(Editor’s Note: Each week, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will present “The Big Picture” for the upcoming game, presenting an overall update for each team as they head into the upcoming contest. This week, the Cowboys will head out west to face the San Francisco 49ers.)
WHAT: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers
WHEN: Sunday, 3:25 p.m. (Central)
WHERE: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
The Cowboys have bounced back nicely in the last two weeks, thanks in large part to a pair of rookies. Dak Prescott continues to improve from each week, recording not only his first home win of the season but his first touchdown pass in a 31-17 win over the Bears. Also, for the second straight week, Prescott recorded a rushing touchdown.
Even more impressive about the running game was the fact the Cowboys were down two starters on the offensive line. Tyron Smith (back) missed the entire game and La’el Collins (toe) sat out the second half. Collins isn’t expected to have surgery but should be out a few weeks. Veteran Ron Leary has started 35 career games and should slide right into the mix again at left guard.
On defense, the Cowboys played without Orlando Scandrick (two hamstring injuries), but the veteran corner could be able to play this week. This will be the last game DeMarcus Lawrence will sit out to serve his four-game suspension from the NFL. The Cowboys have recorded four sacks in three games, but none last week.
Kicker Dan Bailey, who missed his first field goal of the season last week against the Bears, returns to San Francisco for the first time since making a game-tying field goal to force overtime, and then hit a game-winner for the Cowboys in a classic Week 2 win over the 49ers in 2011. Bailey had missed a 19-yard kick earlier that day but bounced back – twice – and has since become one of the NFL’s most accurate and clutch kickers of all time.
San Francisco 49ers
This looks like a different team than the one that shut out the Rams in their first game back in Los Angeles back in Week 1. San Francisco won that game 28-0 but the competition has definitely improved since that first game, as the 49ers have suffered two straight lopsided games against Carolina and Seattle.
San Francisco dropped to 1-2 last week after a 37-18 loss to the NFC West rival Seahawks. But despite another loss, the 49ers don’t look to be making any moves at the quarterback position. First-year coach Chip Kelly stood by his starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert and doesn’t seem close to switching back to Colin Kaepernick, who has certainly made national headlines for other reasons.
The Cowboys have some familiarity with Kelly’s offense, having faced his Eagles teams twice a year from 2013-15. The personnel is different, of course; quarterback Gabbert led San Francisco to its season-opening win, but Seattle limited him to 119 passing yards in Week 3. Running back Carlos Hyde, Ezekiel Elliott’s teammate at Ohio State, ranks 11th in the league with 225 rushing yards.
Defensively, three-time Pro Bowl linebacker NaVorro Bowman leads the 3-4 scheme, and linebacker Ahmad Brooks tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks. Cornerback Jimmie Ward is week-to-week with a quad injury, the 49ers announced.