The 49ers handled the Cowboys fairly well on Sunday.
For the vast majority of the game, it was the 49ers who were in the driver's seat. Dallas struggled immensely throughout. Even as they closed the gap to one score, they just didn't have it in them to get the game on equal ground against the 49ers.
Still, even as the game was firmly in their hands most of the time, the 49ers could have easily choked it away. It wasn't anything the Cowboys did that was special. It was all on the 49ers shooting themselves in the foot, which was their toughest opponent on Sunday. They were able to get away with it against the Cowboys, but it isn't something they can get away with against the Packers in the Divisional round.
Here are two areas the 49ers need to clean up ahead of their matchup with the Packers.
Two plays standout from special teams against the Cowboys. It was the fake punt allowed and the failed blocked punt attempt that resulted in a roughing the kicker penalty. The fake punt led to three points for the Cowboys, while the penalty ended up being a moot point.
Still, these are mistakes that the Packers will capitalize on better than the Cowboys. The 49ers need to clean this up, which is difficult to envision. All season long the special teams has been a hindrance for the 49ers. They are horrid in this department. At this point, you have to wonder what it is that special teams coach Richard Hightower even does because he certainly isn't coaching up his guys.
Kyle Shanahan says that his "No. 1 goal is to not lose on special teams," but the 49ers have been losing there all season, as it has been a contributing factor for a couple of their losses. Against a better opponent than the Cowboys, it could have led to another one. This is why Shanahan needs to get on Hightower's case this week. The 49ers have come too far and been through too much to allow special teams to end their season.
Jimmy Garoppolo and his second half woes
In the second half of the Wild Card game, Jimmy Garoppolo went 5 of 11 for 39 yards and an interception. His performance in the second half is what gave the Cowboys life. The only reason the Cowboys scored their one and only touchdown was because of Garoppolo's interception that gifted them fantastic field position. You can also throw in the false start penalty on Trent Williams on fourth and 1 in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
Garoppolo needs to give his guys a chance to get set and not be in a rush, especially when everyone knows he is going to sneak it. So it wasn't solely due to production that Garoppolo hurt the 49ers -- it was pre-snap errors too. Now, cleaning up Garoppolo's "whoopsies" and other errors is impossible. He is who he is at this point. And now that he has a shoulder sprain in his throwing arm, it is going to be much more difficult to expect better.
This is where Shanahan comes in. He needs to figure out a way to keep Garoppolo out of those situations. For instance, the false start on Williams was due to Shanahan being cute. There is no reason to motion Williams. Just call your obvious quarterback sneak. Don't give Garoppolo a chance to mess up, which is essentially what it boils down to.
It is tough because there is only so much Shanahan can do to limit any potential mistakes out of Garoppolo, especially in the playoffs. He has to let Garoppolo try to make some plays because he can't manufacture all the production himself. The answers are limited in cleaning this area up, but the 49ers somehow have to do it. If Garoppolo replicates his second half performance on Saturday against the Packers, it'll be doom and gloom for them.