Christian McCaffrey

Report: Cowboys plan to swarm McCaffrey in Week 5 clash vs. 49ers

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In his first full 49ers season, all eyes have been on All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey in 2023.

While McCaffrey's usage has been a topic of discussion recently and something even 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan admitted is "hard" to balance, the Dallas Cowboys reportedly have a game plan to better prepare for the 49ers' offense in their Week 5 clash on "Sunday Night Football."

"I was told that in Cowboys defensive meetings this week they focused on tackling, making sure their speed is utilized, and their players are all in position to swarm," The Athletic's Dianna Russini wrote in a column published Sunday morning.

"As one team source texted, 'CMC is going to make people miss, so everybody’s effort and speed will be critical to minimize gains after the catch.' The defense is also hoping to disrupt [49ers quarterback] Brock Purdy’s rhythm and timing with his pass catchers."

Through the first four games of the season, McCaffrey is averaging nearly 25 touches a game. He leads the NFL in rushing attempts (80) and yards rushing (459) while playing 81 percent of the team's offensive snaps.

In San Francisco's Week 4 win, McCaffrey dominated the Arizona Cardinals with four touchdowns and 177 all-purpose yards, earning the NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors one week after being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September.

Cowboys star defender Micah Parsons praised McCaffrey last week, and described different schemes to better defend a versatile running back like McCaffrey.

“Christian, I think he’s the most versatile back in the NFL when it comes to how the 49ers use him," Parsons said Wednesday after Cowboys practice. "You can almost say he’s a running back who plays receiver or a receiver who plays running back. The way he gets open, the way you can’t just put anyone on him.

"Sometimes, you might want to put a DB on him, just how good he is with his routes, and how dynamic he is. The way he’s able to make people miss, there’s nobody better in the NFL. Look at what he does and how explosive he is, I mean it’s something we have to be watchful of.”

McCaffrey and the 49ers' offense will be put to the biggest test so far against one of the NFL's best defenses. Like the Cowboys, they'll be prepared for what's expected to be a big game between two rivals and a potential playoff preview.

Programming note

NBC Bay Area and NBC Sports Bay Area have 49ers fans covered with complete coverage of the big “Sunday Night Football” game against the Cowboys, live from Levi’s Stadium.

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4 p.m.: “49ers Pregame Live” on NBC Sports Bay Area; “Football Night in America” on NBC Bay Area

5:15 p.m.: 49ers vs. Cowboys on NBC Bay Area

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