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US Sports

17th Jan 2022

Dallas Cowboys’ stunning comeback falls short after bizarre Dak Prescott final play

Patrick McCarry

Dak Prescott

Absolute chaos in those final 14 seconds.

After a super wildcard weekend, the Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers are all one and done for the playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott, though, may have some difficulty moving on.

Before we get to the pure, unadulterated madness at AT & T Stadium, let us acknowledge the winners on the first weekend of the NFL playoffs.

  • The Cincinnati Bengals won their first playoff game in 31 years
  • Tom Brady and the defending champ Buccaneers overcame injury scratches to march serenely on
  • The Kansas City Chiefs got their mojo working for five touchdowns in an 11-minute spell
  • Josh Allen reigned supreme as the Buffalo Bills pumped the Patriots

And now to Dallas’ heart-breaking, head-scratching loss to the San Francisco 49ers. At 23-7 down, heading into the fourth quarter, all hope looked lost for the home side, but any opposition team with Jimmy Garoppolo as quarterback will always keep you interested.

Sun streams through the frame of AT & T Stadium as Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The flaws in a $2billion stadium

The 49ers had looked serene in how the pieced Dallas up in the first half of their playoff encounter. With Garoppolo starting confidently, the defence stepping up and Deebo Samuel making big gains on his carries, the 49ers raced into a healthy lead.

The Dallas Cowboys, meanwhile, were not being helped by their own stadium. Built at an estimated cost of over $2billion, the Cowboys were cost a big first down when glare from the setting sun got right in the eyes of their receiver, causing him to completely miss a simple Dak Prescott throw.

Later in the game, Cowboys punter Bryan Anger hit the Jumbotron with his kick. The giant scoreboard hangs from the roof of the expensively built stadium and was in the way of the high trajectory kick from Anger. It dropped like a stone and forced a rare ‘do over’.

All the while, though, the 49ers had been ceding ground. With injuries taking out two big defensive players, the Cowboys edged back into the contest. Early in the fourth quarter, they opted for a field goal that put them 23-10 behind. A solid few 49ers plays and the game could have been tied up.

Prescott was taking more responsibilities as the game progressed, and backing his arm instead of the running game. It looked to be working when he ran in a touchdown that, when the extra point was added, made it 23-17. Then… the Garoppolo interception. The 49ers QB had a short enough pass to make but went too high and was picked off.

The Cowboys looked to have one last chance to move on. In the end, they got two. And still blew it.

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys scrambles with the ball on the last play of the game against the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Dak Prescott and that final Dallas Cowboys play

The 49ers defence, with three main men now hobbled, somehow held the Cowboys, who gave up 16 penalties in the game, to 4th & 11 with under two minutes to play. Under pressure, Prescott almost found Cedrick Wilson, but his teammate could not hold on to a diving, low catch.

Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers then thought they had clinched the game with a late first down, through Samuel. As the officials were getting out the measuring chains and poring over replays, some 49ers players waved goodbye to the Cowboys fans.

The game was not over yet.

The final call after that Samuel run was 4th & Inches. The 49ers went for a Garoppolo sneak but gave up a penalty and were bumped back to 4th & 5, with 38 seconds left. They were forced to punt and the Cowboys got the ball back with 32 seconds remaining.

The first two Dallas plays got them to the 49ers’ 41-yard line and with 14 seconds to go. There may have been time for two hail Mary throws from Prescott, but the Cowboys called a quarterback run to get them closer before one final dart. That was the plan, anyway.

What unfolded, in pure chaotic scenes, was Dak Prescott running for 17 yards, sliding and – with the clock ticking down – trying to re-set his line for one last play.

Time was too tight. The referee needs to touch the ball after every snap and, with Prescott and big offensive linesmen scrambling to get in position for the final play, he was forced to run and push players out of the way before getting a hand on it.

The ball was snapped but time was up. Stunned disbelief for the Cowboys. Elation and relief for San Francisco.

Following the 23-17 defeat, Dak Prescott faced the media and sought to explain the thought process behind the final play.

“We’ve practiced it,” Prescott said. “You hand it to the centre… The umpire, all he has to do is usually come in and tap the ball.

“Don’t necessarily know exactly … why the hit [with the umpire] happened, I guess. Yeah, I know he’s going to come in and touch the ball.

“We could say, yeah, [the umpire] needs to be closer to the ball or whatever, but in hindsight it’s just tough. Just tough to accept.”

The final playoff game will take place tonight as the Arizona Cardinals face the Los Angeles Rams.

NFL Super Wildcard results

  • Cincinatti Bengals 26-19 Las Vegas Raiders
  • Buffalo Bills 47-17 New England Patriots
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-15 Philadelphia Eagles
  • San Francisco 49ers 23-17 Dallas Cowboys
  • Kansas City Chiefs 42-21 Pittsburgh Steelers