Cowboys' run defense faces stiff test

The Dallas Cowboys had the NFL’s worst run defense in the preseason, allowing 158.3 yards per game.

For the Cowboys to have any chance to beat San Francisco, they must slow down the 49ers' running attack. Jim Harbaugh’s offense isn’t fancy; it wants to dominate the point of attack and use the running game to set up everything else.

Frank Gore does most of the work for the 49ers, who ran finished third in rushing attempts last season.

He has three 100-yard games each of the past two seasons and 11 games with the 20 carries of more. He’s not a speed runner, but demonstrates extreme patience as a runner.

He has no problem taking his time to let a play develop before attacking the defense’s soft spot.

The Cowboys ranked 27th in the NFL in run defense last season (128.9 yards per game) and yielded more than 130 yards eight times. The Cowboys were 3-5 in those games.

They were 4-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards.

To slow down San Francisco, the Cowboys will need good performances from defensive end Tyrone Crawford, especially with starter George Selvie slowed by a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice on Monday.

Bruce Carter and Kyle Wilber, who will each play some strongside linebacker, need to perform at a high level.

“They have a big, strong offensive line,” coach Jason Garrett said. “They have a great runner and they have a dynamic playmaking quarterback. The challenges are certainly there. They’re all over the tape.”