Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers Hold off Dak Prescott, Cowboys for Dramatic NFL Playoffs Win

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 17, 2022

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel, middle, is congratulated by tight end George Kittle (85) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (44) after scoring against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
AP Photo/Roger Steinman

The Dallas Cowboys' wait for a sixth Super Bowl title will drag on for another year.

The NFC East champions fell 23-17 to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Wild Card Round on Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The result also snaps a three-game winning streak for Dallas in its storied rivalry with San Francisco.

The 49ers didn't waste any time, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive as Elijah Mitchell found the end zone on a four-yard run.


Give it to the rookie! Elijah Mitchell starts the scoring in Dallas. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FTTB?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FTTB</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuperWildCard?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SuperWildCard</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsDAL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsDAL</a> on CBS/NICK/Prime Video<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/YBaeCFvhZZ">pic.twitter.com/YBaeCFvhZZ</a>

The Niners scored 13 consecutive points to open the game and took a 16-7 lead into halftime. San Francisco was in control for most of the contest until the Cowboys took advantage of a Jimmy Garoppolo interception. Dak Prescott scrambled in for six with 8:02 left to cut Dallas' deficit to six points.

Dallas Cowboys @dallascowboys

QB1 runnin' it in 🙌<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsDAL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsDAL</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/CBSSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBSSports</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WPMOYChallenge?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WPMOYChallenge</a> Prescott <a href="https://t.co/3l0tPLTPo0">pic.twitter.com/3l0tPLTPo0</a>

One of many self-inflicted wounds for the Cowboys, a defensive holding penalty on Randy Gregory allowed the 49ers to have a crucial first down inside the final two minutes.

But Dallas had one more shot with 32 seconds remaining. The game ended when the Cowboys couldn't get lined up in time after a 17-yard designed run by Dak Prescott.

Notable Performers

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers: 16-of-25, 172 yards, one interception

Elijah Mitchell, RB, 49ers: 27 carries, 96 yards, one touchdown

Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers: 10 carries, 72 yards, one touchdown; three receptions, 38 yards

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: 23-of-42, 254 yards, one touchdown, one interception; four carries, 27 yards, one touchdown

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: 12 carries, 31 yards

Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys: six receptions, 64 yards, one touchdown

49ers Execute Game Plan to (Near) Perfection

This game wasn't too dissimilar from the 49ers' 27-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round two seasons ago. This time, it was Elijah Mitchell and Samuel setting the tone with the running game, while Jimmy Garoppolo remained mistake-free through the air.

Samuel's 26-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put San Francisco ahead 23-7 was a bit of a backbreaker.


How did Deebo even find this hole? 😱 <a href="https://twitter.com/19problemz?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@19problemz</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuperWildCard?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SuperWildCard</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FTTB?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FTTB</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsDAL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsDAL</a> on CBS/NICK/Prime Video<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/HYAOP2OAAN">pic.twitter.com/HYAOP2OAAN</a>

Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats

Deebo Samuel (26-yd rush TD)<br><br>🔸 Expected Rush Yards: 4<br>🔸 Yards Over Expected: +22<br>🔸 TD Probability: 0.7%<br><br>» Samuel @ RB (Today): 6 carries, 48 yards, TD<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StatThat?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StatThat</a> | Powered by <a href="https://twitter.com/awscloud?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@awscloud</a> <a href="https://t.co/L3LRGJbV8s">pic.twitter.com/L3LRGJbV8s</a>

However, a terrible throw by Garoppolo in the third quarter provided the Cowboys with renewed life in the third quarter. He badly overshot Trent Sherfield and floated the ball into the waiting arms of Anthony Brown.


COWBOYS INTERCEPTION.<br><br>Dallas has life with 9:37 left. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DallasCowboys?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DallasCowboys</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuperWIldCard?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SuperWIldCard</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsDAL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsDAL</a> on CBS/NICK/Prime Video<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/GAaIOwEX9r">pic.twitter.com/GAaIOwEX9r</a>

Nick Bosa exited with a concussion, and Fred Warner picked up an ankle injury on Dallas' drive immediately after Brown's interception. The 49ers had to preserve a one-score lead without their two best defenders.

The offense had lost a lot of steam after its fast start—Samuel's touchdown run excepted. Head coach Kyle Shanahan may not have helped matters by adopting an ultra-conservative approach.

Punting on a 4th-and-1 on the Cowboys' 49-yard line with 2:50 on the clock was a head-scratcher.

Dieter Kurtenbach @dieter

“You can win the game right here. You just need to get one yard."<br><br>Kyle Shanahan: “Nah.”

Dan Rubenstein @DanRubenstein

So Kyle Shanahan is this smart offensive mind who’s super creative and effective running the ball and can’t grab a yard midfield? Bleh.

Shanahan's squad survived what turned into a war of attrition.

Cowboys' Playoff Futility Continues

There may not be a better microcosm of the 2021 Cowboys than Trevon Diggs.

Diggs was an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler for the first time after intercepting 11 passes in the regular season, tying a franchise record. Rather than avoiding the second-year cornerback, the 49ers had no concerns about testing him in single coverage and exploiting his penchant for biting on double moves.

Skip Bayless @RealSkipBayless

Once again, Diggs gets burned. HE'S the NFL's most torchable corner.


Pass was incomplete, but this route from Aiyuk was something special 👀 <a href="https://twitter.com/THE2ERA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@THE2ERA</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuperWildCard?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SuperWildCard</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FTTB?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FTTB</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SFvsDAL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SFvsDAL</a> on CBS/NICK/Prime Video<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/5YsZZUZqN9">pic.twitter.com/5YsZZUZqN9</a>

The Cowboys won 12 games and ranked first in overall efficiency at Football Outsiders. A Super Bowl title wasn't a fait accompli, but this was a team that should've at least made the conference championship for the first time since 1995.

As with Diggs' underlying issues in pass coverage, though, perhaps the warning signs were there the entire time.

Cameron Wolfe @CameronWolfe

Every year, they try to convince us to believe in the Cowboys. Every year, same story. <a href="https://t.co/9fbiLXM1An">pic.twitter.com/9fbiLXM1An</a>

For example, the Cowboys had more penalties (127) than any other team and got flagged 14 times Sunday, giving up 89 yards. 

Prescott is unlikely to be spared following a lackluster performance. Signing a four-year, $160 million comes with increased expectations, and the Cowboys will want more of a return on their investment than an opening-round playoff exit.

Dan Orlovsky @danorlovsky7

Yall make sure y’all talk about 1 QB the same way y’all did another….

David Lombardi @LombardiHimself

Dak Prescott is about as inaccurate today as all the Weeks 9-17 tape I watched of him

CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported team owner Jerry Jones might "at least consider the direction of the team as coordinators Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore prepare for numerous head coaching interviews" in the event of a loss Sunday. That change could include firing head coach Mike McCarthy.

What's Next?

As the lowest-seeded team left in the NFC field, the No. 6 Niners will face off with the No. 1 Green Bay Packers in the divisional round.