There wasn’t a point in the 49ers’ divisional playoff win over the Cowboys where San Francisco asserted the level of offensive domination we’ve seen from them during Brock Purdy’s run as the starting quarterback. An avalanche of points became something of an expectation for that unit, but it never came in a narrow 19-12 victory over Dallas.
While the high-level domination never came, there was a discernible difference in the 49ers’ offense between the first and second halves. They became significantly more efficient over the final 30 minutes once they’d gotten a chance to feel out an excellent Cowboys defense.
The result is a pretty staggering difference in production between the first and second halves.
Overall the 49ers ran 32 plays in the first half and gained 141 yards, good for just 4.4 yards per play. That mark over a full season would’ve been last in the league. In the second half they fared much better, racking up 171 yards on 31 plays. Their 5.5 yards per play in the second half would’ve ranked in the top 15 for an entire season.
It’s difficult to discern whether the passing attack or the run game were more responsible for the offensive improvement that sparked San Francisco’s second postseason win over the Cowboys in as many years.
While they saw about equal upticks in efficiency on the ground and through the air, it was the run game that helped kickstart the engine. After a dreary first half where San Francisco’s vaunted run game tallied 27 yards on 11 rush attempts (2.5 yards per carry), they came out strong in the second 30 minutes. Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell helped plow forward for 86 yards on 21 carries, good for a more respectable 4.1 yards per tote. The big change came on the 49ers’ offensive line where they started winning some one-on-one matchups as Dallas wore down. Holes started opening, and the 49ers’ run game started working.
A byproduct of the uptick in rushing production was less leaning on Purdy to make plays. He tossed it 19 times in the first half, completing 12 for 129 yards. His 6.8 yards per attempt would’ve been tied for 23rd in the league this season. The 49ers threw it significantly fewer times in the second half. On 10 throws, Purdy notched seven completions for a very efficient 85 yards. Those 8.5 yards per attempt would’ve been second in the league this year.
The 49ers have done a nice job this year of making adjustments out of the half, and Sunday was another example even if San Francisco didn’t rack up 30-plus points. They did what they needed to do and became more efficient over the final 30 minutes in a game their defense kept close at halftime. If the 49ers can manage to stay efficient, the points will come. They just can’t spend too much time in offensive ruts as the games get more difficult beginning with the NFC championship.
6 takeaways from 49ers' divisional playoff win over Cowboys