The 49ers ended the Dallas Cowboys season for the second straight year with their 19-12 win at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday. The defense put together one of its best performances of the season, and the offense managed just enough behind Brock Purdy’s 214-yard game, setting up the clash in Philadelphia next Sunday.
Here are the winners and losers from the 49ers' win.
Winner: The 49ers' defense
In a game where the offense scored its fewest points since Week 12, the defense came up with one of its best performances of the season on Sunday. The 49ers held the Cowboys’ offense to 272 total yards while forcing two turnovers and allowing one touchdown.
Dallas’ 12 points were their third-lowest output of the season after finishing fourth in the league in scoring with only three games where they finished with a lower yard-per-play average than they did Sunday.
After the Cowboys scored their only touchdown in the second quarter, the 49ers' defense allowed Dallas into the red zone just twice, resulting in three points. The first red zone stop came near the end of the first half when Dak Prescott threw his second interception, ending the seven-play drive at the San Francisco 18-yard-line.
Then following Ray-Ray McCloud’s third-quarter fumble, a Cowboys drive that started in the red zone ended with a Brett Maher 25-yard field goal to tie the game at nine. After scoring a touchdown on a league-leading 71.4 percent of red zone attempts, Dallas was held to just one touchdown on three red zone trips.
Winner: LB Fred Warner
The 49ers' defensive performance on Sunday wouldn’t have been possible without the man in the middle. Warner played well in both coverage and around the line of scrimmage, finishing with a team-high nine tackles, with a tackle for a loss and an interception.
The interception was a right place, right time interception, coming off of the hands of Jimmie Ward before being caught by Warner. Still, the 49ers linebacker allowed only two receptions on five targets for just 15 yards when in coverage.
His most impressive coverage play came in the third quarter in a tie game with Dallas facing a third-and-5 inside 49ers territory. Warner was lined up over the ball near the line of scrimmage but dropped back on the snap to cover CeeDee Lamb in the slot.
Prescott tried to take advantage of the matchup, throwing to Lamb about 30 yards downfield, but Warner was able to get his body between the ball and Lamb, forcing a Dallas punt which led to the 49ers' lone scoring drive.
Winner: TE George Kittle
Kittle accounted for 47.7 percent of the 49ers' 199 passing yards on Sunday, with five receptions on five targets for 95 yards. He was the only 49ers receiver to finish with more than 50 passing yards and was responsible for the 49ers' two biggest plays of the night.
The second of the two might not have been the longest, but it was the most impactful play of the game for the 49ers' offense. Tied at nine late in the third quarter, Brock Purdy found Kittle in the middle of the field with Cowboys defensive tackle Neville Gallimore trailing in coverage, but with the throw slightly out of reach, Kittle reached his right hand out, tipping the ball up before coming down with it after a few bobbles.
The play took the 49ers from their 21-yard-line into Dallas territory, and they capitalized, scoring their lone touchdown of the game eight plays later.
Loser: The 49ers run game
With the 49ers' eighth-ranked run offense facing a Cowboys defense that allowed 129.3 rush yards per game, it was thought the run game would be the 49ers' biggest advantage on paper. That ended up not being the case between the lines on Sunday.
The 49ers' 3.5 yards per rush attempt was their third-lowest average this season and their lowest since their Week 13 win over the Saints. The first half was particularly brutal, with only 27 rushing yards on 11 attempts, with the longest being an eight-yard run from Deebo Samuel.
Things cleaned up in the third quarter when the 49ers nearly tripled their first-half output with 43 yards on seven attempts. Even their longest run of the night had issues with Elijah Mitchell running out of bounds on a 13-yard run that should have put the game away had he stayed in bounds.
The 49ers extended their streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games to seven, but their 113 yards on Sunday was the fewest of the streak.
Winner: The 49ers fourth quarter drive
Dallas answered the 49ers' lone touchdown of the game with a field goal to pull within four points with 11:03 remaining in the game. While the 49ers offense couldn’t put together a touchdown-scoring drive, it was able to do the next best thing: a 13-play, 64-yard drive that bled almost eight minutes off the clock that ended in a field goal to give the 49ers a 19-12 lead that would hold.
The 49ers ran the ball nine times to just four passes, taking the clock from 11:03 down to 3:04. The offense managed four first downs, with Purdy converting two third-and-short passes in Dallas territory to extend the drive while completing all three of the four passes on the drive.
Despite the struggles in the run game, Mitchell managed 26 yards on eight attempts keeping the offense ahead of the sticks and helping keep two of the three third-down attempts as third-and-manageable.
The only way the drive could have been better was if it resulted in six points but with the Cowboys' offensive struggles on Sunday, the time taken off proved just as valuable.
Winner: K Robbie Gould
Beating Dallas might not have been possible without Gould. In a week where specifically the Cowboys kicking game was under a microscope, the 49ers were able to trust old reliable to pick up the win. Gould finished Sunday four-for-four on Sunday with a long of 50 while making his lone PAT attempt. The 49ers kicker was responsible for 13 of the team's 19 points, with his last field goal capping off the 49ers' aforementioned 13-play, game-sealing drive.
Not only did Gould come up big with his foot but might have also made the most important tackle of the game. After the 49ers' touchdown to go up seven in the fourth quarter, KaVontae Turpin took the ensuing kickoff from inside the Dallas endzone and found a seam with C.J. Goodwin as his lead blocker.
While Goodwin was able to take out Janoris Jenkins, Turpin’s attempt to spin back into space was stopped by Gould, ending what could have been an even bigger return at the Dallas 43-yard-line. The Cowboys' offense managed just a field goal with the good field position.
Gould extended his playoff streak to 29 consecutive field goals and has yet to miss a postseason kick in his 18-year career.