Following a 19-12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl ambitions come to a screeching halt. The offense failed to capitalize in the red zone and they weren’t able to play well enough in all three phases. Two costly turnovers by the offense made a big difference. Meanwhile, the defense played an excellent game until they couldn’t hold the 49ers any longer.
Losing in the playoffs is hard, especially to a longtime rival like San Francisco. The front office and coaching staff will have questions to answer in the offseason and the players will take a long look in the mirror after losing yet another divisional round playoff. Though some will bear the brunt of this loss, and deservedly so, there were a few that did enough to be noticed in this week’s three stars. Previously, we gave the game ball to CeeDee Lamb.
After Tony Pollard left the game the game with a lower leg injury, it was apparent the Cowboys’ offense was lacking playmakers and needed a spark. That spark came in the form of Pro Bowl specialist KaVontae Turpin. Turpin was easily the most explosive player on the field yesterday.
With the Cowboys trailing 16-9 following a Christian McCaffrey touchdown, Turpin nearly evened the score. Taking the kickoff off from Robbie Gould one yard deep in the end zone, Turpin ran up the left sideline, before darting back to the right and barely got tripped up by Gould to prevent the score.
KaVontae Turpin gives the @DallasCowboys a spark!— NFL (@NFL) January 23, 2023
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The 44-yard return was his longest of the day. Turpin returned four kicks Sunday for an average of 30 yards per return. On a day when they needed all the help they could get offensively, it’s disappointing he wasn’t asked to do more. For example, it may have been a better choice if Turpin returned the final punt before the last possession instead of signaling for a fair catch.
You’d like to see if the Cowboys can expand his role in the offense next year as they are lacking speed on that side of the ball. Turpin should carve out a nice role for himself with his vision as a runner and his explosiveness.
DeMarcus Lawrence played an excellent game against San Francisco. Like most weeks the bulk of the offensive line’s pass protection will be centered around limiting Micah Parsons. That meant Lawrence needed to step up, and he did. Despite leaving the game momentarily with an injury, he came back in the game and didn’t miss a beat. His early pressure on Brock Purdy forced several errant passes and kept the rookie from getting comfortable for most of the game.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s game plan was to move Micah Parsons around and play more snaps at linebacker than usual which left Lawrence in line to anchor the defensive line. It’s safe to say he had it covered. Lawrence’s six tackles were a game-high amongst the defensive lineman and had two tackles for loss, and one sack. The eight-year veteran played like he has a lot left in the tank.
Stopping the run in the postseason is vital as it pertains to winning and losing games. The 49ers have proven over the last few years how difficult it is to slow their exotic rushing attack and it’s proof when you see their recent success in the postseason. They’ve become even more potent with the addition of Christian McCaffrey added to a unit that already has the versatile Deebo Samuel. Yet, the Cowboys were able to contain them for most of the game. That’s largely thanks to the Dallas front and especially the efforts of Osa Odighizuwa.
Odighizuwa is arguably the quickest and most sudden interior lineman the team has. He’s got a great first step and can penetrate the backfield easily. The Cowboys defense got a great start against the 49ers and thanks partially to Odighizuwa holding his own at the point of attack. No one could have imagined how dominant the Cowboys’ run defense was in the first half. The 49ers had eleven carries for 27 before the break.
In total, Odighizuwa made four stops in the running game and the total yardage of those plays was three. For the contest, the 49ers were held to 113 yards for only 3.5 yards per carry. Plus, Osa Odighizuwa also had one of the teams’ two sacks in the game after getting to Brock Purdy in the backfield.