There’s no question where one of the San Francisco 49ers‘ former Super Bowl champions is putting his money on Sunday.
The 49ers are preparing to square off with the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round, with San Francisco traveling to AT&T Stadium to take on the NFC East champions. The matchup has reignited nostalgia and history as both fanbases are looking for their first Super Bowl wins since the mid-1990s.
Tom Rathman, the beloved former 49ers running back and two-time Super Bowl champ is excited for the matchup as well. Rathman knows what playoff football is like, playing a significant role in the Niners’ Lombardi Trophies in Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV.
But he’s not just excited for the two teams to play each other, he expects San Francisco to deliver a whooping to Dallas.
“I think they’re going to kick the s*** out of them,” Rathman said on KNBR. “I think they can take advantage of their defense. I know [Cowboys defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn is a really good coach and a great defensive coach and he’s going to have a game plan. I just think with the design of plays, all the different things, all the twists you have to prepare for when you are playing [49ers head coach] Kyle Shanahan, it can be a burden to you. You don’t know what to work on.”
It’s a bold prediction to say the least, but it’s interesting Rathman brings up the upcoming duel between Shanahan and Quinn.
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49ers Offense and Cowboys Defense
Obviously, Quinn and Shanahan know each other very well. Shanahan was hired as his offensive coordinator at the Atlanta Falcons and the two nearly won a Super Bowl together before Shanahan was hired by the 49ers as their head coach in 2017.
Quinn’s time in Atlanta came to an end and was then hired by the Cowboys for head coach Mike McCarthy to run the defense and that has paid dividends. Dallas leads the league in turnovers, and is seventh in the NFL in points allowed with, allowing around 21 points per game according to PFR.
They’ve obviously adapted and evolved since their time in Atlanta, but it’ll be interesting to see how their tactical battle plays out. Rathman thinks the 49ers will dig into the playbook, but also have the most success in their ground-and-pound run game.
“I’m sure we’re going to see some fancy stuff this week and then you’re going to see the same thing,” Rathman said. “You are going to see the tough plays where you are just running the football inside zone, outside zone.”
49ers Rushing Attack Will Be Important
As Rathman mentions, the statistics show that the Niners’ strength in the rushing game may set up for a road upset. The Cowboys rank 24th in the NFL in rushing yards per allowed per play, giving up 4.5 yards per rush.
The 49ers are averaging 4.3 yards per rush as a unit, with standout rookie Elijah Mitchell going for 4.7 yards per carry in his first NFL season. Pair that with wide receiver Deebo Samuel getting a handful of touches with his 6.2 yards per carry average, and San Francisco can be dangerous.
Getting Deebo the most amount of touches possible on Sunday will be vital, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Samuel get handoffs at a rate higher than he already does.