With the short practice week already nearing an end, the Cowboys are full-on sprinting toward Sunday’s showdown with San Francisco. They hope to be doing more of it at Levi’s Stadium, as Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott look to run on the Niners in a way they couldn’t in last year’s wild-card round. We’re also charting the re-emergence of Michael Gallup, wondering about the offensive line configuration, checking on Brett Maher’s yips, and trying to decode the 49ers’ so-called “death lineup” before it does damage against Dallas.
Meanwhile, Micah Parsons loves being the underdog, we’re laying out what the Cowboys must do in Santa Clara, we’re welcoming two back to practice, and we’re keeping an eye on “Playoff Deebo.” All that, plus thinking ahead to a possible overseas trip next season, the collapse against the Cowboys was the last straw for Byron Leftwich in Tampa, Sam Williams takes care of his warrant, Dak gets a pizza named after him, and the league is cracking down on an obscure rule that affects placeholders on kicks. That and more, in News and Notes.
Zeke, Pollard relish second chance against 49ers :: The Mothership
Against the 49ers in 2021’s wild-card round that ended in a heartbreaking 23-17 loss, Pollard and Elliott combined for just 16 carries for 45 yards and zero touchdowns. But last year was last year, and this year is different. “I definitely feel like I have a bigger part in this one,” Pollard said. Then again, San Francisco’s defense is arguably better this time around, too. “They present some challenges,” Elliott admitted, “but I think sometimes even when the run doesn’t work as well, you still get them to commit that extra guy to the box and it opens up play action. So you commit to running the football, it’s going to open up other stuff.”
A rested Tony Pollard making big difference for Cowboys' playoff run :: Cowboys Wire
Over the final three weeks of the season, Pollard totaled just 16 rushing attempts and nine receptions. Then he averaged 5.12 yards per carry against Tampa Bay’s stout defense, routinely creating something from nothing and adding value to a play on nearly every touch. He’ll look to keep those fresh legs churning against the Niners.
Dak Prescott eager for rematch with 49ers :: Jon Machota (Twitter)
Cowboys' Micah Parsons drops 49ers truth bomb: 'I don't think they've faced anyone like us' :: Cowboys Wire
Most of the NFL world has already written off Dallas. Yet the Cowboys’ strength of schedule and offensive numbers show them to be very similar to San Francisco. The Cowboys will likely be the toughest team the 49ers have played since their last loss, in Week 7, to the Chiefs. But Micah Parsons prefers to be the underdog anyway.
Science Lab: Cowboys can make it ugly for Purdy :: The Mothership
The Cowboys need to be careful in the second quarter, when the 49ers tend to be at their best and the Dallas defense often lets up. Dak Prescott needs to use his legs again this week- because that’s been an issue for San Francisco- but he also needs to keep doing his thing against zone coverage. Johnathan Hankins and Leighton Vander Esch will be key in clogging up the middle, minimizing YAC and making Brock Purdy play like a rookie.
'Playoff Deebo' means extra chip on his shoulder and big plays :: NBC Sports Bay Area
Deebo Samuel admits the playoffs bring a different element out in him. In last year’s wild-card matchup with Dallas, he famously promised coach Kyle Shanahan that he’d make a play if the ball was in his hands and then did, ripping off a 26-yard touchdown run that gave San Francisco a 23-7 lead. In seven career postseason contests, he has 26 catches for 414 yards, 36 carries for 271 yards, and three total touchdowns.
Peters unlikely to play; would Dallas consider late OL flip-flop? :: David Helman (Twitter)
How the 49ers 21 personnel became potent enough to be dubbed the ‘Death Lineup’ :: Niners Nation
Some are borrowing an old Golden State Warriors nickname to describe the 49ers’ favorite “21 personnel” package: Christian McCaffrey, Kyle Juszczyk, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel. It provides maximum flexibility but gives nothing away pre-snap, with every playmaker able to be deployed in unorthodox ways: McCaffrey split wide, Samuel out of the backfield, Juszczyk doing it all. Against the Seahawks, the “death lineup” was on the field for 17 snaps; they amassed 261 yards and averaged over 15 yards per play.
Cowboys could use more of this version of Michael Gallup :: Cowboys Wire
Gallup showed why he was worth waiting for on Monday night. His first-quarter high-point catch helped get the offense rolling, and his back-of-the-end-zone tightrope haul reminded fans about his knack for difficult receptions. The 49ers play better coverage than Tampa Bay, so he’ll need to step things up accordingly, but his play in the wild-card round showed Gallup can still be a big-time asset.
6 things to know about the challenge 49ers present the Cowboys :: Cowboys Wire
Yes, the 11-game win streak is impressive. Sure, the rookie third-string quarterback has been a surprise. And that rushing game and pass-catching trio are elite… just like the pass rush. And the rest of the defense, for that matter. This Sunday’s game should provide quite a show no matter where on the field you look.
Brett Maher has solid showing in first practice since Cowboys added kicker :: Dallas Morning News
Maher was 6-of-6 in winds that varied from 10 to 20 miles per hour on Thursday. Newcomer Tristan Vizcaino was 3-of-5 in the portion of practice open to media.
NFL cracking down after Cowboys, Eagles, other teams caught violating this obscure rule :: CBS Sports
Officials did indeed forbid Cowboys holder Bryan Anger from using a plucked blade of white grass to mark his spot for holds on PATs Monday night. The Eagles have been doing it, too, as have the Chiefs, Lions, and Commanders. Now Rule 11-4-5 is being enforced, with the league asking officials to start watching more closely.
Cowboys open 21-day window for Fehoko, Harper; add CB to practice squad :: Cowboys Wire
Simi Fehoko (shoulder) and Devin Harper (Achilles) have been on IR since October, but they’ll return to practice with the team and maybe even make the 53-man roster for some postseason action. The team also signed Sheldrick Redwine to the practice squad; he has eight career starts at DB over 33 games, with one interception recorded in 2020.
Cowboys bring it on Tampa sidelines :: Dallas Cowboys (Twitter)
Buccaneers fire offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich after four seasons :: NFL.com
An 8-9 season and a wild-card smackdown by Dallas was the last straw for Leftwich in Tampa. The offensive coordinator was fired Thursday, along with running backs coach Todd McNair and assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust. Three other assistants retired, including quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen.
Cowboys to visit London? NFL sets home teams for 2023 International Series :: Cowboys Wire
The Cowboys feel overdue for an overseas trip, having been only once and all the way back in 2014. Their turn could be coming next year, with an away game against the Bills already on the books. Buffalo was announced as a “home” team for one of three London games in 2023.
Dallas Cowboys rookie DE surrenders to Plano police after December crash :: NBC DFW
Sam Williams turned himself in on Tuesday and was released the same day after posting bond. According to the official report, Williams and another driver both contributed to the December crash that sent both to the hospital briefly. Williams was cited for reckless driving, but neither drugs nor alcohol were a factor in the incident.
Lewisville pizza shop creates 'The Dak' featuring quarterback's favorite foods :: Fox 4/KDFW
Motor City Pizza in Lewisville has taken some favorite foods from Prescott’s native Louisiana and put them on a new pizza offering. “The Dak” is a Detroit-style pie topped with blackened chicken, crawfish, and andouille sausage, along with peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Then a Cajun cream sauce and fresh parsley garnish are added.