“There’s no doubt that we’ll be back. No doubt at all,” Dak Prescott said post-game.
After another devastating playoff loss, those words could rub some fans the wrong way. Fans of America’s Team want to see results, not promises down the line that seems to always let them down in the end.
The Dallas Cowboys had the game for the taking but inevitably the self-inflicted wounds lost them the game against the San Francisco 49ers 19-12. This is the second season in a row the 49ers sent the Cowboys home after having hopes of a Super Bowl run.
Countless things did not go the Cowboys’ way throughout the game but in the end, they still had an opportunity to win it. Dallas simply could not make the most out of what was in front of them. Now it will be another long offseason of ‘what-ifs and how do they get over the hump’. So what specifically went wrong for the Cowboys to lose this game?
Prescott’s Turnovers Continue
Going into this Divisional Round game, it was extremely important that Dak did not turn the ball over. Well, two costly interceptions are the opposite of that.
On the second drive of the game, Prescott threw a third-down pass intended for Michael Gallup that was nowhere close to him. You can argue that Gallup gave up on the route and it’s not all on Prescott which I would agree with. Nonetheless, Ezekiel Elliott was in the flat with no defender in sight and very well could have picked up the first down. The turnover led to a Robbie Gould field goal to give the 49ers a 3-0 lead.
Dak’s second interception was much more costly than his first. With about three and a half minutes until halftime, the Cowboys had an opportunity to drive down the field and take the lead before halftime. While in the 49ers’ red zone after a promising 57-yard drive Dak threw an interception to Fred Warner which was intended for CeeDee Lamb. The throw went into double coverage and was tipped by Jimmie Ward and landed in Warner’s hands.
It was terrible decision-making on Prescott’s part. In a playoff game, not capitalizing off efficient drives will cost you especially when they end in a turnover. It has been an issue all season for Prescott and it ultimately led to the Cowboys’ season-ending.
Tony Pollard Leaves the Game in the Second Quarter, Offense Stalls
It is reported that Pollard suffered a fractured fibula that will require surgery. A devastating way to end a career year for the young running back.
After Pollard went out of the game the Cowboys’ offense struggled mightily. It was already difficult moving the ball on the 49ers’ defense but losing a key playmaker completely stalled the Cowboys’ offense.
Ezekiel Elliott could not get anything going all game only rushing for 26 yards on 10 carries. It is evident that Pollard needs to return next year, either by getting franchise tagged or signing a long-term deal.
The Cowboys lacked a playmaker out of the backfield all second half. This led to Kellen Moore having to call the game differently and could not get it done at the end of the day.
The Cowboys’ offense could not get into the end zone other than Dalton Schultz’s four-yard catch early in the second quarter. They missed an easy opportunity early in the third quarter after a special teams turnover by the 49ers. They started the drive at San Francisco’s 21-yard line. After five plays the Cowboys were stopped and forced to take a field goal at the seven-yard line. Cannot win games while missing given opportunities.
Have to Generate Takeaways
I’ll start this one by saying that the Cowboys’ defense played an exceptional game. It’s hard to ask more out of a defense that held the 49ers’ high-powered offense to only 19 points. Holding a team under 20 points should always result in a win, no excuses.
Deebo Samuel was held under 60 total yards and had no huge plays. Christian McCaffrey was also stopped for the most part having only 35 yards on the ground and 22 yards on six receptions. However, the 49ers’ third playmaker, George Kittle, had 95 yards on five receptions and made some key plays throughout the game.
On another note though, the Cowboys missed some opportunities to take the ball away. Late in the third quarter Trevon Diggs had a chance for an interception that was right in his chest but dropped the ball. The score was 9-9 and the Cowboys would have gained momentum with decent field position.
Four plays later Christian McCaffrey scored a touchdown from two yards out. That takeaway would have changed the whole game. In the playoffs, missed opportunities cannot happen.
This dominant defense should have forced multiple turnovers against the seventh-round rookie in the game, but Brock Purdy certainly was not shook from the big moments, hats off to him.
A truly devastating loss for the Cowboys and their fans. This game was for the taking for the Cowboys and they simply could not capitalize in the big moments. This loss will haunt them all off-season and rightfully so. This team had talent all across the board and at the very least should have made it to the NFC Conference Championship, the 27-year drought continues.
This season had so much promise and there were many bright spots throughout the season in all three phases of the game. In my personal opinion, this was the year they should have ended their Super Bowl drought.
But too many self-inflicted mistakes will lose you playoff games and that is exactly what happened. This offseason will draw many questions (that will be addressed next article).
Hopefully, this team turns this loss into even more motivation to get over the hump next season.
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