Cowboys fall to 49ers in the playoffs for second straight year, lose 19-12 in Santa Clara

Jan 22, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) runs past Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) during the third quarter of a NFC divisional round game at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys fall to 49ers in the playoffs for second straight year, lose 19-12 in Santa Clara

For the second straight year, the Cowboys’ season ends at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers as they suffer a tough loss, 19-12, in Santa Clara.

This game was all about defense. Both teams made their presence known on that side of the ball, as neither offense moved the ball consistently. It proves why both defensive coordinators, Dan Quinn and DeMeco Ryans, will likely be head coaches next year.

The Cowboys were held to 282 total yards and had hardly any success on third down. They had trouble running the football, especially when Tony Pollard went down late in the first half. Ezekiel Elliott finished with 26 yards on 10 carries. Dallas ran the ball for just 76 yards on the night.

Turnovers were again a problem for Dak Prescott as he threw two first-half interceptions. There were multiple occasions where a Dak throw could have been intercepted as well. He finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards with a touchdown and two picks. His top target CeeDee Lamb came away with 10 catches for 117 yards. He also saw plenty of action in the backfield when Pollard went down. Dalton Schultz pulled in five catches for 27 yards and a score.

Brock Purdy was held in check for most of the night but made the big throws when needed. He finished 19 of 29 for 214 yards without a touchdown pass. The Niners’ lone touchdown came from Christian McCaffrey, who was also held to just 35 yards on the night. George Kittle was the Niners’ top target with five catches for 95 yards.

Defense controlled the game early as both teams failed to put together a successful drive until late in the first quarter. After a Dak Prescott interception in Dallas territory, San Francisco took advantage of the mistake and found the scoreboard first. A tough defensive stand by Dallas would force the Niners to settle for a Robbie Gould 26-yard field goal giving them the lead 3-0 with just over two minutes to play in the first quarter.

The first quarter would end with the Niners in front; however, that would not last long as Dallas found the end zone early in the second quarter. A 14-play drive would end in a 4-yard Dalton Schultz touchdown reception giving Dallas a 6-3 lead with over nine minutes to play in the half. A blocked extra point would keep the score at six for the Cowboys.

The Niners would tie the game on their next drive following an 11-play drive. Robbie Gould would punch through a 47-yard field goal to tie the game 6-6 with just under four minutes to play in the first half. The Dallas defense has been showing their ability to get pressure and limit the 49ers’ offense’s ability to hit explosive plays.

With the offense gaining momentum as time ticked down in the second quarter, the Cowboys’ next drive would be upended by another Dak Prescott interception deep in San Francisco territory, giving the Niners the ball back with just over a minute to play in the half. The Niners would then march down the field and set up a 50-yard field goal try, which Gould would knock through, giving San Francisco a 9-6 at the half.

The worry for Dallas coming into halftime was the health of Tony Pollard. He was rolled over on his ankle before halftime and was taken to the locker room on the cart. The Cowboys would start the second half with the ball.

Following an unsuccessful drive to start the half, the Niners would gift the Cowboys a mistake on special teams as Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled the punt giving Dallas the ball back at the San Francisco 21-yard line. Dallas would then set themselves up for a 25-yard Brett Maher field goal tying the game 9-9 with just over nine minutes to play in the third quarter.

The 49ers would put together their best drive of the night, leaking into the fourth quarter. They would lead a 12-play drive resulting in a 2-yard touchdown run from Christian McCaffrey, giving San Francisco a 16-9 lead early in the fourth.

The Cowboys would answer back on the ensuing drive with another field goal. Brett Maher would hit a 43-yard field goal capping off an eight-play drive and cutting the deficit to four at 16-12 with 11 minutes to play in the game.

The Niners would add another field goal to their lead while draining eight minutes off the clock on their next drive. A 13-play drive that would end in a 28-yard field goal by Gould to give San Francisco a 19-12 lead with three minutes to play in regulation.

The Cowboys would have a chance to tie the game with 50 seconds to go in the game, but nothing came of their efforts, as the Niners closed out the Cowboys to head to the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Cowboys will end the season, claiming their first road playoff win in 30 years and a step closer to another NFC title game.

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