The San Francisco 49ers have advanced to the NFC Championship game after defeating the Dallas Cowboys 19-12 in a defensive struggle. It was not pretty, but San Fran got the job done and is advancing. There was only one touchdown for each team all game, as both defenses were dominant.
Turnovers though were key once again. San Francisco lost one fumble but picked off two Dak Prescott passes. The 49ers are now 9-0 this season when they win the turnover battle. That might have been the most important factor as the teams posted very similar numbers offensively.
Both quarterbacks had numbers that nearly mirrored each other, outside of the turnovers. Neither team found a ton of running room on the ground as both defenses brought their A game. There were a number of stand out performances for the 49ers in the win, with a few that would like a re-do.
So, before looking ahead to next week, we wanted to look back and detail the 49ers studs and duds from the Divisional Round win over the Cowboys.
1. Fred Warner – LB
49ers linebacker Fred Warner was everywhere on Sunday and had a banner game. He led the team with nine tackles, seven of which were solo. He also picked off a Prescott pass in what was one of the plays of the game. The Cowboys were in the red zone and looking to take a lead into halftime.
Instead, Warner recorded the interception and it was the 49ers who ended up kicking a field goal and taking a lead into the locker room.
2. Brock Purdy – QB
You might be surprised to see Purdy on this list. After all, he didn’t throw any touchdown passes and threw for only 214 yards. But his command of the offense was once again impressive for a rookie. He did a great job in the pocket extending plays, especially going against one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.
He finished 19-for-29 for 214 yards, but made some big time throws when the team needed it most. With the first half clock dwindling, he made a great throw to Juaun Jennings for a big play, setting up a 50-yard field goal. On the touchdown-winning drive, he kept a play alive and went through three different progressions before finding George Kittle for a huge gain over the middle.
Kittle actually bobbled the ball a few times and made it more interesting than it had to be.
But most importantly, Purdy protected the football. It’s like this kid has been doing this for years. This game was different than the rest though. The 49ers could not move the football on the ground consistently. The pressure was on Purdy to have to deliver and it might not have happened a ton, but he made throws when he had to while not turning it over. For that, I will list him as a stud.
3. George Kittle – TE
How can anyone not like this guy? Kittle is arguably the game’s most complete tight end. I know, most people will call me crazy because of the numbers that Travis Kelce puts up. But Kittle is an outstanding blocker as well as receiver. He made a number of key blocks.
But Sunday it was his hands that did the heavy lifting. Not only did he have that aforementioned one-handed catch, but he finished with five catches for 95 yards. That led the 49ers receiving by a ton. No one else was able to shake free from the Cowboys secondary, but Kittle made big play after big play in the second half.
1. Ray Ray McLeod III – KR
49ers kick returner Ray Ray McLeod III came oh so close to warranting being on the studs list. He had a couple decent punt returns. He also had a 53-yard kickoff return. However, he made the one mistake that could have been a disaster.
McLeod III fumbled on a punt return to open the second half. The Cowboys were in business, starting their drive essentially in the red zone at the 21-yard line. Thankfully for San Francisco, their defense once again held up. They forced a field goal, instead of giving up the lead. They would never trail the rest of the game.
2. Brandon Aiyuk – WR
49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had a rough game. He finished with just two catches for 26 yards on four targets. He only drew the four targets primarily because he struggled to create separation. Cowboys cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland took turns lining up opposite Aiyuk and basically took him out of the game.