The 49ers’ starting defense failed to stop the Cowboys from scoring on the opening drive, although the drive was extended on a third-down scramble by Prescott. The first-team run defense looked strong, but the secondary has definite room for improvement.
After a strong first half on the ground, the Cowboys were held in check in the second half, which allowed the 49ers to stay in the game and come back for the win. Dallas finished the game with 3.6 yards per carry.
San Francisco’s defensive line managed just two sacks — one split between Thomas and DeForest Buckner, and one important fourth quarter sack by Taylor. The rookie — who also added a tackle for loss — appears to have a bright future, and could challenge Arik Armstead for a prominent role on the defensive line.
Star linebacker Reuben Foster was back in form, and showed off his coverage ability as he tracked speedster Tavon Austin across the field to knock away a pass attempt. With Smith injured early, and Brock Coyle and Fred Warner inactive, the 49ers’ backup inside linebackers saw extended playing time.
Inside linebacker Korey Toomer had a pair of nice plays, and outside linebacker Dekoda Watson was able to pressure the quarterback, although he failed to show up on the stat sheet. Pita Taumoepenu also showed flashes, but the rest of the linebacker corps missed far too many tackles.
Defensive back Jimmie Ward was the most disappointing member of the 49ers’ secondary, as he gave up multiple receptions, including the first touchdown catch of the game. Overall, the cornerbacks were too loose in coverage, which allowed Dallas’ quarterbacks too many easy completions.
There were a few breakdowns in coverage, but the 49ers’ secondary was effective in keeping the Cowboys’ receivers from any big plays — outside of the opening drive. Coverage improved as the game progressed, with the Cowboys finishing the game with just 233 passing yards.