Four straight first-half San Fransico 49ers scoring drives, and a bevy of penalties did the Dallas Cowboys in, falling 23-17 ending their season in the opening round of the playoffs. The 49ers took the opening drive for a touchdown and tacked on three field goals before the half. Dallas found paydirt middle of the second quarter when quarterback Dak Prescott found receiver Amari Cooper for a 20-yard touchdown.
The 49ers added a touchdown run following a Prescott interception increasing their lead to 13. However, Dallas made a run in the fourth quarter first hitting a 51-yard field goal, then getting an Anthony Brown interception that led to a five-yard Prescott touchdown run making it 23-17 with 8:02 left. It was as far as Dallas got as a fourth and 11 wasn’t converted and Prescotts final scramble running out the clock ending the game. Below are the four biggest takeaways from tonight’s game.
Keys story from today’s game was the sheer number of Cowboys penalities. Dallas racked up 14 penalties for 89 yards and came at costly times. Several holding calls negated big gains. Defensive holding and offsides penalties extended 49er drives. All not winning football and in a game, this close one could argue was the biggest factor in the Cowboys loss.
Offense Falls Flat
Dallas mustered just 307 yards and 20 first downs, gaining only one first down in the opening quarter. Prescott was sacked five times and under pressure for most of the game resulting in missed throws. On the ground running back Ezekiel Elliott gained 31 yards on 12 carries while fellow back Tony Pollard gained 14. Out wide it was a tough day for receiver CeeDee Lamb catching only one of his five targets. Cooper and tight end Dalton Schultz each led with six catches. On top of that, a Prescott scramble with 14 seconds left ran out the clock before he could spike it ending the game. Two turnovers just put a bow on a disappointing end to a good season.
Defense Steps Up
For all the penalties the Cowboys’ defense, in the end, gave the offense two separate chances to win the game. On top of that holding, the 49ers to three field goals kept them in the game. They held the 49ers to 341 yards and forced a turnover. Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Micah Parsons led with a combined 23 tackles, with Vander Esch’s final one-stopping 49ers receiver Deebo Samuels a yard short extending the game. For a unit that was so bad last year, they did all they could to win this game.
All the improvements and records mean nothing when you can’t win when it counts. For a Dallas team with so much hope to not even get past the wild card round hurts and should be interesting to see what changes are made in the offseason.