electrifying showdown as the 3-1 Dallas Cowboys travel to face off against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football. This showdown promises to be a gridiron battle for the ages. This will be the Cowboys biggest test in the 2023 season. The Cowboys fell to the trap game in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals, losing 28-16. However, Cowboys Nation said "don't worry it's our year" like they have in every other year since 1995. Then in Week 4, the 49ers rolled the Cardinals in yet another convincing win to improve to 4-0 to stay atop the NFC West. Christian McCaffrey scored four touchdowns to seal the win, 35-16. As stated by Josh Dubow, 49ers writer, "The only person who could stop McCaffrey from tying a 49ers franchise record with a fifth touchdown was his own coach." McCaffrey also has a touchdown in 13 straight games, a current regular and post season record.
Let's take a dive and see exactly what the Niners are doing within their organization to remain one of the NFC's top DAWGS year after year. Some organizations can't seem to lace up their own cleats let alone show up to play against some of the most talented humans on Earth each Sunday. So what is separating them from the rest of the field so far this season?
The 49ers excellence can be attributed to a combination of factors. Coach Kyle Shanahan has one of the best offensive minds in football and is always putting his players in the right spot schematically, physically, and mentally each and every week to give his football team the best chance of victory. With a very talented offense led by Brock Purdy (Mr Irrelevant A.K.A. Mr Relevant), the second year quarterback is putting up some amazing stats coming off a season ending elbow injury during the NFC Championship game last season. Week after week, Purdy continues to silence all the critics by proving he's QB1 for the foreseeable future. He is coming into week 5 with 1019 passing yards, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and is 81-for-112 for a whopping 72% completion rate. The 49ers couldn't be happier because Purdy's price tag is roughly $780,000 a year while on his rookie contract.
This allows the front office and Shanahan to keep guys like McCaffrey, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, Samuel Deebo, and that amazing number one defense led by All Pro MLB Fred Warner and the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. This powerhouse of skill position players possibly outmatches any team in the NFL.
However, the hardest thing about having a winning organization isn't obtaining the most talented players, it's finding the right coaches and assistants to lead these young men into battle. Every week these athletes need to be prepared for what challenges will arise on and off the field. When players don't respect or believe in what they are being taught by their coaches then the season is usually over before it even starts.
"Deconstructing Shanahan's Innovatine Offensive Scheme"
Shanahan's tweaked offensive scheme originated from his father, Mike Shanahan. Quite a few teams in the NFL run this type of offense in one way or another. Two of the Cowboys’ four opponents so far, Jets OC Nathaniel Hackett and Cardinals OC Drew Petzing were part of the Shanahan coaching tree. Kyle Shanahan has taken the traditional West Coast scheme which makes substantial use of the outside zone run and modernized it into his own.
Shanahan’s offense is built on confusing defenses. Shanahan uses a ton of pre-snap motion and shifts to draw defenders’ eyes away from the focus of the play. Misdirection is the most important part of this scheme and, more often than not, it pays off. Shanahan doesn't shy away from the use of play-action rollouts that produce a cleaner pocket. Usually a defense tends to head in the opposite direction to stop what they think is a run play setting up any QB, veteran or rookie, for success.
Drafting and Development
There is a common misconception, especially among fans, that the best way to build a roster is by drafting popular first round picks or making big name signings in free agency which comes with a hefty price tag. Unfortunately the truth is, the 49ers have found some of their greatest success building this roster by utilizing much less resources and banking on their own developmental staff to maximize the value, or diamonds in the rough as they say, turning undrafted free agents and perceived depth signings into impact starters on Sundays.
Will They Reach the Promised Land?
It has been 29 years since the San Francisco 49ers won a Super Bowl. Do they have the talent and uncompromising fortitude to accomplish that elusive goal this season? Most of the sports media and fans seem to think so. With their accomplished players and coaches running out on the field every week, just making the playoffs isn't good enough for them anymore. Coming close year after year isn't the standard they should be setting for a team with their talent and ability. So, I ask you, will the 49ers achieve victory on SNF at Levi's Stadium against the Cowboys? Tune in to see why one of the best teams in the NFL should cruise into the 2024 Super Bowl for the quest of NFL excellence.