49ers game grades from hard-nosed Wild Card victory over Cowboys

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers defensive back Dontae Johnson (27) and teammates celebrate during the second half of the NFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Dallas Cowboys  Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

23. 42. 17. 123. Final

The 49ers beat the Cowboys 23-17 to advance to the divisional round. Niner Noise has game grades from the next chapter of this iconic rivalry.

Whenever the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys meet in the playoffs, battles are fought, dreams are crushed, and legends are made.

And in the latest modern addition to one of the best rivalries in the history of the NFL, the Niners came into hostile territory and came away with the victory, a nail-biting 23-17 win over Dallas at AT&T Stadium in the Wild Card round.

In the playoffs, that’s all that matters. Doesn’t matter if a win is by 100 or one, you just need to make it to the next game. But this game against the Cowboys pitted two teams that were uniquely built to take advantage of the other’s weaknesses. It would be a good test for the 49ers as they began their treacherous journey to win three straight games on the road and make the Super Bowl.

The game began in the most picture-perfect drive San Francisco could have had. Wide receiver offensive weapon Deebo Samuel and running back Elijah Mitchell ran the ball down Dallas’ throat, taking advantage of the pursuit with simple cutbacks. Play-action passing got down the field and attacked the defense.

Mitchell walked it in for a touchdown:


The rest of the first half became a story of field goals; the 49ers had the chance to blow the game wide open but inopportune plays kept the Cowboys in the game. The Niners defense gave up a touchdown drive, but they kept a potent Cowboys offense grounded.

The second half was a little different.

Without EDGE Nick Bosa, who exited with a concussion, San Francisco was in danger, but a fantastic sack by defensive tackle D.J. Jones was followed by an interception and a phenomenal rushing touchdown by Samuel.

The 49ers were up 23-7 heading into the fourth quarter when pandemonium ensued.

The fourth quarter started off poorly, with a Dallas drive ending in a field goal. Then quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw a terrible interception, the Cowboys rushed in for a touchdown, and what was a comfortable lead became a little less comfortable.

The next Niners drive was unsuccessful, but the Cowboys were stopped on fourth down. After that, San Francisco appeared to convert a game-ending first down, but then it didn’t on further review. So the 49ers converted on a Garoppolo sneak, but then they didn’t because of a false start. So the Niners had to punt, and the Cowboys went down the field in quick succession before a failed spike to end the game.

End result: Niners win. Let’s hand out grades from the performance.