ARLINGTON, Texas -- So, was the San Francisco 49ers' defense forcing turnovers in Sunday’s season opening 28-17 victory, or were the Dallas Cowboys merely presenting the ball to the vistors on a silver platter?
Depends upon your perspective, obviously, but the result is the same, and the 49ers were only too happy to ride four first-half takeaways into a 28-3 halftime lead. Especially with so many questions surrounding the Niners’ defense heading into the game.
Three starters were already out -- nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (biceps) and linebackers Aldon Smith (suspension) and NaVorro Bowman (knee) -- and the 49ers would lose both starting cornerbacks to injury -- Tramaine Brock (toe) and Chris Culliver (concussion).
"We always go out one game at a time," said defensive lineman Justin Smith. "We just do our deal. We got a lot of guys banged up and nicked up ... there are definitely some things we can improve on defensively from that game. Take it, learn from it and move on to next week."
Aside from Culliver’s scoop and score from 35 yards out on the third snap of the game, Smith might have had the key play of the game, the one that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
With the 49ers leading 7-0, the Cowboys drove with relative ease from their own 20 to the Niners' 2-yard line and were facing second and 1 when they called a timeout. Six feet away from tying the game and regaining momentum, the Cowboys could only look on in horror as Smith burst through the line to sack Tony Romo for a nine-yard loss.
Two plays later, the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal and, really, the defense-fueled rout was on.
"We made some big plays today," said Smith, who had six tackles, with two sacks for 20 yards.
"It wasn’t one of our better performances by any stretch of the imagination. I think we are going to use this as a learning experience to get better on."