The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers have plenty of history together. The storied franchises will meet in the Wild Card Round of the 2021 NFL Playoffs. The Cowboys are the favorites, but Hall of Famer Michael Irvin has serious concerns about the matchup.
Irvin loves his former team but knows this game won’t be a cakewalk.
Michael Irvin says 49ers will be tough test for the Cowboys
Michael Irvin spent his entire 12-year NFL career playing for the Dallas Cowboys. He knows the organization like the back of his hand. Irvin supports Dallas no matter what but often can be a little biased. However, he’s keeping it real when it comes to the wild-card matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
The NFL Network analyst recently joined The Rich Eisen Show to discuss the upcoming matchup between the two teams. Irvin admitted he is a little worried about the Niners.
Eisen asked the Hall of Famer if San Francisco would be the team he least wants to face. “Absolutely,” responded Irvin.
“When we got that, I was like ‘oh no, not the 49ers,'” he added. “The worst draw for us, the worst draw. I wanted San Fran to knock off Green Bay or the Rams before they came through here. Our defense is opportunistic. Kyle Shanahan puts lock and key on Jimmy G. It worries me. We saw what Philly did running the ball against Dallas. This is probably the worst matchup.”
Irvin gave a nod to 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel and explained why he could make life hard for the Cowboys’ defense.
“Don’t even mention Deebo Samuel,” he said. “I said earlier this year, they could easily put him in contention for MVP if Kyle Shanahan continued to overuse him. This dude has MVP-like talent. What a phenomenal year he’s had. He’s a phenomenal talent. It’s been great to watch.”
Michael Irvin won’t publicly pick against Dallas. Still, he’s concerned about how the team stacks up against the hungry Niners.
Why San Francisco can upset Dallas
The San Francisco 49ers haven’t had the easiest road to the postseason. Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad finished the 2021 season with a 10-7 record, good for the 6-seed in the NFC.
The Niners had their backs against the wall versus the Los Angeles Rams in the regular-season finale. A win clinched a playoff berth and the Rams were battling for the NFC West title. The teams battled back and forth, but San Francisco was able to pull out the win in overtime. That resiliency is just one of the reasons why teams should not overlook the 49ers in the playoffs.
Naturally, questions still surround Jimmy Garoppolo’s ability to carry the Niners to a Super Bowl victory. He’s nowhere near an elite quarterback, but Shanahan knows that. As Michael Irvin suggested, the head coach knows Jimmy G’s strengths and weaknesses. Shanahan tries to put him in the best position to succeed and not make many mistakes.
Garoppolo taking care of the football is just part of the recipe for success. The 49ers must also continue to employ a dominant rushing attack. San Francisco boasts the NFL’s seventh-best rushing offense, averaging 127.4 yards per game.
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell leads the way for the Niners. He rushed for 963 yards and five touchdowns in just 11 games. Deebo Samuel also plays a heavy role in the running game. The Pro Bowl wideout has eight rushing touchdowns on the year.
The 49ers will need to dominate the line of scrimmage and get their playmaking weapons the ball early and often. San Francisco also had a top-10 defense, led by Fred Warner and Nick Bosa. The defense isn’t as good as the unit that went to the Super Bowl in 2019, but it will keep this team in games.
The Cowboys will score, so it’s up to the 49ers’ offense to keep them off the field.
How the Cowboys can silence the doubters
An uber-confident Dallas Cowboys team will be on the other side of the field. Mike McCarthy’s crew went 12-5 in the regular season and won the NFC East crown.
Dallas bounced back in a major way after posting a 6-10 record in 2020. The return of quarterback Dak Prescott has rejuvenated this team, which was down in the dumps once No. 4 went down.
Despite a successful season, it’s easy to doubt the Cowboys because they’ve failed to meet expectations year after year. The 2021 team does appear to have a different swagger, though. You can attribute much of that to the emergence of Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons.
Diggs led the NFL in interceptions during the regular season. Although he gambles way too much in coverage, he’s been a ball-hawk. His opportunistic tendencies create more chances for the high-powered offense. Parsons has been a wrecking ball. He’s a lock for Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he has a shot at winning Defensive Player of the Year, too.
The increased confidence of the young defenders and the addition of Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator have done wonders for Dallas. This unit was awful in 2020 but quickly transformed into a top-10 unit.
The Cowboys boast the league’s most potent offense, putting up 407 yards and 31.1 points per game. Prescott has weapons galore, most notably Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, and Amari Cooper. They can score with anybody.
This is a talented football team, but they have to win the big games to silence the doubters. There’s no better opportunity than against the 49ers.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.