49ers smash Cowboys out of the gate

Heading into Sunday, injuries and off-field incidents had cast an air of doubt over the 49ers’ season opener.

The 49ers squashed any concerns just two plays into the game, as a forced fumble by a pair of defensive stand-ins set a tone for dominance on both sides of the ball, and the 49ers bullied their way to a 28-17 victory in Dallas to open the 2014 season.

Despite being held without a touchdown throughout the preseason, quarterback Colin Kaepernick looked in midseason form as he torched Dallas through the air for 201 yards for two touchdowns, completing 16-of-23 passes.

Vernon Davis continued to shine in the red zone, hauling in two touchdowns on the night and 44 yards on four receptions. Anquan Boldin led the team with 99 yards on eight receptions.

With doubts lingering over the 49ers defense, San Francisco wasted no time in proving the pundits wrong, imposing their will on the Dallas offense during the game’s opening drive.

Filling in the for injured NaVarro Bowman and suspended Aldon Smith, LB Michael Wilhoite and OLB Dan Skuta forced the game’s first turnover by stripping RB DeMarco Murray near the 35-yard line.

Cornerback Chris Culliver recovered the ball, taking it up the sideline and into the end zone to give the 49ers their first score of the season for an early 7-0 lead.

Not to be overshadowed, San Francisco’s offense made an immediate statement on their first series.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed all three of his passes for 80 yards that culminated with an impressive 29-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis as he scrambled under pressure.

The wheels began to fall off for Dallas later in the first quarter after Tony Romo tossed the first of three interceptions by trying to squeeze a pass to receiver Dez Bryant between the triple coverage of S Antoine Bethea, Wilhoite and S Eric Reid.

Reid came down with the ball for his first pick of the season, and returned the ball 48-yards to the two-yard line. Kaepernick would use just one pass, a 2-yard corner pass to Davis, to give the 49ers a 21-3 lead.

The first two drives were perhaps indicative of the 49ers new offensive attack, as San Francisco running backs failed to get a touch while Kaepernick threw for 82 yards across four plays.

The 49ers would bring the same defensive intensity to open the second quarter, as Patrick Willis notched the game’s second interception — and third turnover of the game — as Romo again threw into double coverage.

Romo continued to make bad reads down the field as he threw his second consecutive interception on his next drive — again in double coverage — this time to Perrish Cox.

Cox had entered the game for starting CB Chris Culliver, who exited the game with a concussion. Culliver was the second starting CB to leave the game, following fellow starter Tremaine Brock, who left in the first quarter with a toe injury.

While the 49ers hope that Culliver and Brock can make a return to the field soon, both Cox and Johnson had strong days in coverage, making the passing game no easier for the struggling Dallas quarterback.

Carrying over his strong preseason performance, rookie running back Carlos Hyde wasted no time in picking up his first career NFL touchdown, rushing for 17 yards on two touches while bullying his way into the end zone for a 4-yard rush to give the 49ers a 28-3 advantage to end the half.

The 49ers’ offensive attack sputtered in the second half, being held scoreless despite a strong first half outburst.

Romo and the Cowboys began to find some rhythm on offense, scoring their first touchdown on a 2-yard Murray run with 30 seconds left in the third quarter to make the score 28-10.

The score was set up after Romo tossed a Hail Mary to Dwayne Harris, who was double-covered by Reid and Cox. Cox made an attempt for the ball, but Harris out-jumped both defensive backs to haul down a 56-yard catch.

Dallas would score again with just under two minutes left in the game when receiver Terrance Williams beat Johnson on a slant route across the end zone for a two-yard reception.

Dallas’ offense would be too little too late, as Boldin recovered an onside kick attempt to run out the clock for the win.

San Francisco will look to ride the back of their impressive first game into their home opener, as they take on the Chicago Bears at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, September 14 at 5:30 p.m.


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