The Cowboys and 49ers played in one of the dumbest NFL playoff games in recent memory on Sunday, as neither team seemed to want to win a game filled with penalties and bizarre coaching decisions.
After trailing by as many as 23-7 in the third quarter, the Cowboys rallied back to be down just six late, but a defensive holding penalty on a run play by Randy Gregory extended the Niners drive to, seemingly, set them up to run out a win. However, a Deebo Samuel reverse came up a literal inch short of the first down and from there, chaos ensued.
First, the Niners succeeded on a quarterback sneak to end the game, only for it to come back on a false start after they ran left tackle Trent Williams in motion and snapped the ball before he was set.
— Mr Matthew CFB (@MrMatthewCFB) January 17, 2022
From there, the Niners’ punt bounded into the end zone and gave Dallas 38 seconds to go 80 yards for the win. After a pretty hook and lateral and a couple passes to the sidelines, the Cowboys got the ball beyond midfield with 14 seconds to play. Rather than trying to throw to the sidelines again or taking a shot to the end zone, they decided they had enough time to run a quarterback draw with Dak Prescott and spike the ball to set up one throw to the end zone. What happened after Prescott slid down was, fittingly, an absolute mess, with the Cowboys failing to get the ball to the umpire, who by rule has to touch the ball to set it, and instead crashed into Prescott and the line, moved it back, and the clock ran out before the Cowboys could snap it.
After the play, Tony Romo explained why it was a mistake from the Cowboys trying to just give the ball to the center rather than finding the umpire and having him spot it, as precious seconds ticked off the clock in the mad scramble to get set.
Tony Romo explaining why it was Dak’s fault for not giving the ref the ball on final play pic.twitter.com/HTqhAjfGnw
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 17, 2022
It really was a perfect ending to a game that included the Cowboys running a successful fake punt, then leaving the punt unit on the field to try and force a timeout from San Francisco, only to run the offense back on the field late and get a delay of game because they didn’t leave enough time for the Niners to match their mass substitution. In a game that was a comedy of errors, one last one proved to be the dagger, and Dallas will enter the offseason kicking themselves for not taking a game the Niners tried to serve them up on a platter on a few occasions.