Well, that definitely answered some questions about this Cowboys team. It wasn’t the type of answer anyone in Dallas wanted, but the Cowboys getting shellacked 42-10 on Sunday Night Football exposed an awful lot about this team. Just about everything went wrong for Dallas, but these five plays were where things went especially bad.
Dak Prescott’s deep shot to Michael Gallup gets broken up
So much of this game was going to depend on whether or not the Cowboys offense could score points against a 49ers defense that had severely limited them in the last two matchups. Early on, it was a rough start for Mike McCarthy’s offense.
The Cowboys’ first two plays went for a total of one yard, bringing up third and nine. Dak Prescott opted to go deep to Michael Gallup, who had a slight lead on his man. Prescott threw a good ball, too, but the defender raised his arm up at the perfect time to knock the ball away.
Just like that, the Cowboys had a three-and-out. They had managed just one yard on their first drive, while the 49ers had marched down the field and scored on their opening drive. This was the first hint that it would be a long night.
Dak Prescott gets sacked on third and short
The Dallas defense stiffened up on their second drive, forcing San Francisco into a three-and-out of their own. The Cowboys got the ball back with an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and get off to a good start.
That did not happen. After two plays, they had a third down and needed three yards to convert. That’s when Nick Bosa whipped Terence Steele around the end and came crashing into Prescott for the sack, killing the play.
Two drives, two three-and-outs, two total yards of offense. Their next drive was even worse, losing a fumble on the first play, but that ultimately had little impact in the game since the 49ers fumbled right after. Still, this terrible start on offense set the tone for the kind of game the Cowboys were about to play.
Pair of penalties undoes third down stop for Cowboys defense
The Cowboys finally got things together and put up a drive that resulted in a touchdown, thanks to KaVontae Turpin’s tremendous speed. They cut the lead to 14-7 and needed a stop on defense to keep the forward momentum going. They nearly got that.
On third and four, Brock Purdy fired over the middle to Christian McCaffrey, who was triple covered. McCaffrey took a big hit and was unable to make the catch, but flags flew from every direction. The Cowboys were penalized twice: once for taunting (it’s still unclear what was considered taunting) and once for hitting McCaffrey in the head.
Only one penalty was accepted, but it still gave San Francisco an automatic first down. Instead of punting from midfield, the 49ers were gifted a first down at the Dallas 39. Six plays later, they scored a touchdown, and everything was downhill from that moment on.
Dak Prescott misses Brandin Cooks on deep shot down sideline
The Cowboys got the ball back with about 50 seconds left in the first half. With them getting the ball to start the second half, Dallas had a real shot to even the score with back-to-back possessions.
On first down, Prescott was flushed out of the pocket and saw that he had Brandin Cooks open deep down the sideline. Prescott launched the ball, but it sailed just out of bounds from where Cooks was.
Had the ball been thrown a little better, Cooks could’ve hauled in a 55-yarder to completely flip the field. Prescott just missed this one, and it led to one more play before heading to halftime down 21-7.
49ers overcome penalty, convert third and long
The Cowboys came out of the halftime break looking a little more confident, moving the ball well to start the third quarter. A curious decision to run the ball on third and short got stuffed, resulting in a field goal. That cut the lead to 21-10.
The 49ers were looking to extend the lead again. On third and three from the 50, Purdy found a wide open receiver for a 40-yard gain and a first down. However, a holding call erased it and backed them up into a third and 13. The Dallas defense, given new life, responded by giving up another wide open catch. This time, it went for 42 yards and a first down.
San Francisco shot themselves in the foot with the penalty, and then overcame it anyway. Meanwhile, Dallas shot themselves in the foot and then stuck said foot directly into a woodchipper. It was that kind of night, and this play in particular extended the drive for the 49ers. They scored a touchdown three plays later, and formally extinguished any hopes of a comeback even before Prescott melted down and threw three picks. Nothing went right for Dallas, and everything went right for San Francisco.