49ers outplay Cowboys in defensive fight

49ers outplay Cowboys in defensive fight

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With two great defensemen in the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, it’s no surprise that Sunday’s NFC divisional round game was a low-scoring affair.

In the end, the Niners did enough to pull away in the fourth quarter and win 19-12 to advance to the playoffs.

The 49ers will travel to face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday (3:00 pm ET, Fox) in the NFC Championship Game.

san francisco 49ers

After some sub-par performances over the past month, the 49ers’ defense has heard all the buzz.

The same group that led the NFL in most major defensive categories all season had shown signs of fatigue and the best playoff opponents were ready to pounce, skeptics said.

But on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, that 49ers defense offered a stark reminder of who exactly they are, defeating Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and company en route to a third appearance in the NFC Championship Game in four seasons.

Linebacker Fred Warner and cornerback Deommodore Lenoir had interceptions as the Niners finished with +1 in the margin of loss. San Francisco is now 15-0 this season when winning or tying the turnover battle. Dallas finished with just 282 yards of offense at 4.7 yards per play and 5-for-15 on third down.

The Niners, who have now won 12 straight games in a season for the first time since 1984, advanced to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday, where they will face the Eagles.

QB breakdown: Dallas’ defense was easily the toughest test rookie quarterback Brock Purdy has faced since he became the starter in Week 14 and made life difficult for him all day. When Purdy was pressured, the Niners struggled. When he had time to pitch, he was solid.

But Purdy’s highest number that day was zero. As in the number of turnovers that he had. That made all the difference, as Purdy finished 19 of 29 passing for 214 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.

Before this season, there had never been a rookie quarterback who threw for 200 yards and zero interceptions in a playoff game. Purdy did it in back-to-back games.

fundamental game: Stuck in the mud most of the day, the Niners’ offense needed a spark, any spark to get going. It came with 5:19 left in the third quarter when Purdy rolled to his left and saw tight end George Kittle running up the middle of the field.

Purdy’s pitch was on target, but he got Kittle too far ahead. So Kittle improvised, reaching out with her right hand and juggling it twice before dragging it in for a 29-yard gain. The Niners’ offense found traction on the ground soon after and scored the game-winning points on a Christian McCaffrey 2-yard touchdown run eight plays later.

Describe the game in two words: Heavyweight fight. These were two of the top three teams in the NFC all season and while both offenses were pretty explosive, the defenses were consistently the best units on both sides. That showed up Sunday, when they stood in the middle of the ring and traded blows for the 60 minutes before the Niners walked away with the victory.

Underrated Stat to Know: McCaffrey’s fourth-quarter touchdown marked his eighth straight game with a touchdown, the longest streak of his career and the longest for the 49ers since Terrell Owens scored a TD in nine straight games in 1998. — Nick Wagoner

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ season seems to end where it always ends: in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Cowboys’ loss to the 49ers was their seventh straight in the divisional round, which is the longest streak in the second round of the NFL playoffs.

Since winning Super Bowl XXX in 1995, the Cowboys have lost to the Carolina Panthers (1996), New York Giants (2007), Minnesota Vikings (2009), Green Bay Packers (2014, 2016), Los Angeles Rams (2018) and now the Niners.

What went wrong against San Francisco?

Prescott was intercepted twice in the first half (leading to two Niners field goals), Brett Maher missed another extra point (five in two playoff games), running back Tony Pollard missed with a serious injury to the right leg. left ankle and the defense wore down in the second half. As a result, the Cowboys’ Super Bowl drought is now 27 years and growing, and they face a grim offseason that pits them with limited salary-cap options, crucial free agent decisions and the potential loss of two coordinators to hands of the head coach. jobs elsewhere.

QB breakdown: Prescott didn’t need to play perfectly to beat the Niners, but he did need to stay away from mistakes. he didn’t. He became the first Cowboys quarterback with two interceptions in a playoff game since Troy Aikman in the 1998 wild-card round. The Cowboys are now 6-13 in the playoffs when their quarterback has multiple interceptions in a game. After meeting receiver CeeDee Lamb just once in last season’s playoff meeting against San Francisco (five targets), he went almost exclusively to Lamb on Sunday. Prescott’s second interception was deadly because he came at the San Francisco 18-yard line. It was only the second red zone selection of the season for Prescott. The other came in a Week 10 overtime loss to the Packers.

Biggest hole in the game plan: It wasn’t so much a game plan issue as it was losing Pollard to a sprained left ankle in the second quarter. Without Pollard, the Cowboys’ running game went nowhere. Without Pollard’s speed and elusiveness, the Cowboys couldn’t do much against a Niners run defense that didn’t allow an individual rusher to surpass 70 yards all season. Ezekiel Elliott hadn’t averaged more than four yards per carry in a game since Week 14.

Worrying trend: It’s hard to blame the Cowboys’ defense for anything, but in the second half they gave up a 91-yard touchdown drive with the score tied 9-9, and after the Cowboys cut the deficit to 16-12, they gave up a drive. of 64 yards. field goal drive. On the game’s first six drives, they didn’t allow more than 46 yards and allowed three field goals. For a defense that feasted on quarterback pressures and takeaways, they had a hard time getting to Purdy in the second half, and Trevon Diggs dropped an interception on the 91-yard drive.

Underrated Stat to Know: According to Elias, Maher is the only player in NFL history to have more than two failed extra point attempts in a single postseason; he has missed five in the last two games, including one on Sunday.– todd archer

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