And with that, the Cowboys’ season comes to an end.
And just when they needed it most, the Cowboys got a turnover, Garoppolo overthrowing his intended target and into the arms of Anthony Brown, the cornerback returning it 23 yards to the San Francisco 28.
Given the gift, the Cowboys were in the end zone five plays later. Prescott connected with Cooper for 11 yards and then CeeDee Lamb for 10 more before running the final 5 yards to pay dirt himself, Dallas now down just six points with 8:02 left on the clock.
When they got the ball back – Leighton Vander Esch stopping Samuel a yard short on third-and-5 – the Cowboys were at their own 16-yard line with 2:51 remaining in the game. And Dallas then had the 49ers on their heels when Prescott connected with tight end Dalton Schultz for 38 yards before the 2-minute warning.
Now in enemy territory, it all came down to a fourth-and-11 at the San Francisco 47-yard line with 1:49 on the clock. But a scrambling Prescott’s desperation heave down the field fell just out of reach of the twisting, diving Wilson, the 49ers taking over on downs.
The Cowboys had one more shot, getting the ball back at their own 20-yard line with 32 seconds left. A pass over the middle to Wilson, who lateraled to Lamb, picked up 11 yards with a dump off to Pollard adding another 11.
Nine more yards was collected with an out route to Schultz, setting Dallas up at the San Francisco 41-yard line with 14 seconds left. But when Prescott ran a quarterback draw up the middle for 17 yards, the Cowboys couldn’t get lined back up in time, the clock running out, the game over on perhaps another unforced error.
And with that, Dallas’ 2021 campaign came to an unceremonious end after a 12-5 regular season and a first place finish in the NFC East, leaving Cowboys fans once again to wait until next year for that elusive sixth championship.
Dallas’ 2021 campaign ends with one final head-scratching moment.
Dak Prescott’s rush attempt ended Cowboys’ season
As Tony Romo made extremely clear, the referee had to touch the ball before Prescott could clock it. Prescott, instead, seemed to believe he could just hand the ball to the center and reset things himself.
Seriously … how does this happen? How does no one have the right answer under pressure here?
Once Prescott took off, there was no way out.
The Cowboys couldn’t spike the ball in time and the game ended pic.twitter.com/Ce2xghbql8
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 17, 2022
Uncomfortable collision with the sprinting referee aside, the blame for this moment falls on Prescott’s shoulders — as well as Mike McCarthy’s, for failing to prepare his roster for an occurrence like this.
If only Coach Romo had been down on the sidelines. He was all over it.
5 takeaways from Cowboys-49ers: Record penalties, poor start dooms Dallas in wild-card defeat- Calvin Watkins, DMN
This is one of the most confusing teams in recent history.
Not enough from Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott played well during a mad scramble in the fourth quarter in an effort to save the season, but overall the highest-paid player on the Cowboys’ team wasn’t a difference-maker. He didn’t connect with CeeDee Lamb in the first half as he threw too many passes high to Lamb. Overall, QB1 completed 23 of 43 passes with a touchdown run and one interception. Prescott wasn’t outplayed by 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but considering the pressure is on Prescott, is it too much to ask for him to win a playoff game? Prescott is now 1-3 in his career in the postseason.
The start from hell
If you want to know how not to start a playoff game, just look at how the Cowboys started Sunday: a Dak Prescott incomplete pass to CeeDee Lamb on a rollout, Ezekiel Elliott loses two yards on a run, the Nick Bosa sacks Prescott for an 11-yard loss. That’s just for starters. Micah Parsons left on the second play of the game when he ran into his own teammate on a pass rush. Parsons was checked for a concussion and returned. The 49ers scored on their first possession of the day with no problems. San Francisco went with its basic formula for success: Run the ball with Deebo Samuel and Elijah Mitchell and limit mistakes. The Cowboys fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter and were completed dominated.
The next few days could get very interesting.
After the loss, Jones didn’t directly address McCarthy or his coaches by name, but his message nevertheless felt very pointed.
Jerry Jones: “When you get this combination of players together, you need to have success.” pic.twitter.com/4lJFL0RIhG
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 17, 2022
It’s worth mentioning that Dan Quinn is getting some significant head coaching interest this hiring cycle. One potential option for Jones could be to fire McCarthy and promote Quinn to head coach, which would be a rather seamless transition. Not only that, but Jones would be getting a top coaching candidate on the market and would do so by simply promoting him from within the organization.
Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Played Through Partially Torn PCL Injury; Won’t Need Surgery- Tim Daniels, Bleacher Report
While we have been speculating about the injury that Ezekiel Elliott was clearly playing through, details finally emerge.
He also said he will not need offseason surgery for the setback.
Elliott dealt with the knee injury throughout the 2021 season, and the Cowboys considered giving the three-time Pro Bowler some time off to see if it would help him get closer to full strength, though he didn’t feel it was necessary, per ESPN’s Ed Werder.
“It’s football,” Elliott said in late November. “You get hurt. You aren’t going to be 100 percent. I’m tough. Play through it.”
The 26-year-old Ohio State product was effective despite the injury, tallying 1,289 yards from scrimmage and 12 total touchdowns across 17 appearances in the regular season.
Grading the Cowboys: Regular-season penalty troubles foreshadowed early playoff exit- Jean-Jacques Taylor, DMN
The grade for the 2021 Cowboys should be a D (for disappointing).
Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn were each whipped during the week. We know this because neither one had an answer for San Francisco in the first quarter when the game was really decided. Moore hasn’t proved he should be a head coach with this offense and they struggled much of Sunday. Prescott gives the ball to his center instead of the umpire and they can’t get off the final play.
What a disappointing end to a season that began with such promise. The Cowboys truffled against good teams all season and rarely played mistake-free football. All the things that plagued the Cowboys most of the season played a role in their loss Sunday. Dallas was penalized 14 times for 89 yards. It was a raggedy performance from a talented roster and they must all own it.
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