Yahoo Sports Charles Robinson, Jori Epstein and Charles McDonald discuss the NFC divisional round clash between Dallas and San Francisco. Can Dak Prescott continue his stellar play? Will Brock Purdy be able to navigate through the Cowboys defense? Hear the full conversation on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.
CHARLES ROBINSON: 49ers giving up 3 and 1/2 points against the Cowboys. This game has got a chance to be just an insane game. And I think it all really depends on-- if Dak plays another game like he played against Tampa. I mean, it's hard to believe that can happen against that San Francisco defense. And I don't want to doubt Brock Purdy, but again-- I mean, this defensive front, you know. If there's going to be a mistake game where he does some-- turns the ball over gets it, I think it's definitely got the opportunity to happen against these Cowboys.
JORI EPSTEIN: If the Cowboys can look like they did on Monday night on Sunday, then they will win. But to look like they did against the Buccaneers, they're going to have to play a whole lot better because they're facing just such a better team in the 49ers. I think that a key to this game will definitely be like how clean of a pocket can Dak have, like can that offensive line handle, and if both, then all those guys coming for him. If Dak can feel comfortable getting into that rhythm, continue to use his legs a little bit to just open up, what they're seeing on the field, I think that that'll be super helpful.
And then on defense, like, look, Micah Parsons started this year as like a Defensive Player of the Year favorite. And then in the second half of the season, he was pretty beat up. His body's really not built for the edge rusher position that he's playing as much as it is for like an off the ball linebacker. And we were talking with him about that in locker room last week. I think he's playing at about 245. And if he stays at the end of the line, he really needs to make it up to probably closer to 255, he thinks.
Obviously, some guys are planning it even heavier than that. And so how much is he going to be able to impact Brock Purdy. And also if Purdy is going to be able to get the ball so quickly to the McCaffreys and Deebos and all of that in the world, then do you need Micah to be helping defend that?
I do think that one of the guys who had the best game in the Cowboys-Niners match-up was Leighton Vander Esch. Just like really reading what the Shanahan offense was doing. And so having Leighton back healthy, which they got him back on Monday night, and he played really well. That's good.
And then one other thing I'll say is a big glaring issue that we thought would hurt the Cowboys against the Bucs that I don't think ultimately did was their secondary. All the question marks, you've lost two cornerbacks, Anthony Brown and Jordan Lewis for the season.
And I was talking to Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse in the locker room, and I was like, basically about how they handled it. And I think there's some degree to which the Cowboys just said like hey, if we don't have the cornerbacks, let's just put four safeties out there. Like, let's just have our most physical, our most like assignments sound guys out there, even if it's not necessarily the positions they've been playing all year.
And obviously, Tom Brady is-- he didn't look like an accurate quarterback the other day, and obviously that offense hasn't been functioning in the way it did in previous years, but they got their hand on 12 of his passes. And you don't need to get your hand on 12. Brock Purdy, if he can continue to just have your defensive line just disrupting the pass so much that your secondary is kind of being opportunistic, getting a couple opportunities, then I think the Cowboys have a chance.
Now all that being said, I think the Niners are a better team. So I go really back and forth in terms of what's going to happen. But I think that if the Cowboys win, it's going to be via the formula I just mentioned.
CHARLES MCDONALD: I'm really excited for this game, especially the way that Dak played last week. And you think about how highly thought of DeMeco Ryans is, it's a fun chest mask like from a quarterback for his defensive coordinator perspective. Like, you get to see like what a team who's quarterback like really needs them to make plays--
CHARLES ROBINSON: Yes.
CHARLES MCDONALD: --against a team-- a team where a quarterback kind of gets to be the joystick for the head coach like we saw last week with Brock Purdy and Kyle Shanahan. So I think from a stylistic standpoint, these two teams go in against each other. There's a lot of fun. And I just can't wait to see what the final outcome is on this version of Dak because I think he's been playing really well this year. And that week 18 game was terrible.
But outside of that, I think he's had one of the stronger years of his career, and then versus DeMeco Ryan's who has been elite as defensive coordinator since he got the job. This is like the marquee match-up of the weekend. So I can't really call it on who's going to win because both of these teams are so good. And so I understand why the spreads closed, but I can't really call it either way. I think this is kind of like a coin flip for me in terms of who I think is going to win this one.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Yeah, I mean, same as both of you, I go back and forth staring at the match-ups. And I think the Vander Esch thing is really interesting. I mean, that's a good point because I think this is definitely one of those games where Shanahan could stare at it, go OK.
I got two backs who I know could rush for 1,000 yards if they're healthy and can be used in different ways. I got Deebo. I can hand the ball off to Deebo in creative ways. Let's just run it 60 times. [LAUGHS]
We'll throw in a couple of designed runs for Purdy, be opportunistic with how he throws the ball, and let's see how that front handles. Us just running on him constantly and whether or not they ultimately wear down. And run it at Micah, you know. Let's see, let's see how long Micah can hold up.