The 49ers needed to rely on George Kittle as well as their defense to pull off a hard-fought victory over the Cowboys in a rivalry bout in the NFL playoffs.
Experts may have predicted a high-scoring affair in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs between the San Francisco 49ers and visiting Dallas Cowboys.
However, with both teams boasting top-five defenses during the regular season, the better prediction would have been for a low-scoring affair.
Alas, the Niners are moving on in the postseason again after beating Dallas for a second year in a row, this time by a final score of 19-12 on Sunday evening at Levi’s Stadium, a game in which quarterback Brock Purdy and the offense got off to a rocky start.
So did Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, though, tossing two first-half interceptions that led to two San Francisco field goals.
Kicking between the uprights became a theme for both teams until the 49ers finally found end-zone pay dirt late in the third quarter.
George Kittle breaks the deadlock with insane one-handed catch
The Niners’ first touchdown didn’t come easily, and it took a near-miraculous catch by tight end George Kittle to spark the offense.
While the stat sheet will reflect a 31-yard catch, the actual one-handed grab by Kittle is something that’ll show up on highlight reels for some time:
That apparently gave San Francisco some much-needed momentum, as running back Christian McCaffrey punched it in the end zone later on the drive to give the 49ers a 16-9 lead early in the fourth quarter.
In a low scoring game, it sure seemed as if the team that scored a touchdown first might come away with the victory.
49ers defense makes playoff-caliber statement vs. Cowboys
Both teams’ defenses showed their proverbial teeth for the better part of the contest, yes. Having played on a short week after a Monday night win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though, it appeared as if Dallas began to slow after the McCaffrey touchdown.
The Niners defense, however, regularly rose to the occasion against Prescott and a potent Cowboys offense. Considering the struggles Purdy, his offensive line and the rushing game had early, coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ side of the ball deserves plenty of credit.
Especially on one particular play when linebacker Fred Warner shut down Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb down the field on what would have been a long completion early in the second half. And, after San Francisco tacked on another field goal late to make it 19-12, Warner and the defense came up big again with a 3-and-out that forced Dallas to punt just before the two-minute warning.
Overall, Dallas managed 282 net yards of offense and averaged 4.7 yards per play.
Sure, Purdy and the offense weren’t exactly explosive, but the 49ers defense was just slightly better.
As a result, the Niners will have the right to square off against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game for the right to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.