NFL News & Analysis

DAL-SF grades: O-line helps out rookie QB Prescott in Cowboys' win

Dallas Cowboys 24, San Francisco 49ers 17

Here are the highest-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Cowboys' 24-17 win over the Niners on Sunday:

Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback grade: Dak Prescott, 50.9

Dak Prescott took what the 49ers defense gave him and didn’t throw an interception to help the Cowboys pull out a road win in San Francisco. Prescott didn’t really push the ball down the field in the game, not attempting a single pass of 20-plus yards. Prescott wasn’t efficient to the intermediate area (10-19 yards from the line of scrimmage), as he only completed three of seven passes to that depth. Prescott did his damage in the short area (between 0-9 yards from the line of scrimmage), where he completed 17 of 21 passes and helped the Cowboys' offense move the chains.


Top offensive grades:

G Zack Martin, 87.5

C Travis Frederick, 85.9

G Ronald Leary, 76.8

WR Cole Beasley, 72.0

WR Terrance Williams, 70.3

The Cowboys’ offensive line paves the way for the road win

The interior of the Cowboys' offensive line produced the highest grades against the 49ers. The trio of RG Zack Martin, C Travis Frederick and LG Ronald Leary didn’t allow a single pressure on Prescott between them. They also opened some cavernous running lanes for rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and helped him have another game with over 100 yards rushing, as Elliott had 138 yards for the game, forcing two missed tackles and earning 73 of those yards after contact.

Top defensive grades:

CB Morris Claiborne, 88.6

S Barry Church, 82.3

CB Anthony Brown, 80.7

DT Tyrone Crawford, 78.5

DT Terrell McClain, 73.8

Claiborne makes his impact felt

After four rather unimpressive years in Dallas, cornerback Morris Claiborne has played reasonably well thus far in 2016. Against the 49ers he had comfortably his best game of the year, allowing virtually nothing in the way of meaningful yardage. He was targeted three times, allowing only two catches for six yards while stealing away an interception on an underthrown deep ball for Dallas’ only turnover. He tied for third on the team with three defensive stops, including a tackle short of the sticks on what would be the 49ers’ final offensive play of the game. He’s allowed fewer than 30 receiving yards in three games this year, and while it’s fair to wonder if he’ll continue to play well against the league’s stronger passing attacks, this week was at the very least a promising sign.

San Francisco 49ers

Quarterback grade: Blaine Gabbert, 68.8

San Francisco didn’t ask a lot of its signal-caller, content to call endless zone-read plays, to the extent that Gabbert ended the game with 11 rushes (not counting one kneeldown) even though he managed just 28 yards on those carries. Given his passing wasn’t anything to write home about, and that the deep ball was non-existent (he was 0-for-2 with an interception on pass attempts of 20-plus yards), you have to wonder if the 49ers would be better off with a faster option at quarterback to take better advantage of the read-option.

Top offensive grades:

TE Garrett Celek, 83.5

WR Jeremy Kerley, 79.1

C Daniel Kilgore, 76.7

RB Carlos Hyde, 73.5

RG Andrew Tiller, 73.4

Offensive line disappoints against Cowboys’ front four

The 49ers were content to run the ball as much as they could, but against even an underwhelming Dallas defensive line they were lackluster in their run-blocking. The normally excellent left tackle Joe Staley (45.1 run-blocking grade) had trouble dealing with Jack Crawford, while second-year right tackle Trenton Brown (39.8) fared the worst of the starting five linemen. Brown was culpable for the Cowboys’ only sack (and two more hurries), when Tyrone Crawford knifed inside midway through the second quarter. He wasn’t much better in the running game, including the subsequent play where he whiffed on a block against Terrell McClain, who nearly made a tackle short of the line of scrimmage.

Top defensive grades:

CB Rashard Robinson, 92.3

DI DeForest Buckner, 82.3

DI Quinton Dial, 77.3

LB NaVorro Bowman, 76.6

ED Cornellius Carradine, 73.5

49ers defense wasn’t able to withstand the Cowboys offensive line

CB Rashard Robinson was targeted five times by Prescott and allowed two catches for only 12 yards. Robinson broke up the other three passes, and Prescott’s QB rating when throwing at Robinson was only 47.9. Bowman played well with a sack and four additional defensive stops, but was sadly carted off the field with an injury. Rookie D-lineman DeForest Buckner’s pass-rush production was a bright spot for the 49ers, as he generated one hit and three hurries on 35 pass rushes and earned a 79 pass-rush grade for the game.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: CB Morris Claiborne, Cowboys

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

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