It wasn’t pretty, but the 49ers figured out a way to emerge from their divisional playoff matchup with the Cowboys a 19-12 winner. They punched their ticket to the NFC championship for the third time in four years.
Here are our notes from a wild game in Santa Clara:
– Wake-up call on the 49ers’ first offensive series. Brock Purdy took a bad second-down sack to get into a third-and-19 and they had to punt. This Cowboys club is the best defense they’ve played all year.
– Hey, a hold got called on Nick Bosa!
– Fred Warner is so sick. He racked up an early tackle for loss.
– Little hurry up from the Cowboys early on. It didn’t work after Dak Prescott got hurried and threw too high for his tight end, Dalton Schultz. Good coverage by Talanoa Hufanga.
– What a DIME from Purdy to George Kittle for a 31-yard pickup. Getting Kittle one-on-one is good, but Purdy delivered an excellent throw in a tight window.
– Good work by Brandon Aiyuk to break up a possible interception.
– It looks like Purdy is a little flustered. He’s taking a long time to make decisions and it’s allowing the Cowboys defensive front to get pressure.
– DEMO!!!!! Deommodore Lenoir comes up with an interception for the second time in as many weeks. Huge play that puts the 49ers at the Cowboys’ 21 to start their second series.
– The 49ers interior offensive line is not good enough for this game. Spencer Burford got pulled early for Daniel Brunskill. Burford has struggled as a pass blocker this year.
– Charles Omenihu was just seen walking to the locker room with some kind of wrap around his waist. Not good for the 49ers pass rush.
End of first quarter: 49ers 3, Cowboys 0
– Tony Pollard is having a really nice game for Dallas. The 49ers haven’t had a ton of answers for the Cowboys RB.
– Great timing on a blitz by Talanoa Hufanga forces a quick throw and a tackle for loss from Jimmie Ward. The 49ers need a big game from the All-Pro safety.
– Nick Bosa has gotten close, but no sacks so far. Prescott has done a nice job getting the ball out quick.
– Then Hufanga misses a tackle on a fourth-and-short. Tough play to tackle CeeDee Lamb in space.
– Easy TD for Dallas. The 49ers defense allowed them to go 74 yards on 14 plays. Just easy the whole way down on the ground and in the air. San Francisco needs their pass rush to get home.
– Cowboys kicker Brett Maher had the extra point blocked by Samson Ebukam. Unreal stuff from Dallas’ special teams this postseason.
– Huge third-down conversion to Jauan Jennings. Purdy has made a couple of good third-down throws, but Jennings was tossed out of bounds late and the 49ers were given an additional 15 yards. They may need some mistakes like that from Dallas’ defense to move the ball.
– The 49ers just committed a holding penalty on a play where they lost yards, which is a good indicator of how this game is going.
– San Francisco started to figure it out a little bit on offense, but they still settled for a 47-yard field goal on their third possession. When Dallas brings an additional pass rusher the 49ers don’t have a ton of answers.
– Dallas’ return game might swing this one. The 49ers coverage units are struggling.
– The 49ers return the favor on the 15-yard penalty. Dre Greenlaw for some reason walloped Ezekiel Elliott well after he stepped out of bounds. More concerning for San Francisco though is why Elliott was so wide open. He had nobody within 10 yards of him in the flat.
– Omenihu is back on a fourth-and-4 at the two-minute warning.
– Pressure from the 49ers and Prescott steps up for a huge run on fourth down. Could be a turning point in the game since Dallas is all but guaranteed points before the half now, and they get the ball after the half.
– There’s interception No. 2 for Prescott, and this time Fred Warner comes up with it after a tip from Jimmie Ward. Ward had excellent coverage on Lamb to force the INT.
– Shanahan’s clock management at the end of the first half is so, so bad.
– Huge completion to Jauan Jennings puts the 49ers in field goal range with 12 seconds left.
– Holy smokes! Purdy just throws the ball away in time to leave San Francisco one second for a field goal to end the half. Gould drills the 51-yarder. Unreal that ended up working.
Halftime score: 49ers 9, Cowboys 6
– Dallas has ruled out Pollard with an apparent lower leg injury. The 49ers were having a tough time slowing him down.
– The 49ers pass rush is getting pressure, but Prescott has done well to escape and find positive yards. That’s an adjustment San Francisco has to make.
– Jimmie Ward got caught peeking in the backfield on a third-and-1 by the Cowboys. The result was an easy screen to Lamb for a first down.
– Ray-Ray McCloud fumbles the punt and Dallas recovers. Brutal. Felt like that was coming all year. In a game this close, that might be the ball game.
– The 49ers have no answers for Lamb on short throws.
– Another NEAR interception for the 49ers. A tipped throw hung in the air for a long time, but no defender was close enough to grab it. Maher made the 25-yard field goal to tie it.
– Ray-Ray!!! He goes 53 yards on the ensuing kickoff to put the 49ers in Cowboys territory to start a huge offensive series.
– Unbelievable play by DeMarcus Lawrence on the Cowboys DL to drag Deebo Samuel down for a loss of four. Niners tried some misdirection and it did not work.
– Oof. 49ers try a shot play to Christian McCaffrey and he was not open. Purdy’s throw landed nowhere near anyone. A punt after that huge return is rough.
– Deep shot to Lamb goes for 44 yards. That’s the big play the 49ers defense hasn’t given up yet. Lenoir got beat bad and committed a penalty. Woof.
– Sick coverage by Warner on Lamb. He was at the line of scrimmage to start the play and sprinted back into the seam to force an incompletion and a punt.
– Unreal juggling catch by Kittle! Purdy had all day to throw on a bootleg and found the TE alone in the middle. Kittle had to tip it to himself, had it bounce off his helmet, then hauled it in while warding off defenders. That was incredible.
– Burford is back in and the 49ers’ run game is MOVING. The Kittle catch opened things up.
– Purdy nearly had a throw picked after it bounced off a Dallas linebacker. Somehow Cowboys DB Trevon Diggs dropped it. Wow. That was very lucky for the 49ers.
End of third quarter score: 49ers 9, Cowboys 9
– Big-time TD drive for the 49ers ends on the first play of the fourth quarter. McCaffrey went in untouched to cap a 10-play, 91-yard drive and give the 49ers a 16-9 lead. Incredible work by San Francisco’s offense to get rolling.
– Huge return for the Cowboys after the TD, and now they’re rolling. Just a brutal response by the 49ers special teams and defense. Yikes.
– Wow. Hufanga just blew up a run play with another perfectly timed snap. Dallas also didn’t block him. That’s a couple big plays for him in a game where the 49ers needed him to be good.
– Maher hit another field goal to make it 16-12. The yips are gone for Dallas’ kicker.
– This is another massive offensive series for the 49ers. They need a touchdown.
– Huge third-down throw from Purdy to Aiyuk on third-and-2 to extend the drive. The 49ers have figured it out on the ground a bit and it’s made things easier in the passing game.
– Another third-down completion. This time it’s in traffic to McCaffrey and the 49ers extend their drive. They need points here, but grinding clock is a huge bonus.
– Elijah Mitchell has been excellent in the fourth quarter. Great block by Kittle on a second-down run that went for eight and a first down.
– Third-and-10 after what looked like a miscommunication between Purdy and Samuel on a screen. Purdy steps through a collapsing pocket and takes off, but he was well short of a first down. Nice drive by the 49ers to eat 7:59 off the clock, but a field goal keeps Dallas within one score. Nervous minutes here. 19-12, 49ers.
– Nice work by the 49ers’ kick coverage unit. They’ve struggled all game, but this time Dallas will start at its own 18 needing a touchdown with 2:59 left.
– Dre Greenlaw nearly had a game-sealing pick-six. Man. That would’ve blown the roof off Levi’s Stadium.
– Charvarius Ward got cooked in coverage, but Prescott missed the throw badly and allowed Ward to recover.
– Sack by Samson Ebukam on third down! Dallas is punting and the 49ers take over with 2:05 on their own 25. They’re two first downs away from the NFC championship.
– Bang. Brock Purdy connects with George Kittle for a first down on first-and-10 to get the 49ers to the two-minute warning.
– Huge run for Mitchell for 15 yards, but he went out of bounds. That’s a killer because Dallas gets the ball back if the 49ers don’t get a first down.
– No first down, but Mitch Wishnowsky punts and pins the Cowboys at the 6 with no timeouts.
– Somehow Arik Armstead got a free shot at Prescott and didn’t sack him for the game-sealing safety. Ouch.
– Dallas failed to execute on their final drive and the 49ers hang on to go to the NFC championship game for the third time in four years.
Final score: 49ers 19, Cowboys 12