In Sunday’s crazy but rousing victory by the 49ers over the Cowboys, some of my recent observations appear to be relevant to the Packers’ current road to the Super Bowl.
In a January 15 post, “That Hard-earned #1 Seed Comes with Many Benefits” (Here), I pointed out that injuries incurred during wild card weekend will likely adversely affect those teams that are moving on – meanwhile, the Packers and Titans have been resting and getting healthier for next weekend’s games.
Though the 49ers are moving on, they suffered a number of injuries that might hurt their chances against the Packers.
The most concerning one is the “head injury” to defensive end Nick Bosa, which caused him to miss the game’s second half. Bosa was the second overall draft pick in 1919. He’s a two-time pro bowler and was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019. Though he racked up 15.5 sacks during the just-passed regular season, he came in only sixth in the 2021 AP All-Pro edge rusher voting this year. No matter, he’s the heart and soul of the San Francisco pass rush.
I assume that Bosa’s injury was a pretty bad concussion. I assume further that the Niners have a doctor on staff who will clear him for action against the Packers.
Another important 49ers player, Fred Warner, was also injured on Sunday. In 2020, the fourth-year linebacker was named both a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro.
In the first half of the Cowboys game – when Dallas ran very few offensive plays – Warner still had five tackles, and Bosa had three, including half a sack – but then both missed all or most of the crucial second half. It’s no coincidence that the frenzied Cowboys comeback effort came at a time the two were out of action.
I’m writing this on Sunday evening, so I have no idea if either or both players will be ready to go against Green Bay, though if they are, it’s likely they won’t be at 100%.
In another prescient article, posted on 1/5/22 (Here), I took a look at the disparity among penalties called against various teams. Green Bay had the fewest (69) during the regular season, while Dallas had the most in the league (127).
Well, on Sunday Dallas put on a clinic on how to lose a game by way of penalties. The Boys managed to get flagged 14 times (not counting those that were declined) for a loss of 89 yards. Worse, the more critical the game got, the more penalties they committed. Worse still, so many penalties, and the team’s failure to make any improvements, reflects badly on Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff, who have been unable to stem the tide. I’d say that their propensity to commit penalties cost them the win against the 49ers. Will the Cowboys again blame the refs, as is their custom?
Most of these penalties were shown on replay, and they were almost all obvious and uncalled for. They varied from numerous neutral zone infractions and delays of game to several times that Dallas offensive linemen simply threw defenders to the ground. The Niners were no saints either, though their totals for the game were a relatively measly nine penalties, and for 58 yards marched off.
The entire Cowboys Nation now has six months to ponder why this pattern of excessive infractions went uncorrected over a 17-game season.
At the same time, Matt LaFleur and his staff are to be commended. Their team’s 69 penalties amounted to only 4.1 per game. And while the Cowboys’ penalties added up to 1,103 yards, Green Bay’s total was only 678 – better than all others except the Giants, Rams and Bengals. (The Football Database is a good source for these stats.)
Though the Cowboys were seeded third and the Niners sixth, it seemed like an even matchup, which proved to be the case. The query now becomes: who will the various matchups favor this coming weekend, the Packers or the Niners?