It was the wildest, wild card there ever was, but the San Francisco 49ers managed to come out on top, beating the Dallas Cowboys, 23-17. A punt hit the scoreboard, a ball got lost in the sun, the Cowboys had 14 penalties, and, ultimately, it came down to a bizarre final play call with a ref interfering. Next stop for San Francisco: Green Bay in the divisional round.
San Francisco had a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but it slowly but surely diminished, and came down to the end.
“We did what we needed to do,” said safety Jimmie Ward. “Stop the run, make them one-dimensional and see if [Dak] Prescott could win the game for them.”
Spoiler alert: He could not. Before the game’s final play, Prescott was sacked and then threw three incompletions. Then, Prescott took off on a 17-yard run, but with no timeouts, time expired before Dallas could do anything else.
“I think the Niners make for great TV,” said tight end George Kittle.
He’s not wrong, but the blood pressure of 49ers fans might disagree. The 49ers have come down to the wire or gone to overtime in five of their last seven games.
San Francisco’s defense had one of its most, if not most, impressive performances this season, as the 49ers played more than a half without DE Nick Bosa (concussion) and the final 8:36 without LB Fred Warner (ankle). Their respective statuses for the divisional round are not yet known.
“To do it against that type of offense?” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s got to be up there.”
The 49ers defense had five sacks and 14 QB hits, while holding the Cowboys to 77 rushing yards and 307 yards total. None of that was easy considering that Dallas led the league in yards, with 407, and points, with 31.2. In addition to all that, CB K’Waun Williams had a huge third-quarter interception.
“That’s why I felt like we were so in control of the game,” said quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. “That’s a good offense that they were going against. They kept them in check the whole game.”
The fourth quarter almost collapse was set up by another special teams gaffe and a Garoppolo interception. The Cowboys executed a successful fake punt that led to a field goal. Then, with 10 minutes left in the game, Garoppolo threw an interception that led to a touchdown drive. But the defense held on.
Offensively, running back Elijah Mitchell had 27 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown, while WR/RB Deebo Samuel 10 carries for 72 yards and a 26-yard rushing touchdown, following the aforementioned Williams interception. A play in which Samuel was not throwing away his shot.
“When K’Waun got the interception, I looked at Kyle and said, ‘Hey, just give me the ball. I got you,'” Samuel said after the game. “I went out there and next play, I scored.”
That's 'Wide Back' @19problemz for the tuddy 💰
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 16, 2022
Giving Samuel the ball wasn’t exactly a tough decision for Shanahan.
“Deebo’s been a stud all year as everyone knows and, right before he went out there, he just mouthed something to me, which I kind of guessed, was, ‘Give me the ball,'” Shanahan said. “When I look at him talking that way, it’s extremely motivating, and he makes it a lot easier to call plays.”
The 49ers-Cowboys rivalry is a storied one and one that Shanahan admitted last week, many of his players are not old enough to remember. With that in mind, Shanahan said after the game that he watched tape from 1995, when he was a teenager, and his father, Mike Shanahan, was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator. He later showed some of it to the team.
“I ended up showing some of the guys Friday, and it was just kind of cool and you think back to those days, and those were my heroes,” Shanahan said. “…I just try to remind those guys, Deion [Sanders] and Michael [Irvin], they were 25 at the time. They’re just like you guys…I don’t think our guys totally knew the rivalry, they got an idea now, but they totally knew the moment, and they were ready for it…I’m real proud of our guys.”
And with that, they’re on to Green Bay to take on the Packers at Lambeau Field at 5:15 pm PT.