They win merry matches with offensive feasts, but they also win in muddy and stalled duels. The San Francisco 49ers prevail in confrontations of all kinds of characteristics, and in all of them there is a common denominator: Brock Purdy. The quarterback chosen in last position of the last Draft (position 262 of the seventh round) has not yet known defeat since he took the reins of the Bahía team and there are already seven consecutive wins for Purdy as a starter, 12 in a row for the 49ers. The last victim of those from San Francisco were the Dallas Cowboys, who succumbed (19-12) in a duel in which they caused many problemsalthough Purdy and company ended up imposing their law to access the NFC Championship for the second consecutive year, in which they will visit Philadelphia to face the Eagles for a place in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco came from sweeping the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card, although the game they met in this Divisional round was completely different. Purdy, who has wowed the entire NFL in just two months with a story rarely seen in sports, it had yet to face a defense as demanding as the Cowboys’. The match took a while to pick up pace, because the game was being played in the trenches. The Dallas defensive line was initially snacking on the 49ers, totally ineffective and allowing them to constantly reach a Purdy who barely had time to execute. Also taking center stage was San Francisco’s defense, statistically the best in the league, with an early interception to Dak Prescott. The Cowboys played a lot at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, because the last time they reached an NFC Championship was in 1995 (the year in which they won their fifth and last Super Bowl). Since then, they have accumulated 12 bitter playoff appearances.
The first points were put by San Francisco through a field goal, although the Cowboys’ response was immediate. Through 17 plays, the Dallas team got the first touchdown of the game. And, at the extra point, Brett Maher lived a drama again. The Texans kicker became a protagonist last week by missing four one-point conversions (playoff record), although the Cowboys bet on him again. However, in his first appearance, Maher took a very poor shot that was blocked. His face after a new mistake was a poem. The 49ers continued to score only three at a time, with the offensive line completely broken by the push of their rivals. Micah Parsons appeared all over the field, blowing up any run attempt or putting pressure on a Purdy who wasn’t capable of playing the game he felt comfortable with. Only one more interception to Prescott allowed the 49ers to go ahead at halftime (9-6), at which time the Cowboys received the bad news that their starting running back, Troy Pollard, would not return to the game due to injury.
Without being brilliant, San Francisco commanded on the scoreboard. Although Kyle Shanahan’s gave the feeling of playing with fire. On a Dallas punt, the 49ers special teams fumbled and allowed the Cowboys to tie the game thanks to a Brett Maher field goal that finally hit between the sticks. There was nervousness in some unrecognizable 49ers, although they finally managed to change the dynamic. The runs of Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell began to find holes thanks to an offensive line that stepped up. Purdy also appreciated it, as he began to have more time to find wide receivers. The first touchdown for those from the Bay did not come until the beginning of the fourth quarter, with McCaffrey finding the end zone to give air to his team. San Francisco’s ever-dutiful defense continued to limit the damage, and that’s when the 49ers fully reclaimed their identity. They chloroformed the game with an eight-minute possession in the final quarter, eating up the clock on running plays and demanding the Cowboys score a quick touchdown to force overtime.
Those from Dallas tried desperately, although without success and with questionable time management by coach Mike McCarthy. The 49ers once again showed that they also prevail in the mud, in the games that are decided in the trenches. Without giving its best version and having been in trouble for much of the game, San Francisco ended up imposing its law. They didn’t even need the best version of a Brock Purdy who went without a single touchdown for the first time in his short career, but who became the fifth rookie quarterback in history to win a Divisional round game. Very few teams, if any, could reach a Championship round with the third quarterback in their rotation after losing the top two to injury. But Brock Purdy is a player touched by a wand and, since he has set foot on an NFL pitch, he only knows one verb: win. The 49ers will be for the second consecutive year in the NFC Championship (three of the four teams alive repeat conference finals), a round in which they were knocked out last year by the Los Angeles Rams. This time they will travel to Philadelphia, where the Eagles will propose a game similar to the one the Cowboys played last night. But these 49ers handle themselves like a charm in any context, and Purdy doesn’t intend to wake up from the dream he’s living.