There’s no question where one of the former San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl champions is putting his money on Sunday.
The 49ers prepare to face the Dallas Cowboys in the wild card round, while San Francisco travels to AT&T Stadium to take on the NFC East champions. The matchup reignited nostalgia and history as both fan bases search for their first Super Bowl wins since the mid-1990s.
Tom Rathman, the beloved former 49ers running back and two-time Super Bowl champion, is also looking forward to the duel. Rathman knows what playoff football is like and played a significant role in the Niners’ Lombardi Trophies in Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV.
But not only is he excited for the two teams to play each other, he expects San Francisco to give Dallas a whooping cough.
It’s a bold prediction to say the least, but it’s interesting that Rathman brings up the upcoming duel between Shanahan and Quinn.
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Obviously, Quinn and Shanahan know each other very well. Shanahan was hired as his offensive coordinator with 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 was coming to an end and then he was hired by the Cowboys for head coach Mike McCarthy to oversee defense and it paid off. Dallas leads the league in turnovers and is seventh in the NFL in points allowed, allowing around 21 points per game, according to the PFR.
They’ve obviously adapted and evolved since their Atlanta days, but it will be interesting to see how their tactical combat develops. Rathman believes the 49ers will work their way into the playbook but will also find 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’re going to see the tough games where you just run the football inside the zone and outside the zone.”
As Rathman mentions, the stats show that the Niners’ strength in the rushing game can cause a street upset. The Cowboys rank 24th in the NFL in rushing yards per game allowed, giving up 4.5 yards per rush.
The 49ers average 4.3 yards per rush as a unit, with standout rookie Elijah Mitchell averaging 4.7 yards per carry in his first NFL season. Combine that with wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who’s getting a handful of touches at his 6.2 yards-per-carry average, and San Francisco can be dangerous.
Getting Deebo as many touches as possible on Sunday will be crucial and it wouldn’t be surprising if Samuel were receiving handoffs at a higher rate than he already is.