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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers ride defense to NFC Championship Game in 19-12 win over Cowboys

Jan 22, 2023 at 6:55 PM--

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Tot
DAL 0 6 3 3 12
SF 3 6 0 10 19

It was a battle of two potent offenses against two of the league's top defenses in the NFC Divisional Playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium on Sunday, and in the end it was the 49ers' top-rated defense that won the day and did enough to send their team to a second consecutive appearance in the NFC Championship game.

The 49ers grinded out a 19-12 win over the Cowboys while holding quarterback Dak Prescott to 206 yards on 23-of-37 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions, one week after Prescott threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-14 Wild Card round win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy completed 19-of-29 passes for 214 yards, while their rushing offense woke up from a slow start to run for 113 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers also got four field goals from kicker Robbie Gould while holding the Cowboys to one touchdown on the afternoon.

First Half

Defenses set the tone early on by forcing three consecutive punts to start the game, then the 49ers came up with the first big play of the contest when cornerback Deommodore Lenoir intercepted Prescott to give the 49ers possession at the Cowboys' 21-yard line. The 49ers moved into a 1st-and-Goal at the 10-yard line after converting on a 3rd-and-15 with a 17-yard completion to wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, but the Cowboys held on defense from there, forcing a field goal from kicker Robbie Gould to take a 3-0 lead.

The Cowboys responded with the first touchdown drive of the game, a 14-play, 74-yard possession that took nearly eight minutes off the clock. The drive culminated in a four-yard scoring pass from Prescott to tight end Dalton Schultz to take a 6-3 lead, but after missing four extra point attempts in the Cowboys' win in the Wild Card round in Tampa Bay, kicker Brett Maher was unable to convert once again when his attempt was blocked by defensive end Samson Ebukam.

The 49ers responded with a 10-play, 46-yard drive that ended with a 47-yard field goal from Gould to tie the game at 6. Purdy connected with wide receiver Deebo Samuel for a 17-yard gain on a 2nd-and-19 to give the 49ers a 3rd-and-2 at the Cowboys' 29-yard line, but the 49ers fell short on third down to force another field goal from Gould with just under four minutes remaining in the half.

It didn't take long after the field goal for the Cowboys to move back into 49ers' territory. A 36-yard kick return by KaVontae Turpin started the Cowboys at their own 35-yard line, then a 9-yard completion to running back Ezekiel Elliott combined with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on linebacker Dre Greenlaw moved the Cowboys across midfield to the 41-yard line. A 9-yard run from Prescott on a 4th-and-4 from the 35-yard line followed by an 8-yard completion to running back Tony Pollard moved the Cowboys inside the 20, but the 49ers came up with another big play on defense when linebacker Fred Warner intercepted Prescott at the 12 and returned the ball 16 yards to give the 49ers the ball at the 28-yard line with 1:15 left to play in the half.

The 49ers turned the interception into Gould's third field goal of the first half, moving the ball 40 yards on eight plays to give Gould an attempt from 50 yards with one second remaining before halftime. A 21-yard completion from Purdy to wide receiver Jauan Jennings gave the 49ers a 1st-and-10 at the Cowboys' 32-yard line with 12 seconds remaining, then after narrowly saving one second on the clock following two incomplete passes, the 49ers sent out Gould to split the uprights and put them up 9-6 at the break.

The 49ers held a 141-136 edge in total yards at halftime despite being held to just 27 rushing yards on 11 carries. Purdy completed 12-of-19 passes for 129 yards in the first half while Prescott hit on 12-of-16 passes for 81 yards to go with his one touchdown and two interceptions. The Cowboys rushed for 55 yards on 13 carries in the first half but took a hit on their final possession when Pollard was carted off with an ankle injury.

Second Half

After riding turnovers to take the lead in the first half, the 49ers committed their first significant mistake of the game early in the second half to put the Cowboys in scoring position. The 49ers held the Cowboys to a punt after six plays on the first possession of the half, but a fumble on the punt by return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud gave the Cowboys the ball at the 49ers' 21-yard line. The Cowboys were unable to put the ball in the end zone, but Maher connected on a 25-yard attempt to tie the game at 9 with just over nine minutes left in the third quarter.

McCloud bounced back on the following kickoff by tearing off a 53-yard return to start the 49ers off at the Cowboys' 47-yard line. But the 49ers were held to a three-and-out after the return and were forced to punt, which went out of bounds at the Cowboys' 9-yard line. The Cowboys flipped the field after Prescott connected with wide receiver CeeDee Lamb for a 46-yard gain, but the 49ers held firm on defense from there to force a punt to their own 9-yard line.

The 49ers turned their worst field position of the game into their best drive of the game, a 10-play, 91-yard possession that took six minutes off the clock and ended in a two-yard touchdown run from Christian McCaffrey that gave them a 16-9 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. Much of the yardage on the drive came on the ground with the help of three penalties from the Cowboys, but the highlight of the drive was a juggling 30-yard catch from tight end George Kittle that moved the 49ers across midfield on the second play of the possession.

The Cowboys answered with an eight-play, 32-yard drive that ended in a 43-yard field goal from Maher to cut the 49ers' lead to 16-12. A 44-yard return from Turpin set the Cowboys up close to midfield, then the Cowboys moved inside the 30 before settling for a field goal with just over 11 minutes on the clock. The biggest play of the possession may have come from Gould, who threw his body in front of Turpin on the return to prevent what could have been a much longer gain.

The 49ers started the next possession at their own 25-yard line and put together a long drive that chewed up nearly eight minutes of game clock, but they were forced to settle for another field goal to extend their lead to 19-12. The drive lasted 64 yards in 13 plays and moved inside the Cowboys' 15-yard line, but the Cowboys held the 49ers to a 28-yard field goal from Gould to leave them within a touchdown.

Prescott and the Cowboys began their next possession at their own 18-yard line with 2:59 on the clock. They didn't hold onto the ball for long, punting the ball back to the 49ers after a near-interception on first down, an incompletion on second down and a sack on third down. The 49ers took over at their own 26-yard line with 2:05 remaining and picked up a quick first down on a 16-yard completion from Purdy to Kittle before the two-minute warning, then moved the clock under a minute before punting back to the Cowboys with 45 seconds left.

The Cowboys took over at their own 6-yard line after a fair catch from Turpin, then moved to their own 24-yard line after completing two passes to Schultz. But time ran out on them from there after two incompletions and a short completion to Turpin, who was stopped by defensive back Jimmie Ward to end the game.

The win sets up a showdown between the 49ers and Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia next Sunday at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT. The winner of that game will move on to face the winner of the AFC Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on February 12.

Game Notes: Today's game marked the ninth time the 49ers and Cowboys have met in the postseason. The 49ers won three of those meetings, including last year's 23-17 win in the Wild Card round... The 49ers hold a 15-14-1 regular season edge in the series but the Cowboys headed into the day with a 19-18-1 overall lead. The 49ers were four point favorites heading into today's game... The win extends the 49ers' current winning streak to 12 games, while extending an NFC Championship game drought for the Cowboys that has stretched nearly three decades (1995).

DAL Team Stats SF
206 Passing Yards 199
76 Rushing Yards 113
282 Total Yards 312
5.57 Avg Yards per Pass 7.38
3.45 Avg Yards per Run 3.53
0 Fumbles Lost 1
2 Int Thrown 0
1 Sacks Allowed 2
00:27:07 Time of Pos 00:32:53
7 Penalties 3

Cowboys Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Dak Prescott 23/37 206 1 2
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Ezekiel Elliott 10 26 2.6 0
Dak Prescott 4 22 5.5 0
Tony Pollard 6 22 3.7 0
CeeDee Lamb 2 6 3 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
CeeDee Lamb 10 13 117 0
Dalton Schultz 5 10 27 1
Noah Brown 2 2 21 0
T.Y. Hilton 1 1 15 0
Tony Pollard 2 3 11 0
Ezekiel Elliott 2 4 7 0
Michael Gallup 0 3 0 0
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Brett Maher 2 2 43 0
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Bryan Anger 4 46.8 3 56
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Donovan Wilson 5-3 0 0 0
DeMarcus Lawrence 4-2 1 0 0
Leighton Vander Esch 3-8 0 0 0
Malik Hooker 3-5 0 0 0
Jayron Kearse 3-2 0 0 0
Dorance Armstrong 3-0 0 0 0
Anthony Barr 2-3 0 0 0
Osa Odighizuwa 2-3 1 0 0
Trevon Diggs 2-2 0 0 0
Johnathan Hankins 2-1 0 0 0
Micah Parsons 1-3 0 0 0
Carlos Watkins 1-0 0 0 0
Neville Gallimore 1-0 0 0 0
Kelvin Joseph 1-0 0 0 0
Chauncey Golston 1-0 0 0 0

49ers Player Stats
Passing Cmp/Att Yds TDs INTs
Brock Purdy 19/29 214 0 0
Rushing Att Yds Avg TDs
Elijah Mitchell 14 51 3.6 0
Christian McCaffrey 10 35 3.5 1
Deebo Samuel 4 11 2.8 0
Kyle Juszczyk 1 8 8 0
Receiving Rec Tgt Yds TDs
George Kittle 5 5 95 0
Deebo Samuel 4 7 45 0
Jauan Jennings 2 2 26 0
Brandon Aiyuk 2 4 26 0
Christian McCaffrey 6 8 22 0
Fumbles Fum Lost
Ray-Ray McCloud 1 1
Kicking FG Att Lg XP
Robbie Gould 4 4 50 1
Punting No Avg I20 Lg
Mitch Wishnowsky 4 41 2 46
Kickoff Returns Yds Avg TDs Lg
Ray-Ray McCloud 53 53 0 53
Punt Returns Att Avg TDs Lg
Ray-Ray McCloud 2 8.5 0 13
Defense T-A Sck INTs FF
Fred Warner 7-2 0 1 0
Jimmie Ward 6-1 0 0 0
Charvarius Ward 5-1 0 0 0
Azeez Al-Shaair 4-3 0 0 0
Dre Greenlaw 4-2 0 0 0
Deommodore Lenoir 4-1 0 1 0
Talanoa Hufanga 2-3 0 0 0
Nick Bosa 2-0 0 0 0
Arik Armstead 1-2 0 0 0
Tashaun Gipson 1-1 0 0 0
Samson Ebukam 1-1 1 0 0
Robbie Gould 1-0 0 0 0
Oren Burks 1-0 0 0 0
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles 1-0 0 0 0

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