On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys lost a divisional playoff game to the San Francisco 49ers. Whereas some football games are all-out wars, last night’s competition was more of a low-intensity conflict, with few big plays and only occasional scoring.
On the final drive of the game, the 49ers were able to stop Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and win it 19-12.
Texas Standard producer and reporter Sean Saldana joined the show to talk about what happened.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Texas Standard: So let’s set the stage. A lot of big expectations heading into this game, right?
Sean Saldana: Yeah, well, to understand last night’s game, you kind of have to understand that both the Cowboys and the 49ers are some of the biggest, most successful franchises in NFL history. They both have five Super Bowl rings, multiple Hall of Famers, iconic logos – and because of this, they’ve met nine times in the playoffs since the 70s, which is kind of a lot. The other thing to keep in mind is the size the names attached to each franchise are huge. The Cowboys have names like Tom Landry and Tony Romo, who’s doing commentary now. On the 49ers, you have names like Jerry Rice and Joe Montana. And so anytime these two teams do meet in the playoffs, it is very, very high stakes.
Well, yeah, it’s more than a football game, really. It almost has the ambiance, at least on the sidelines of a, dare I say, the Super Bowl – but of course a little bit dialed back – and there’s also a little cultural thing to California vs. Texas and the sort of the national zeitgeist. But obviously this didn’t go the Cowboys’ way. They ended up losing by seven points. What went wrong?
Well, there were a lot of very subtle things. As you may recall, in the first round of the playoffs last week, Cowboys kicker Brett Maher missed four extra point [attempts], which is quite literally a historically bad performance. And in the Cowboys’ only touchdown of [last night’s] game, his extra point attempt was blocked, which evoked a public reaction so strong that Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted out, “I swear, I can kick as good as the Dallas Cowboys kicker.” This was such a big concern for the team that early on in the game they were actually going for it on fourth down, probably in part because they just did not trust their kicker.
I swear, I can kick as good as the Dallas Cowboys kicker.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 23, 2023
Yikes. Kicker problems in the postseason. Where have we heard that sort of story before? A tale as old as time, it almost seems. What about Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, how he played?
Yeah, so Dak has received quite a bit of blame for the loss. He did manage to throw a touchdown pass, which is, you know, pretty good for a quarterback. But he also threw two interceptions. He just barely got above the 200-yard mark and in a couple of instances, over three receivers on big plays. There were players like CeeDee Lamb who had over 100 yards and catches. They had individually a good game, but overall the Cowboys just really could not get it going. The Cowboys as a whole only had 76 yards rushing. They weren’t able to score a touchdown in the second half of the game. And so it was a little hard to watch for Cowboys fans.
Alright, so speaking of Cowboys fans, they are not known for holding back. We’re talking about a streak for the Cowboys not reaching the NFC championship since 1995. That’s a real bummer, to say the least. And just as it did last year, it came down to a really odd final play. Without going into too many details, it looked like they were setting up for something pretty flashy there in the last 30 seconds and couldn’t pull it off.
Yeah, that final play was sort of hard to wrap your head around if you watched it live. But as you could have imagined, there are Cowboys fans who are very frustrated. The final score of the game was 12 to 19, which is just one touchdown. And so the Cowboys did have several chances to either tie it up or just straight up win. The other thing to keep in mind is that in spite of everything, the Cowboys are a good football team. They won 12 games in the regular season. They have one of the strongest offenses in the league, and they’ve beaten teams like the Bengals who are still in the playoffs. Which is to say that while Cowboys fans do have a reputation for insisting that, “this is our year,” it actually did feel possible for a lot of folks. So the hype was not just fueled by 90s nostalgia.
Yeah, well anything else for the Cowboys fans out there?
I guess there’s always next year.