For the third time in four years, the 49ers have reached the NFC Championship Game. They will play in Philadelphia next Sunday.
San Francisco held off the Cowboys 19-12 in a smashmouth football game in Santa Clara, the 49ers’ 12th consecutive victory. The 49ers have not lost since a 44-23 loss to the Chiefs on Oct. 23.
The defenses ruled the day with the teams combining for 594 yards. The difference was Dak Prescott‘s two interceptions, one of which came in the red zone and another that put the 49ers in field goal range. The 49ers scored six points off his two giveaways. They dropped two other interceptions that hit them in the hands.
The Cowboys’ only takeaway came on special teams when Kelvin Joseph knocked the ball out of punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud‘s hands. Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs dropped a would-be interception that hit him in the hands with the 49ers in the red zone in the second half.
The 49ers scored their only touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter when Christian McCaffrey ran it in from the 2, giving them a 16-9 lead.
Cowboys kicker Brett Maher, who had an extra point blocked in the first half, made a 43-yard field goal, but the 49ers answered with a Robbie Gould field goal with 3:04 remaining for the final points.
The Cowboys went three-and-out, and, with three timeouts, they punted. But they wasted precious time, with the clock running after a sack of Prescott, getting their punt team on the field. The 49ers, who began their final drive with 2:05 left, would have run out the clock if Elijah Mitchell hadn’t run out of bounds after a 13-yard run.
The Cowboys got the ball back on their own 6 with 45 seconds left. It was not enough time.
Prescott was 23-of-37 for 206 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, with CeeDee Lamb catching 10 passes for 117 yards. Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard left just before halftime with a high-ankle sprain.
The Cowboys remain without an appearance in the NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season, which was their last Super Bowl championship team. Only the Commanders, Lions and Dolphins have longer droughts without a conference championship game appearance.