Dallas Cowboys Lose Heartbreaker to San Francisco 49ers

Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers. | Image from San Francisco 49ers

The Dallas Cowboys season came to an end in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs as they lost to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 23-17. Penalties were a major factor in the Cowboys’ loss, as were two questionable actions by the officiating crew, one of which ended the game.

Ultimately, the Cowboys fell short in their first appearance in the playoffs since the 2018 season. San Francisco will advance to the Divisional Round and face the Green Bay Packers.

Dallas started the game slowly, gaining a net of only seven yards in the first quarter. The offensive line gave up a sack on the first possession of the game, already down by a touchdown, then committed a holding penalty on the second possession that wiped out a 32-yard reception by receiver CeeDee Lamb.

Lamb has had a breakout season but had only one reception on five targets during this game. He totaled 21 yards receiving on the day that included a trick lateral-play late in the game as the Cowboys struggled to stay competitive. Quarterback Dak Prescott struggled throughout the game, missing receivers and taking hits from a defensive line that was overmatched throughout the game.

Prescott was sacked a total of five times, sacrificing 40 yards in the process. He also threw an interception in the third quarter that gave the 49ers the ball on the Dallas 19-yard line. San Francisco’s wide receiver and running back Deebo Samuel took the next play into the endzone for what ultimately became the difference in the game.

Penalties, particularly pre-snap penalties, have been an issue for Dallas all season. The team committed 14 total penalties in the game against the 49ers, several of which brought an end to critical drives.

The Cowboys’ two touchdowns came in the second and fourth quarters, while the only points earned in the third came from a Greg Zuerlein field goal. Dallas had a chance late in the game on two consecutive drives to secure the win, but ultimately fell short.

With just 32 seconds to play in the fourth quarter and down by six points, the Cowboys drove 56 yards, putting themselves in position to score a game-winning touchdown. However, a scramble by Prescott did not leave enough time on the clock for the officials to spot the ball before time ran out, denying the Cowboys an opportunity to go for a final play.

On the previous drive, Prescott found Cedrick Wilson for 38 yards, but then took a one-yard sack and fired incomplete passes to Lamb and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott missed Wilson on fourth-and-11, allowing San Francisco the opportunity to close out the game.

The Dallas defense has been among the brightest spots for the team in a bounce-back year under Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn is one of the potential candidates for recently-opened head coaching jobs. The Dallas defense forced only one turnover, which came late in the game, to give the Cowboys’ offense an opportunity. Ultimately, the Cowboys failed to prevent the 49ers from using the running game to dominate the time of possession.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finished the game, throwing for only 172 yards and no touchdowns, but the running game added another 169 yards and two touchdowns. San Francisco’s kicker Robbie Gould was perfect from 40, 51, and 53 yards to give San Francisco the win.

The Cowboys will enter the offseason with questions on the coaching staff, many of whom are candidates for current open coaching positions. The team can anticipate bringing back several key players next season but will have many questions to answer following the devastating loss in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.

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