SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The second quarter was certainly a turning point for the Cowboys, who quickly erased a two-touchdown deficit to help rally the team to a hard-fought road win.
Rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott continued to play like established veterans, especially down the stretch when the Cowboys were able to run out the clock.
But like all games, there were a handful of plays that could go unnoticed, yet changed the outcome of the game. Let's take a closer look at five that affected this one.
Crawford's sack starts turnaround –The 49ers were able to convert their first seven third-downs and got the ball back for a 14-0 lead. But on first down from their 17-yard line, the 49ers suffered their first offensive setback when Tyrone Crawford snuck through for a sack back to the 10. That put the 49ers on their heels and they had to punt for the first time. The Cowboys were able to get favorable field position on their own 34-yard line and eventually drove for a touchdown.
Late hit on Prescott – The Cowboys were down 14-0 and desperately needed to get some points on the board. Dak Prescott was sacked on a third down, which would've given the ball back to the 49ers. However, the officials called safety Jacquiski Tartt for a late hit after Prescott's progress was stopped. Dallas got a new set of downs, and three plays later the Cowboys were in the end zone with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams.
49ers shank punt before half– Just after their first touchdown, the Cowboys stepped up the defensive pressure and forced a punt before halftime. The 49ers could've likely pinned Dallas back inside its 20, but Bradley Pinion's punt traveled just 26 yards, giving the Cowboys the ball at their 42 with three timeouts. Prescott went to work and engineered an impressive drive that ended with the quarterback rolling left to find Brice Butler for his first touchdown with the Cowboys, tying the score 14-14 with 12 seconds left in the second quarter. [embeddedad0]
49ers defensive leader goes down – Midway through the third quarter, the Cowboys were starting to have some success running the ball. But their running game got a big boost when 49ers star linebacker NaVorro Bowman went down with a lower-leg injury and never returned. Bowman is clearly the 49ers' best defensive player and was having a great game already, recording eight tackles and a sack. But his absence opened the door for the Cowboys to run the ball even better. After his injury, Ezekiel Elliott ripped off a 23-yard run. The team then marched the field for the go-ahead touchdown and had another scoring drive that led to a field goal.
Claiborne's open-field tackle – Before Morris Claiborne made a fourth-down tackle that ultimately won the game, he had a stop in the open field on San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert on first down. The 49ers were looking for the game-tying touchdown and tried to get Gabbert loose on the outside like he had done earlier in the day. But on this play, Claiborne wasn't fooled and dropped the quarterback for a 1-yard loss. That put the 49ers behind the chains and they never got the needed first down.