SANTA CLARA, Calif. – And just like that, this season is over.
The Cowboys won their first playoff game on the road in 30 years, but couldn't get back to the NFC Championship Game, an event that has now escaped them for 27 straight seasons.
The Cowboys had their chances to make plays throughout the game, but penalties, mistakes and other costly errors led to the 49ers' 19-12 win over the Cowboys.
Especially in the playoffs, these games always have plays that get overlooked, but still change the course of the game. Here are five that made a difference.
Pollard's injury changed the game – The Cowboys were moving the ball at the end of the half and had the 49ers on their heels before Tony Pollard suffered the ankle injury that ended his game. The Cowboys were still in position to score, but without their change-of-pace back on the field, the playbook changed and the Cowboys threw an interception at the end of the half that cost them points. It also took away their best playmaker on offense and the team never recovered.
Jennings catch sets up more points for 49ers – The Cowboys had just thrown an interception but had a chance to end the half with a 6-6 tie. But on second-and-10 with 19 seconds to play, the 49ers got a 21-yard pass to Jennings to the Cowboys' 32 with only 12 seconds left. That put the 49ers in position to kick a third field goal of the half and Robbie Gould hit a 50-yarder as time expired, giving San Francisco a 9-6 lead.
Cowboys couldn't fully capitalize after the fumble– The Cowboys seemed to get the gift they needed in the third quarter when the 49ers fumbled a punt return and the Cowboys started at the San Francisco 21-yard line. After getting a first down to the 9, the offense stalled. A big play was second-and-goal from the 6 when Ezekiel Elliott was stuffed for a 1-yard loss back to the 7. On third down, Dak Prescott threw an incomplete pass, and the Cowboys finally kicked a field goal by Brett Maher. But if Elliott can get any kind of positive yards on second down, it might be four-down territory and perhaps the Cowboys grab the lead instead of tying.
Diggs drops pick, leads to defensive holding – He totaled 11 interceptions last year but couldn't seem to find the magic this year. Trevon Diggs could've changed the whole game with an interception he dropped at the end of the third quarter. A tipped pass by Anthony Barr landed right in Diggs' stomach, but he couldn't haul it in. After that, the Cowboys had seemingly got off the field on a third-down sack, but Donovan Wilson was flagged for holding. The 49ers eventually scored to grab a 16-9 lead.
Purdy to Kittle begins 8-minute drive – Take your pick on the key play of this drive, but we'll go with the first one. The Cowboys had just cut the lead to 16-12 and the 49ers took over with 11:03 to play at their own 25-yard line. Brock Purdy hit George Kittle for a 17-yard play over the middle to give them some breathing room. From there, the 49ers squeezed out three more first downs and chewed up a total of 7:59 off the clock before kicking a field goal to give them a 19-12 lead with 3:04 remaining in the game.