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49ers defense smothers Cowboys to reach NFC title game vs. Eagles



The San Francisco 49ers are marching on to their second consecutive NFC championship game.

Playing in front of a home crowd at Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 19-12, on Sunday, marking the second consecutive season San Francisco sent Dallas home in the playoffs.

The 49ers are moving on in large part because of their No. 1-ranked defense. San Francisco’s defense intercepted Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott twice in the first half and held Dallas out of the end zone in the second half.

The 49ers franchise now has 36 all-time postseason wins, tied for the second most in NFL history.

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Here’s what we learned from Sunday’s divisional playoff battle:

49ers stingy defense leads way

The 49ers have the NFL’s top defense, and they are proving it in the postseason.

Cornerback Deommodore Lenoir intercepted Prescott in the first quarter and linebacker Fred Warner intercepted the Cowboys quarterback in the second quarter. Both turnovers led to field goals.

Warner had six tackles, one tackle for loss and one interception in the first half alone. He finished with nine total tackles in the game.

The Cowboys offense gained 136 total yards in the first half and was held to just six points. San Francisco had a 9-6 lead at halftime.

Dallas was forced to punt three times and made two field goals in the second half.

Prescott faced constant pressure from the 49ers’ front four, and San Francisco’s physical style proved to be too much for the Cowboys offense to handle.

Prescott finished with 206 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, resulting in a 63.6 passer rating.

The Cowboys scored 31 points and totaled 425 yards last week versus Tampa Bay. Dallas had 282 yards of total offense against San Francisco.

George Kittle’s circus catch sparks 49ers

Kittle’s acrobatic 30-yard catch with a little over five minutes remaining in the third quarter energized the 49ers. The 49ers tight end juggled the football but was able to haul in a deep pass up the middle that put San Francisco in Dallas territory.  

The 49ers were able to finish the drive off early in the fourth quarter when running back Christian McCaffrey ran up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown to lift the 49ers to a 16-9 lead. It was San Francisco’s first touchdown of the game.

Kittle compiled five catches for 95 yards. He caught all five of his targets.

Brock Purdy stays composed 

Last week, Purdy’s 332 passing yards were the most by a player making his first career playoff start since 1937. What did the rookie QB do for an encore?

Purdy went 19 of 29 passing for 214 yards, resulting in an 87.4 passer rating. His numbers weren’t stellar, but in the most important game of his career, he was poised and threw multiple accurate passes in tight windows.

Purdy is now the fifth rookie quarterback in NFL history to start and win a divisional round postseason game.

Brett Maher

Maher’s first extra-point attempt was blocked by 49ers linebacker Samson Ebukam.

The Cowboys kicker missed the extra point after tight end Dalton Schultz caught a 4-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Maher’s missed extra point came on the heels of last game in which he missed four extra point attempts during a 31-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Cowboys kicker then successfully convert two field goals.

Conversely, 49ers kicker Robbie Gould was a perfect 4 for 4 on field goals and made his only extra-point attempt.

Cowboys lose Tony Pollard in first half

The Cowboys running back was heavily involved in the game plan early, but he suffered an ankle injury with under two minutes remaining in the second quarter and was carted off the field. Pollard didn’t return to the contest.

Pollard had six carries for 22 yards and two catches for 11 yards at the time of his ankle injury.

Next up for San Francisco

The 49ers have won an NFL-best 12 games in a row dating back to the regular season. San Francisco travels to Philadelphia next week to take on the Eagles in the NFC championship game.

Kickoff for the conference championship is scheduled for Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. ET.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.



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