One of the most iconic moments in football history was The Catch. A Joe Montana to Dwight Clark touchdown ended the Dallas Cowboys run of dominance throughout the 1970’s, and started the San Francisco 49ers 1980’s dynasty. The Cowboys and 49ers will meet again in their week seven clash. While this game will surely have less epic results, it is still a very important game. The Cowboys will be trying to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the 49ers will be trying to get their first win of the season. If the 49ers are to succeed, they must follow three keys to victory.
Week Seven San Francisco 49ers Keys to Victory
Rookie Quarterback Magic
Last year, Dak Prescott took the league by storm. As a mid-round pick projected to be a backup, he was thrust into the Cowboys starting lineup after an injury to Tony Romo. Prescott led the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC, and was awarded Rookie of the Year honors. As a mid-round pick projected to be a backup who was also thrust unexpectedly into the starting lineup, C.J. Beathard will hope to have a similar meteoric rise.
Inserted in the second quarter of an eventual loss to the Washington Redskins, Beathard rallied the 49ers. His play allowed the 49ers to get to the precipice of field goal range, trailing by two. At the very least, Beathard provided a spark. He showed a capability to make a big play, connecting with Aldrick Robinson on the run for a clutch 45-yard touchdown.
If the 49ers are to have any hope against the Cowboys, Beathard will need to pick up where he left off. The 49ers have suffered at the quarterback position all year, and still have managed to hang in games. Beathard executing Shanahan’s offense, while still showcasing his natural playmaking abilities could be the final piece that gets the 49ers over the hump.
Late Game Breaks
The 49ers have lost an NFL record five straight games by a field goal or less. That type of failure can sometimes be more painful than being blown out. Even more painful, the 49ers seem to have every late game break go against them. In order to secure the victory, the 49ers will need some of these breaks to go their way.
Specifically, they have been burned on questionable offensive pass interference calls. A phantom call against Trent Taylor helped end the 49ers last drive against the Los Angeles Rams. Pierre Garçon was flagged for a pick play last week against Washington that looked more like defensive pass interference. Former Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira has been outspoken that these calls are not good officiating.
These calls and breaks have more to do with bad luck than anything else. There is no real game plan the 49ers can execute to help the breaks go their way. However, the string of bad luck has to come to an end eventually. If the 49ers can get the benefit of a call late in the game, rather than be on the wrong end of one, it might be enough to get the 49ers their first win.
Fill the Leadership Void
When the 49ers last had success, they had a strong veteran presence. Leaders such as Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Justin Smith set the tone for the team. With the 49ers going through a rebuild now, they cut ties with a lot of their veterans. NaVorro Bowman was one of the last links to the team that made a Super Bowl run, and was the unquestioned leader of this 49ers team. With his departure, the 49ers lack leadership.
The 49ers may lack leaders, but they do not lack candidates. There is an opportunity for the young players to assert themselves into a leadership role. On the defensive side of the ball, two obvious candidates are DeForest Buckner and Reuben Foster. Buckner is having an All-Pro caliber year. His excellent play makes it easy for him to earn the respect of his teammates. With Bowman’s departure, Foster will take over Mike linebacker position. As the signal caller for the defense, players will be looking to Foster for the calls. As one of the best punters in the league, Bradley Pinion also could step up into a more vocal role.
On the offensive side of the ball, veterans Garçon and Joe Staley will have to take on more of a role. Brian Hoyer’s demotion to the backup role diminishes any sort of leadership role he had. As the quarterback, Beathard will have an opportunity to lead. His quiet, lead by example style will take time to build, but has worked wonders for Marcus Mariota. Beathard and Buckner setting the tone will give the 49ers an excellent chance to beat the Dallas Cowboys, and set them up for years to come.