6 takeaways from 49ers’ divisional playoff win over Cowboys

The improbable run continued for the 49ers on Sunday when they knocked off the Cowboys 19-12 in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. It was the second year in a row San Francisco knocked Dallas out of the postseason.

After a long stretch of games where the 49ers weren’t really tested, Dallas provided San Francisco’s biggest challenge of their 12-game winning streak. We went back through some of the key aspects of Sunday’s game and came away with a handful of takeaways:

Rivalry renewed

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The 49ers came out on top of their ninth postseason meeting with the Cowboys, moving their all-time record against Dallas to 4-5 in playoff games. The 49ers-Cowboys rivalry dominated the NFL in the 80s and early 90s, but fell dormant as both clubs dealt with ups and downs without ever facing each other in the postseason. Now, with the 49ers knocking the Cowboys out in each of the last two seasons, including Sunday’s slugfest, it’s safe to say the rivalry is back on.

Brock Purdy's worst day

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It says a lot about Purdy’s early success that a playoff game where he went 19-of-29 for 214 with no touchdowns or interceptions was his worst game as a starter. However, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. There were points, especially early, against a ferocious Cowboys pass rush that Purdy looked more like a rookie than he ever has. He looked indecisive at times and narrowly avoided a couple of disasters. Still, he played well enough to get the 49ers a win. He’ll need to be better in the NFC championship though if San Francisco is going to move on to the Super Bowl.

George Kittle saves the day

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In a game where yards were hard to come by, Kittle was a star with five catches on five targets for 95 yards. Four of his five catches stood out as big plays in Sunday’s game. His first reception went for 31 yards on San Francisco’s second series and got the 49ers into Dallas territory after they’d struggled to move the ball on their first handful of plays. The second was his remarkable juggling grab in the middle of the field to catalyze the 49ers’ only touchdown drive. Then he hauled in a 17-yard catch to open a 49ers series that led to a field goal after Dallas had cut the lead to 16-12. Finally, with the 49ers trying to run out the clock at the two-minute warning, head coach Kyle Shanahan dialed up a pass to his star tight end, who made the catch and lurched ahead for 16 yards and a first down to open the drive. If the 49ers are going to be the first team ever to make a Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback, Kittle has to be prominently featured in big spots like he was Sunday.

Secondary does it

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The 49ers’ pass defense had a tall task in front of them against an explosive Dallas offense, but they delivered a terrific performance in limiting Cowboys QB Dak Prescott to 5.6 yards per attempt and two interceptions. Dallas had only one pass play go for more than 20 yards, and only two go for more than 15. They had as many interceptions as they allowed completions of 10-plus air yards. Cowboys star WR CeeDee Lamb caught 10 of his 13 targets for 117 yards. Outside of his one 46-yard grab, he averaged just 7.9 yards per reception. No other Cowboys pass catcher had more than 27 yards.

No sacks for Nick

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Nick Bosa had three games all regular season where he didn’t post at least one sack. Through two playoff games he’s yet to have one, marking the first time all year he went consecutive games without getting the QB on the ground. Bosa is still an impactful player though, collapsing the pocket and helping the 49ers’ run defense remain stout. It’s a testament to the depth of San Francisco’s defensive talent though that they’re able to give up just 29 points combined through two playoff games without their star defensive end creating sacks for himself.

O-line concerns return

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The 49ers’ offensive line has flown mostly under the radar all year, but their interior was exposed against Dallas’ defensive front. They struggled mightily to get the run game going in the first half, and Purdy was often under duress. He was sacked twice and had multiple throwaways created by interior pressure from the Cowboys. Players like Cowboys DE Micah Parsons are going to be individually brilliant and win some matchups, but the interior of the 49ers offensive line has to be more consistently good. They started to move bodies in the second half Sunday. Now they have to maintain that level of play for four quarters.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire