The 49ers beat the Cowboys 19-12 to advance to the NFC title game
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Christian McCaffrey scored on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter and the San Francisco defense did the rest, sending the 49ers to their second consecutive NFC title game with a 19-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The 49ers (15-4) used long back-to-back drives in the second half to beat the Cowboys (13-6) to win their 12th straight game. San Francisco advanced to the Eagles in this Sunday’s NFC title game in Philadelphia after losing to the Rams in that round a year ago.
The Cowboys lost in the Divisional Round for the seventh straight time and failed to advance to the NFC title game since winning their fifth Super Bowl title following the 1995 season.
Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and Brett Maher missed his fifth extra point of the playoffs when his attempt was blocked. He then scored two field goals.
The Cowboys had a chance as they took over on their own 18th with 2:59 left, trailing 19-12 after Robbie Gould’s fourth field goal of the game climaxed nearly eight minutes into the game.
But Prescott threw two consecutive misses and was sacked in third place. Coach Mike McCarthy chose to punt fourth and tenth with the three timeouts remaining.
Rookie Brock Purdy started the next drive with a 16-yard completion to George Kittle and San Francisco did not return the ball to Dallas until 45 seconds remained on the 6. Dallas never came close to that.
Purdy, the final draft pick last April, improved to 7-0 as a starter since replacing an injured Jimmy Garoppolo early in Week 13. Sanchez (2009) as the only rookie QBs to earn two playoff starts.
The 49ers took the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter as McCaffrey capped off a 91-yard drive with a 2-yard run.
The drive included a 30-yard juggling catch by Kittle and a pair of defensive catches against Dallas—including one on Donovan Wilson near the goal line that nullified a third sack.
Maher scored his second field goal of the game when he converted from 43 yards to cut San Francisco’s lead to 16–12.
The NFL’s top two teams struggled to get going over the past 13 weeks as the defense led by All-Pros Nick Bosa of San Francisco and Micah Parsons of Dallas controlled the game.
The Niners converted two interceptions by Prescott in the first half into Robbie Gould field goals and led 9–6 at halftime.
The Cowboys scored the lone TD of the first half, with Prescott making contact with tight end Dalton Schultz for the third time this postseason. But Maher’s weak extra-point attempt was blocked by Samson Ebukam.
Maher got some redemption when he hit a 25-yard field goal that tied the game at 9 early in the third quarter after Ray-Ray McCloud threw a punt return at the San Francisco 21.
The Cowboys’ decision to stick with Maher after his four missed extra points last week looked questionable when he missed the first extra point.
There had been a dusty pregame as Maher warmed up. Trent Williams and other 49ers players tried to thwart his attempts on the San Francisco side of the field, leading to a brief argument.
Cowboys: RB Tony Pollard left late in the first half after injuring his left ankle while being tackled after a reception. He did not return to play. … DT Calvin Watkins (calf) took off in the first half.
49ers: DE Charles Omenihu (oblique) went off briefly in the first half but came back into the game.
The 49ers would reach their second Super Bowl in the past four seasons with a victory in Philadelphia.
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