Not many games play out as you expect them to. But, in the case of the 49ers and Cowboys, that’s precisely what happened. Now, it wouldn’t be a Niner game if the ride didn’t involve its usual turbulence.
A dominant first half and a strong start to the third quarter were erased after the Cowboys converted a fake punt on fourth down and a fourth-quarter interception on second down that Dallas turned into a touchdown.
That would be the last score of the game after the Niners' offense bled the clock for five minutes on the next drive and the defense forced a turnover on downs, and the refs tackled Dak Prescott, allowing San Francisco to leave town victorious.
Here are the best quotes from the postgame from Kyle Shanahan and the players.
Shanahan takes it back to the 90s
Shanahan said he watched the ‘94 Cowboys/49ers game Thursday night and showed some of it to the team on Friday. You could get a sense from his presser that this game meant a lot to him, and Shanahan digging into the archives to show the players what this game meant to each franchise in the 90s proves that.
Why go that route? Shanahan, and I’m paraphrasing here, said those stars in the 90s like Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, and Jerry Rice made their names and became heroes because of what they did in the playoffs, not the regular season. I loved that message. It worked.
On the correlation between the 90s teams and this one, George Kittle: “We stand on the shoulders of legends. We really do. I learned in college you always want to leave your jersey in a better place, and there’s so many 49ers players that have left the jersey in a better place, and that’s what we’re trying to do too.”
Shanahan said Jimmy Garoppolo played well in the first half and even made some nice throws in the second half. But he pointed out three mistakes from Jimmy: the interception, the miss to Brandon Aiyuk on third down, and not letting Trent Williams get set on fourth down, which led to a penalty and eventually a 49er punt.
Shanahan said defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has been unbelievable all year, and him calling a zero blitz on fourth down was “really cool.” That, to me, was DeMeco forcing Dallas’s hand and playing to win.
Trent’s first playoff victory
For a decade, Trent Williams has been the best left tackle in the NFL. But, despite all of the personal accolades you can imagine, he’s never had a playoff victory. Williams said the win Sunday meant more than any award or honors he’s ever received.
Shanahan, on Williams: “I was so happy for Trent [Williams]. I don’t think people realize how much Trent enjoys playing football. I’m just really happy for him and everyone else in there that they’re getting a little taste of this.”
Williams is hard on himself. He said he felt like he let his teammates down last week because he didn’t play.
Williams had a good point as to why the game was close: “We got out early. We established the run, moved the ball. But we didn’t get touchdowns, we got field goals, and that’s why it was close at the end.” That can't happen against Aaron Rodgers.
Deebo demands the ball
Stories tend to get exaggerated after the fact. Deebo Samuel said after K’Waun Williams’ interception, he looked at Shanahan and said, ‘hey, let’s give me the ball. I got you.’ Sure enough, Deebo scored on the next play.
Garoppolo confirmed the story and said he saw the whole thing. Jimmy said Deebo had a look in his eyes, and that’s all Shanahan needed.
D.J. Jones said Deebo is “amazing to watch.” I’d say so.
High praise for Arik
Speaking of D.J., here’s what he said about Arik Armstead: “He’s the most important piece on this team to me. Arik Armstead is a force. He can play outside, inside... He’s a swiss-army knife, and I love it when he’s inside with me.”
Armstead has been one of the most productive defensive tackles in the NFL during the second half of the season. He’s a monster against the run, and his length and strength overwhelm guards. Poor Connor Williams, the Cowboys left guard, didn’t stand a chance against Armstead.
Armstead had a sack, two quarterback hits and was a menace all afternoon as he harrassed Dak Prescott. The defensive line lost one of the best edge rushers in the NFL and didn’t miss a beat. You can thank Armstead’s performance for that.
Jones said there was “no change in our mindset” after Bosa went down.
Nobody is used to the rollercoaster that’s the 49ers
Garoppolo said it “never felt like it was getting away from us. I always felt like we were in control of the game, but it made for some good TV, I guess.” Kittle added that there were “lots of ups and downs. Lots of unknowns. I think the Niners make for great TV.”
Deebo had a different perspective, saying, “it was kinda getting crazy at the end.” K’Waun Williams said, “all that matters is that we came out with the dub.”
Could you imagine what this team would look like if they put it all together for four quarters? I’m trying to give live updates during the game, and my palms were a sweaty mess because of how the game played out.
The rollercoaster is entertaining. There’s no denying that.