Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer 387d

49ers lacked pass rush, offensive balance in loss to Dallas

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A look back at how the San Francisco 49ers fared in three key areas of Sunday's 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Beathard's big day

Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard was able to put together a solid debut against Washington last week, though he benefited a bit from the element of surprise. This week, Beathard prepared for his first NFL start against a team that was able to prepare for him all week. On the flip side, Beathard was able to spend all week working with the first team and developing timing with the top receivers as well as working within a game plan that coach Kyle Shanahan put in just for him.

Beathard showed that he won't be overwhelmed by the moment against the Redskins last week. Dallas' defense entered with a reputation for being pretty straightforward, but it's also quite disciplined, and there was a good chance the Cowboys would try to get after Beathard and confuse him with things he hasn't seen yet.

That's exactly what happened as the Cowboys dialed up pressure after pressure. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Dallas sent extra pass-rushers after Beathard on 21 of his 45 dropbacks, its highest blitz percentage in a game since 2011. The Cowboys managed three sacks when bringing five or more and pressured Beathard on 48 percent of those dropbacks.

All told, Beathard finished 22-of-38 for 235 yards for a passer rating of 76.1 and rushed for 30 yards and a touchdown on five attempts. There were some positives and Beathard continued to show his toughness, but without much protection and in the face of pressure he'd never seen at this level, it mostly made for a long day for Beathard and the offense.

Striking a balance

One surefire way to make Beathard's life easier in his first start was to jump-start a run game that has been dormant the past two weeks.

After a hot start, the 49ers had dropped to a tie for 20th in the league in rushing yards and 14th in yards per carry entering Sunday's game. But the bigger issue has been an offense that simply hasn't run the ball that much in the first six games. The 49ers' 136 rushing attempts were 20th in the league, which was sixth-fewest among teams that have played six games this season.

Meanwhile, 49ers quarterbacks have attempted 241 passes, second-most in the NFL. Some of that can be attributed to playing from behind so often, but the 49ers had been competitive in just about every game.

During the week, Shanahan said he'd like to be more balanced moving forward but needs the right situations to present themselves. For a while in Sunday's loss, it seemed that the 49ers had finally found the balance they wanted.

Running back Carlos Hyde was finding openings in the defense and looked to be headed toward a big game. But the 49ers again fell behind and found themselves throwing often to try to catch up.

When all was said and done, they rushed 22 times for 103 yards, a healthy average of 4.7 yards per attempt. Unfortunately, they couldn't run it as much as they wanted and once again finished with a lopsided percentage of passes with Beathard dropping back more than twice as many times as he ran it or handed it off.

Pressuring Prescott

The Cowboys' offensive line is considered one of the best in the NFL, but so far this season that group hadn't exactly lived up to that reputation. ESPN Stats & Information has the Cowboys front five controlling the line of scrimmage on 49 percent of dropbacks, which ranked 16th in the league heading into Sunday. And Pro Football Focus ranked the Cowboys' line 14th in average player grade.

Through the first six games, the 49ers' defense had struggled to generate pass rush against better lines, such as Washington, the Rams and Carolina, but has been dominant against lesser groups such as Seattle and Arizona. That's left the 49ers controlling the line of scrimmage on defense 52.5 percent of the time, which ranked 12th in the league.

Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott is second in the NFL with a total QBR of 78.1 and had been sacked just seven times, fourth-fewest in the league. Prescott was another mobile quarterback on the 49ers' slate, and if they were to spring the upset, they needed to not only get to Prescott but bring him down when they did.

It didn't happen. According to unofficial press box statistics, Prescott took just one hit and was not sacked as he directed a dynamic Dallas attack that finished with 501 yards of offense. Prescott finished 16-of-25 for 234 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 134.0.

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