San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy celebrates his team’s win with his parents at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday Jan 22, 2023. (San Franscico 49ers)
by Marko Ukalovic
SANTA CLARA — The team by the Bay is heading back to the NFC Championship.
The San Francisco 49ers grinded out a 19-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys
in the NFC Divisional Playoff game on Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.
San Francisco earned a trip to its second consecutive NFC Championship game and
third in the past four years. Dallas goes home disappointed with its second
consecutive playoff defeat at the hands of the 49ers after finishing the
regular season with a 12-5 record.
“It hurts,” said Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott after the game.
“Very disappointed we weren’t able toto come out. Disappointed in my play.
Disappointed for the guys in the locker room. It’s unfortunate. Sucks.”
Both defenses set the tone early in the first half not allowing either
offense to sustain long drives and forcing punts. Turnovers played a key factor
in San Francisco’s victory as they won the turnover battle two to one.
Deommodore Lenoir intercepted Prescott at the 27-yard line and returned it
six-yards with 5:49 remaining in the first quarter. San Francisco cashed in the
turnover with a 26-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.
Dallas answered back with a 14 play 74-yard scoring drive when Prescott
connected with tight end Dalton Schultz for a four-yard touchdown reception to
give the Cowboys its first lead of the game.
Cowboys’ kicker Brett Maher, who came into the game having missed four of
his last five PAT attempts, had his attempt blocked by Samson Ebukam as the
kicking woes for Maher continued.
“That’s just God putting me in a good spot to block it. All I did was did my job and put my hands up. The kick was low, and I just thanked God he was able to help me block that because that’s a point off the board,” Ebukam said.
With the score tied at 6-6 late in the second quarter, Prescott threw his
second interception of the game when a pass intended for Cee Dee Lamb,
deflected off the hands of Jimmy Ward and picked off by Fred Warner who
returned it to the Cowboys 12-yard line.
Once again, San Francisco settled for a Gould field goal, a 50-yarder, to
end the first half up by three points.
“The defense getting those turnovers, the offense being able to make some third downs (conversions). I don’t think in the first half we had one first down running the ball. I think they were (from) throwing the ball. I think that changed big in the second half. Winning the turnover battle and everything after that,” 49ers head coach Mike Shanahan said.
Dallas received its first break of the game when Ray Ray Mcloud was stripped
of the ball on a punt return after the Niners defense stalled the Cowboys drive
at their own 48-yard line. Kevlin Joesph knocked the ball out of McCloud’s
hands and the ball was recovered by Damone Clark.
Dallas capitalized with a 25-yard field goal by Maher.
The 49ers regained the lead when they marched down the field on their next
possession with a 10 play 91-yard drive that was finished off with a Christian
McCaffery two-yard rushing touchdown. The drive was set up by a 29-yard circus
catch of a reception by tight end George Kittle.
“This is exactly where you wanna be right?” Kittle said about
being one game away from the Super Bowl. “At the start of year back in
OTA’s, all you are doing is preparing for the Super Bowl. To be one step away
from that, it’s awesome.”
Each team would exchange field goals in the fourth quarter. However, when it
mattered at the end, San Francisco’s defense clamped down and held the fort by
not allowing Dallas to get close to scoring the equalizing touchdown late the
With 4th and 10 at their own 18-yard line with just over two minutes
remaining in the fourth quarter, head coach Mike McCarthy decided to punt the
ball with three timeouts left instead of going for it. San Francisco gained two
first downs to milk the clock down 45 second before giving Dallas one last
desperate final drive that resulted in the game clock running out and ending
the Cowboys season.
“We didn’t have enough today. And the guys laid it out there. I don’t
know how close you were to the field. It was an extremely physical football
game. Both teams laid that out there, so, we came up short,” McCarthy
Purdy, despite being pressured throughout the game by Dallas’ front four,
had an efficient game going 19 of 29 for 214 yards with no touchdowns or
interceptions and a QB rating of 87.4. Running back Elijah Mitchell led all
rushers with 51 yards on 14 carries. Kittle led the 49ers in receiving with
five receptions for 95 yards.
“We just stuck with it,” said McCaffery about the offense being more successful in the second half. “I don’t like making blanket statements after games without watching the tape, but you could just feel guys sticking with it, not panicking, just talking it one play at a time.”
Prescott finished 23 of 37 for 206 yards with one touchdown, two
interceptions with a QB rating of 63.6. Lamb led all receivers with 10 catches
for 117 yards. Schultz chipped in five catches for 27 yards to go along with
GAME NOTES: San Francico finished 7-for-14 on third down conversions. Dallas
was just 5-for-15.
San Francisco is now 19-19-1 overall against Dallas and 10-10 at home against them. The Cowboys is 5-4 against the 49ers in the postseason.
Dallas running back Tony Pollard suffered an apparent broken leg in the first half and did not return to the game.
UP NEXT: San Francisco takes on the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC
Championship Game on Sunday at 12:00pm at Lincoln Financial Field.