Josie Lepe/Associated Press
The San Francisco 49ers rallied for a 24-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys in their preseason opener at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, on Thursday night.
Yes, we’re still playing football. And the @49ers just took a LATE lead!
As is generally the case, starters weren’t afforded a big stage to shine as the Dallas and San Francisco coaching staffs looked to insulate their most dependable contributors from injuries.
Understandably, those decisions opened the door for youngsters on both sides to make good first impressions with the start of the regular season one month away.
Michael Gallup Shows Makings of Future No. 1 WR
On Thursday, that didn’t seem to be an issue.
Prescott, who went 3-of-3 for 39 yards, capped off his only drive in Dallas’ preseason opener by lofting a 30-yard score to rookie Michael Gallup down the right sideline:
However, it wasn’t just that Gallup found paydirt that was so encouraging.
Rather, it was that he put his big-time potential on display by dusting 49ers safety Jimmie Ward after the two appeared to be locked stride-for-stride coming off the line of scrimmage.
Given Dallas’ lack of legitimate vertical threats, the third-round pick should be afforded every opportunity to emerge as Prescott’s top target.
Pro Football Focus @PFF
Over his 2-year career at Colorado State – Michael Gallup saw a ridiculous 117.4 passer rating on his 282 targets including 21 TDs. Picking up right where he left off.. https://t.co/bKF8roG3IG
And if he continues to make plays the way he did Thursday night, it likely won’t be long before he’s the focal point of the Cowboys’ aerial attack.
Dante Pettis Gives 49ers Another Dangerous Deep Threat
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s more innovative offensive tacticians, which means he should have a field day with deploying rookie Dante Pettis as the 2018 season rolls along.
Although Pettis is likely to face a steep learning curve as he continues his transition from the University of Washington to the Bay Area, he proved Thursday that he has NFL-caliber speed that can blow the top off opposing defenses.
That reminder came early in the third quarter when Pettis burned Dallas’ secondary for a 53-yard grab that could have been a touchdown had C.J. Beathard not underthrown him:
C.J. Beathard to the rookie WR Dante Pettis for 53 yards! #DALvsSF
📺: @nflnetwork https://t.co/u29r3hDi5Z
Pettis will take a back seat to Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon at the start of the season, but his game-breaking capabilities should make him the kind of secret weapon Shanahan lets loose when the 49ers are in need of a vertical jolt.
Bo Scarbrough Leads Encouraging Showing for Cowboys RB Depth
Dallas held Ezekiel Elliott out of its preseason opener, which opened the door for Rod Smith and Bo Scarbrough to take spins in the spotlight.
And sure, the sample size wasn’t big. But when those two pounded the ball between the tackles, the results were generally positive.
Smith, who trotted out with the first-team offense, picked up 32 yards on eight carries and ripped off a big 15-yard gain on his first carry of Dallas’ opening possession. Once Smith traded in his helmet for a baseball cap, Scarbrough took over and performed admirably with the second-team offense.
Rob Phillips @robphillips3
Rod Smith helped that drive move. No Zeke, no problem. 29 yards on 5 carries. #cowboyswire
David Helman @HelmanDC
Rod Smith has been having a fantastic training camp, and it is carrying over. Dude looks great.
Operating behind quarterback Cooper Rush, the former Alabama bruiser rumbled his way to nine carries for 33 yards and a goal-line touchdown plunge along with two receptions for 19 yards.
Jon Machota @jonmachota
When Bo Scarbrough gets a chance to run behind the first-team offensive line, I think Cowboys fans will be very pleased with the results
The highlight of that performance came midway through the second quarter when he slashed through the 49ers defense for a 28-yard pickup:
Assuming Elliott is healthy, neither Smith nor Scarbrough figures to see more than light complementary work.
But in the meantime, they should give the Cowboys some peace of mind in the event their lead back ever hits the shelf.
Both the 49ers and Cowboys will be back in action Saturday, Aug. 18. Dallas will host the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium, while San Francisco will head to NRG Stadium for a meeting with the Houston Texans.