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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

49ers once again done in by turnovers in 41-33 loss to Cowboys

Dec 20, 2020 at 1:28 PM--

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
SF 7 7 10 9 33
DAL 14 3 7 17 41

Different week, same turnover-filled story for the San Francisco 49ers.

One week after three turnovers led to 17 points in a 23-15 loss to the Washington Football Team, the 49ers went a similar route in a Sunday afternoon loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The 49ers committed four turnovers Sunday, which led to 24 Cowboys points in a 41-33 defeat.

Three of those turnovers came from quarterback Nick Mullens, who had two interceptions and a fumble on the day.

As It Happened

The teams exchanged punts to start the game, then the 49ers committed two quick turnovers that helped the Cowboys jump out to an early lead. The first turnover came on a fumbled punt return by Richie James that set up the Cowboys with possession at the 49ers' 22-yard line at the 11:58 mark, which the Cowboys turned into a touchdown five plays later on a one-yard run by Tony Pollard.

The 49ers gave the ball right back to the Cowboys on the third play of the next possession when defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence forced a fumble on Nick Mullens that was recovered by former 49ers edge rusher Aldon Smith at the 24-yard line. The Cowboys scored in five plays once again, this time on a three-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to wide receiver Michael Gallup, to take a 14-0 lead.

The 49ers bounced back on the following possession and were able to get their offense on track with a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass from Mullens to tight end Jordan Reed that cut the Dallas lead to 14-7. Much of the work on the drive was done by running back Raheem Mostert, who had seven carries for 42 yards on the drive, including a 17-yard run to set up a first-and-goal.

The Cowboys added a 48-yard field goal on the next possession to stretch their lead to 17-7 (a field goal that was forced in part by an emphatic third-down sack by defensive end Arik Armstead), then the 49ers got back to work on offense again to put together a drive that set them up with a first-and-goal at the one-yard line after nine plays. The Cowboys held firm on the next three plays to force the 49ers to make a decision on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line, and the choice they made turned out to be the right one -- a toss pass to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who ran in for the seventh touchdown of his rookie season.

The teams traded possessions from there before Dallas took over at its own 44-yard line with 1:01 left in the second quarter. A successful conversion on a third-and-18 got the Cowboys in field goal range for the strong-legged Greg Zuerlein, but his attempt from 60 yards sailed wide right, leaving the score at 17-14 at the half.

The Cowboys began the second half with possession and appeared to have possibly turned the ball over to the 49ers when defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw knocked the ball from the arms of Andy Dalton during a third-down quarterback run. Officials called the play in favor of the Cowboys -- a call that stood after it was challenged by the 49ers. But after a Dallas punt, the 49ers wound up with possession deep in Cowboys territory, anyway. Mullens and James then connected on a 23-yard pass that had 15 more yards tacked on due to a lowering-the-head penalty on safety Donovan Wilson. The play set up a 41-yard field goal from Robbie Gould to tie the game at 17.

Dalton and the Cowboys answered quickly, marching 73 yards in six plays to take a 24-17 lead on a 12-yard scoring pass to tight end Dalton Schultz. The score was set up by a 45-yard pass on the previous play from Dalton to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.

The 49ers responded with an impressive drive of their own that ended with a one-yard touchdown run from Jeff Wilson to tie the game at 24. The drive spanned 75 yards in 11 plays, with a number of key moments that included a 25-yard pass from Mullens to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and a 14-yard pass to Reed on a third-and-eight that set up a first-and-goal from the one-yard line.

Wilson's touchdown was followed by three consecutive punts, the third of which pinned the 49ers at their own two-yard line. On the fifth play of that possession, Mullens was intercepted by Donovan Wilson at the 49ers' 28-yard line -- the third turnover of the game for the 49ers. The Cowboys were held to a 46-yard field goal by Zuerlein, which gave them a 27-24 lead with 10:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The teams traded punts one more time, which resulted with the 49ers taking possession with 4:34 left in the game. A pass interference penalty helped the 49ers move towards midfield, but Mullens was intercepted again, this time by cornerback Anthony Brown. Brown's 14-yard return gave the Cowboys possession at the 49ers' 46-yard line. Pollard scored two plays later on a tackle-breaking 40-yard touchdown run to give Dallas a 34-24 lead.

The 49ers took over after the touchdown and moved 62 yards on 10 plays (a drive that saw C.J. Beathard replace Mullens due to an apparent injury) before calling a timeout with 43 seconds on the clock to set up a 31-yard field goal from Robbie Gould to cut the lead to 34-27. The ensuing onsides kick bounced into the hands of Lamb, who ran in from 47 yards for a game-sealing touchdown and a 41-27 lead. The 49ers added a touchdown pass from Beathard to Kendrick Bourne on the final play to send the game to a 41-33 final.

Mullens finished with 219 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions on 21 of 36 passing, while Dalton went 19 of 33 for 209 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The 49ers outgained the Cowboys 458 to 291, including a 150 to 87 edge on the ground, while also holding a time of possession edge of 34:56 to 25:04. But the most telling stat of the game was the four 49ers turnovers to zero from the Cowboys, which puts the 49ers at minus-11 in turnover differential for the season.

The loss drops the 49ers to 5-9 on the season and gives them six losses in their last seven games. The Cowboys improved to 5-9 with the win and now sit one game back of Washington in the NFC East after Washington fell to 6-8 with a 20-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks earlier Sunday.

Up Next

The 49ers head back to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona from here, where they'll finish out the season with a game against the Cardinals on December 26 (4:30 p.m. EST/1:30 p.m. PST) and the finale against the Seattle Seahawks on January 3 (4:25 p.m. EST/1:25 p.m. PST). The game against the Seahawks is the last of three that were relocated to Arizona due to local COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County, California, while the meeting with the Cardinals will count as the final away game of the season for the 49ers... The Cowboys will remain at home next Sunday for a late afternoon contest against the Philadelphia Eagles (4:25 p.m. EST/1:25 p.m. PST) before heading to the East Coast for their season finale against the New York Giants on January 3 (1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST).


The Cowboys headed into this game with an 18-17-1 edge in the series. The Cowboys won the last meeting, a 40-10 road victory on October 22, 2017... This historic series became one of the NFL's top rivalries due in large part to the playoff showdowns the teams had in previous decades. The two teams have met in the postseason seven times, six of those in the NFC Championship game, with the last playoff contest taking place on January 15, 1995... Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott missed this game due to a calf injury, which marked the first injury-related absence in his NFL career... 49ers offensive lineman Justin Skule, who is normally a backup tackle, was given a start at right guard in this game due to injuries at the position. It marked the first time Skule has played at guard... The 49ers entered this game with 25 giveaways on the season -- the second-worst mark in the NFL behind the Denver Broncos (30). Mullens' interception in the fourth quarter marked his sixth consecutive game with an interception.

SF Team Stats DAL
458 Total Yards 291
308 Passing Yards 204
150 Rushing Yards 87
7.4 Avg Yards per Pass 6.5
4.2 Avg Yards per Run 4
2 Fumbles Lost 0
2 Int Thrown 0
2 Sacks Allowed 2
34:56 Time of Pos 25:04
4 Penalties 5

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Nick Mullens 21/36 219 2 2
C.J. Beathard 5/7 100 1 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Raheem Mostert 14 68 4.9 0
Jeff Wilson 16 60 3.8 1
Tevin Coleman 3 11 3.7 0
Nick Mullens 1 7 7 0
Kyle Juszczyk 2 4 2 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
Kendrick Bourne 4 4 86 1
Brandon Aiyuk 9 13 73 1
Richie James 4 7 56 0
Ross Dwelley 2 2 28 0
Kyle Juszczyk 1 2 25 0
Jerick McKinnon 2 2 22 0
Jordan Reed 2 5 18 1
River Cracraft 2 2 11 0
Jeff Wilson 0 4 0 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Nick Mullens 1 1
Richie James 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Robbie Gould 2 2 41 3
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 4 46.5 1 48
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Jerick McKinnon 23 23 0 23
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Richie James 1 9 0 9
Trent Taylor 1 14 0 14
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Arik Armstead 5-3 2 0 0
Tarvarius Moore 4-2 0 0 0
Fred Warner 3-2 0 0 0
Jimmie Ward 3-1 0 0 0
Kerry Hyder 3-0 0 0 0
Marcell Harris 3-0 0 0 0
Dre Greenlaw 2-3 0 0 0
Azeez Al-Shaair 2-1 0 0 0
K'Waun Williams 2-0 0 0 0
Javon Kinlaw 1-2 0 0 0
Kevin Givens 1-1 0 0 0
Richard Sherman 1-1 0 0 0
Tevin Coleman 1-0 0 0 0
Taybor Pepper 1-0 0 0 0
Kai Nacua 1-0 0 0 0
Ahkello Witherspoon 1-0 0 0 0
Dion Jordan 1-0 0 0 0
Jordan Reed 1-0 0 0 0
Jeff Wilson 1-0 0 0 0
Jordan Willis 1-0 0 0 0
D.J. Jones 1-0 0 0 0
Emmanuel Moseley 1-0 0 0 0

Cowboys Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Andy Dalton 19/33 209 2 0
Ced Wilson 1/1 12 0 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Tony Pollard 12 69 5.8 2
Rico Dowdle 4 11 2.8 0
Andy Dalton 2 8 4 0
Noah Brown 1 4 4 0
Blake Bell 1 2 2 0
Amari Cooper 2 -7 -3.5 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
CeeDee Lamb 5 7 85 0
Tony Pollard 6 9 63 0
Michael Gallup 3 5 26 1
Dalton Schultz 2 2 14 1
Noah Brown 1 6 13 0
Blake Bell 1 1 10 0
Amari Cooper 2 3 10 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Greg Zuerlein 2 3 48 5
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Hunter Niswander 6 47 2 53
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Rico Dowdle 88 29.3 0 33
CeeDee Lamb 47 47 1 47
Tony Pollard 20 20 0 20
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Ced Wilson 1 10 0 10
CeeDee Lamb 1 16 0 16
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Chidobe Awuzie 6-2 0 0 0
Donovan Wilson 6-2 0 1 0
Jaylon Smith 5-5 0 0 0
Jourdan Lewis 5-1 1 0 0
Anthony Brown 4-3 0 1 0
Trevon Diggs 3-2 0 0 0
DeMarcus Lawrence 3-2 1 0 1
Neville Gallimore 2-3 0 0 0
Darian Thompson 2-0 0 0 0
Tyrone Crawford 2-0 0 0 0
Leighton Vander Esch 1-2 0 0 0
Sean Lee 1-2 0 0 0
Dorance Armstrong 1-2 0 0 1
Xavier Woods 1-1 0 0 0
Antwaun Woods 1-1 0 0 0
Joe Thomas 1-1 0 0 0
Randy Gregory 1-0 0 0 0

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