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Gould, Purdy lead 49ers over Dallas in NFC playoff defensive slugfest

Excitement builds for 49ers' playoff showdown with Cowboys Sunday
Excitement builds for 49ers' playoff showdown with Cowboys Sunday 04:58

SANTA CLARA -- Robbie Gould connected on field goals of 26, 29, 47 and 50 yards and Christian McCaffrey scored on a 2-yard run to lift San Francisco to a 19-12 victory Sunday over Dallas to advance to a showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC title game.

While there were plenty of offensive stars on both sides of the ball, it was the defenses that dominated the contest.

San Francisco intercepted Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott twice.  Deommodore Lenoir picked off a pass at the Dallas 27 in the first quarter that set up Gould's first field goal. Then Fred Warner picked off a pass with less than 2 minutes left in the half to set up Gould's third kick.

The Cowboys lost for the record seventh straight time in the divisional round and have failed to make it to the NFC title game since winning their fifth Super Bowl title following the 1995 season.  

Meanwhile, the Dallas defenders challenged 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy to make plays all night.

Brock Purdy Passes
49ers quarterback Brock Purdy passes during the NFL NFC Divisional Playoff game Jan. 22, 2023, at Levi's Stadium.  Bob Kupbens via Getty Images

Purdy continued to play well beyond his years, winning his seventh straight game since becoming a starter. He completed 19-of-29 for 214 yards and made several key tosses to tight end George Kittle, who caught 5 catches for 95 yards.

"Man, we're just excited that we won," Purdy said. "Everyone did their part. It's playoff football, it's never easy, but we're moving on."  

Kittle had praise for the team's 23-year-old quarterback.

"Wow. Brock Purdy getting us to the NFC championship game? I mean, he's only won I think like seven in a row now. Good job, Brock," Kittle said. "He's playing at a high level, getting our best players the football, he's awesome and confident in the huddle. He's just doing a great job."  

On his key juggling catch, Kittle said he wasn't the prime receiver on the play.

"I was like, you know what, how can I make this as dramatic as possible?" Kittle said of his spectacular catch. "Just shout-out to Brock: I actually wasn't even in progression and he still found me, so that's all that matters. So I just appreciate him giving me a shot at catching the ball."  

After missing his 5th extra point of the post season, Dallas' Brett Maher made amends converting a 25-yard field goal to pull Dallas to a 9-9 tie in the third quarter.

The 49ers then put their best drive of the day together, marching 74 yards in 9 plays to score on a 2-yard McCaffrey dive play on the first play of the fourth quarter. The drive was sparked by a juggling Kittle catch.

Kittle Catch - Cowboys at 49ers
49ers George Kittle catches a pass against the Cowboys during the third quarter in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Levi's Stadium Jan. 22, 2023.  Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images

Dallas fought back and closed to 16-12 on a Maher 32-yard field goal with 11:08 left in the game,

The first half was a defensive slugfest and the story of two kickers. 

The 49ers running game could only muster 27 rushing yards in the half and were just slightly bettered by the Cowboys who rolled up 64 yards.

Prescott completed 12-of-16 pass attempts for 81 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Purdy was 12-of-19 for 129 yards. 

Gould accounted for all the 49ers points, hitting on field goals of 29, 47 and 50 yards to give San Francisco a 9-6 halftime lead.

Meanwhile, Maher's extra point was blocked after Prescott capped a 14-play, 79-yard drive with a 4-yard scoring pass to Dalton Schultz at 7:47 of the second quarter to give the Cowboys a 6-3 lead.

It was the only extended drive either team could mount in the first half.

Dallas' staggering offense was dealt another blow right before halftime when the Cowboys lost star running back Tony Pollard to an injured ankle.

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