Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

49ers elated, Cowboys frustrated after roller coaster ending to Wild Card contest

Jan 16, 2022 at 8:00 PM--

There was a quite a contrast in reactions between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers after the eventful way their Wild Card game came to an end on Sunday evening.

With the 49ers up 23-17 in the game's final seconds, the Cowboys were in the process of making one final attempt at a come-from-behind win after trailing 23-7 earlier in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys had the ball at the 49ers' 41-yard line with 14 seconds left to play when they called for a quarterback run by Dak Prescott, which advanced the ball to the 24-yard line. But with no time outs remaining, the Cowboys had to rush to get lined up in order to get off another play.

Between the time it took them to get lined up and the time the umpire needed to set the ball, the Cowboys wound up not having enough game clock to do what they were attempting to do, which was spike the ball to stop the clock before running one final play. In the meantime, the umpire who was trying to set the ball bumped into Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott while time was winding down.

Confusion reigned for a bit after the play before the officials declared the game over. The 49ers were understandably jubilant with the outcome after a brief moment of tension.

"I thought it was over because I saw it live," Shanahan said after the game. "I was very confident it was done. I was just nervous. Sometimes when you're real confident you think you see it right. Sometimes it changes. So you're never fully sure until they let you know."

Meanwhile, the Cowboys were left upset with how the umpire collided with Prescott, while also feeling they should have had another chance.

"I've never seen that come down the way it came down, as far as the collision between the umpire and the quarterback," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. "We were trying to get it inside the 30-yard line to set up the last play. The mechanics were intact, I felt, from our end of it. The communication that I was given on the sideline (was) that they were reviewing. They were going to put time back on the clock. The next thing I know is they were running off the field."

Referee Alex Kemp said in a postgame interview that nothing was done incorrectly on the umpire's end when it came to his actions on the play.

"The umpire was simply spotting the ball properly," Kemp said, per Jon Machota of The Athletic. "He collided with the players as he was setting the ball because he was moving it to the proper spot."

Prescott didn't seem to agree with that assessment. According to tweets from Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, Prescott agreed with the angry fans who threw trash at the officials after the game.

"A credit to them," Prescott said of the fans, per Gehlken, while adding, "The fans felt the same way as us. I guess that's why the refs took off and got out of there so fast. I think everybody is upset with the way this thing played out."

Many fans and media criticized the Cowboys for not calling a different play given the situation, but McCarthy stood by the call after the game, saying he felt there should have been enough time to spike the ball after the run.

"I have no problem with the call," McCarthy said. "We call the situation a church clock situation. This is something we practice every Friday and Saturday. We're trying to get inside the 20-yard line. We want the last play to come down to (what) would have been some sort of five vertical pass concept. So we had two set based on where we were going to be on the final yards there. Based on being that tight, 14 seconds, we should clearly get the ball spiked there. I haven't seen the replay; I'm sure you have. But I'm as shocked as anybody on offense that we didn't get that last play opportunity."

49ers players were more light-hearted about the outcome when they discussed it during their postgame media sessions.

"I didn't know it was over," safety Jimmie Ward said. "I play until the last snap. I'm glad the referee ran into his center, so I'm happy about that. But other than that, I just feel the guys went out there and did their job, came home with a win."

Ward later defended the official, saying it was the type of odd situation that happens sometimes in the NFL.

"I don't think the ref tried to do that," Ward said. "Y'all have watched a lot of football around the league. Things like that happen. He didn't try to do that on purpose. It's just the nature of the game."

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said he never thought his team was in danger of losing the game, even though things got too close for comfort in the end.

"It was just an emotional game -- the highs and lows of it, everything," Garoppolo said. "It never felt like it was getting away from us. I always felt like we were in control of the game, but it made for some good TV I guess."

The 49ers were obviously happy with the win regardless of what happened as time expired. But after how things played out on Sunday to go with the thrilling come-from-behind overtime win they had against the Los Angeles Rams to clinch a playoff berth last week, the 49ers might prefer that the next one doesn't get quite as crazy in the end.

"That was awful," tight end George Kittle said. "I like winning. It's always awesome, no matter how you do it. Obviously we have things we have to fix or learn from I would say because we almost let that one get away from us. But our team stepped up when we needed to step up and we got the win."

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