SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Cowboys were no match for the 49ers in this highly-anticipated matchup.
San Francisco was dominant on offense, too strong on defense and everything else in between.
Here are some plays that might get overlooked but could've changed the course of the game, although the Cowboys were climbing an uphill battle the entire way.
Wilson facemask to open the game: Setting the tone early is always crucial, especially for a Cowboys team that had to prove they could play with San Francisco. So on the first play of the game, Donovan Wilson gives the 49ers an extra 15 yards on a facemask penalty while trying to corral Christian McCaffrey. Sure, San Francisco eventually drove the field and scored the first touchdown, but it didn't help matters to gift the 49ers the ball at their own 43-yard line just one play into the game.
Wilson hit on McCaffrey: The Cowboys appeared to have the stop they needed following a touchdown to make it 14-7. But Wilson's hit on McCaffrey was ruled a personal foul for hitting a defenseless receiver. Just when it looked as if the momentum was shifting back to Dallas, the 15-yard penalty pushed the ball to the Cowboys' 39 and the 49ers needed only a few more plays to score and take a 21-7 lead.
Punting the ball on fourth-and-2: When you're already down two touchdowns, at some point you have to take some chances. Late in the first half, the Cowboys started with decent field position following a 49ers penalty after the touchdown. But on third-and-5 at the 39-yard line, a short pass to Jake Ferguson netted only 3 yards. Usually, that third-down call suggests it being four-down territory. But the Cowboys opted to punt the ball away at the 2:00 warning. Sure, it would've been risky, but at that point they were already behind enough to start taking chances. Also, the message it sent the team that getting 2 yards seemed daunting probably didn't help matters either.
Prescott misses Cooks on deep ball: With the ball back late in the first half, the Cowboys were desperate to get some points and maybe some momentum heading into the locker room. Dak Prescott found a mismatch when Brandin Cooks was guarded by linebacker Fred Warner. Cooks blew past him and was running free but Prescott, who was flushed to his left side, heaved a pass that took Cooks out of bounds for an incompletion. The Cowboys were not able to move the ball after that and went into halftime trailing by two touchdowns.
Back-to-back 40-plus receptions: The Cowboys, trailing 21-10 in the third quarter, caught a break when a 41-yard completion to Brandon Aiyuk was called back due to a holding penalty, setting up third-and-14 from their 39-yard line. But the Cowboys missed a chance to get off the field, instead allowed a 43-yard pass to Deebo Samuel. The 49ers were able to score a few plays later to grab a commanding 28-10 lead.