49ers survive thriller vs. Cowboys in Wild Card, will play Packers

Elijah Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Elijah Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

42. 17. 123. Final. 23

The 49ers nearly collapsed late in the Wild Card against the Cowboys, but a gutsy final drive finally pushed the Niners over the top and into the divisional round.

The San Francisco 49ers are advancing into the divisional round after a classic thriller.

All told, the Niners couldn’t have asked for a better start against the Dallas Cowboys on the road in a highly anticipated Wild Card matchup, the first time these two teams have faced off against each other in the playoffs since the 1995 NFC Championship game decades ago.

San Francisco engineered a perfect seven-play, 75-yard drive after the opening kickoff that culminated in a touchdown run by running back Elijah Mitchell to go up 7-0.

The 49ers managed to get out to a 16-0 lead, relying heavily on field goals by kicker Robbie Gould and leaving the door open for quarterback Dak Prescott and the NFL’s No. 1-ranked offense to close the gap.

They did, as wide receiver Amari Cooper beat nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams for a touchdown to make it 16-7.

Things got much more nerve-wracking than that, though.

49ers suffer massive losses with Nick Bosa, Fred Warner

San Francisco’s pass rush was doing its job against Prescott for almost the entire game, finishing the bout with five sacks and 14 quarterback hits.

EDGE Nick Bosa picked up a half a sack, too. But late in the second quarter and while drawing a holding penalty, Bosa was hit in the head by nose tackle D.J. Jones’ knee, sending Bosa to the sideline and into the blue medical tent.

Related Story: 49ers loss of Nick Bosa is potentially devastating vs. Cowboys

He didn’t return after going into the locker room, and the 49ers subsequently ruled him out for the rest of the game with a concussion.

Potentially worse, linebacker Fred Warner suffered a non-contact knee injury in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers offense experience all kinds of highs and lows

Mitchell and the ground game figured to be an X-factor against a Dallas defense that finished the regular season allowing an average of 4.5 yards per run.

So, don’t overlook Mitchell’s 96 yards on 27 carries for an average of 3.6 yards per attempt.

But the Niners’ offensive success rode on the shoulders of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, as it was expected to be.

Samuel netted 38 yards receiving and 72 yards on the ground.

Garoppolo wasn’t going to be slinging the ball around against a Cowboys defense that forced more defensive takeaways than any other team in the regular season, yet that defense managed to pick him off in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown on the subsequent possession to make it 23-17.

That, in painful collaboration with the Bosa and Warner injuries, saw San Francisco’s momentum slip away.

That interception Garoppolo threw was a big part of his 16-of-25 passing line for 172 yards with zero touchdowns and a 67.4 passer rating. Yet that gaffe was offset by the massive 14 penalties the Cowboys committed over the course of the game.

Including a brutal holding call that gave the 49ers a fresh set of downs to keep the clock grinding with less than two minutes remaining.

Too bad that Garoppolo would-have-won-the-game quarterback sneak was flagged for a false start. And too bad for Dallas the official had to touch the ball on that final play.

Strange ending, but the red and gold will take it.

49ers will play Packers in divisional round

With the Niners advancing after a thrilling Wild Card round win, the No. 1-seeded Green Bay Packers will host San Francisco in the divisional round.

Green Bay defeated the 49ers earlier in Week 3 during the regular season, but one can’t help think about both the Niners and Packers’ great playoff games during the late 1990s, as well as San Francisco’s more recent victories over quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay during the postseason during the last 10 years.

Fitting, especially after the 49ers just added one more chapter to one historic rivalry and will be able to do so once more.

Next. 10 biggest moments from historic 49ers and Cowboys rivalry. dark