Game San Francisco 49ers hang on late to beat the Dallas Cowboys, while the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominate the Philadelphia Eagles in NFC wild-card games

Game San Francisco 49ers hang on late to beat the Dallas Cowboys, while the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominate the Philadelphia Eagles in NFC wild-card games

Game

Deebo Samuel and the San Francisco 49ers have started another playoff run after hanging on in a frantic wild-card finish.

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys will have to keep waiting for that elusive deep trip in the postseason.

Samuel, the versatile 49ers receiver, ran 26 yards for a touchdown one play after a Prescott interception, and the 49ers held on for a 23-17 victory Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

The Cowboys had a final chance with 32 seconds remaining and were at the San Francisco 41 with 14 seconds to go when Prescott took off up the middle intending to slide and then spike the ball for a final play.

But the Cowboys didn’t get the snap off from the 24 until after the clock hit 0:00. After a brief delay, referee Alex Kemp announced the game was over.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy suggested that they were slowed by a collision between Prescott and umpire Ramon George and that a sideline official assured him the play was being reviewed.

“The communication that I was given on the sideline was they were reviewing it,” McCarthy said. “They were going to put time back on the clock. And the next thing I know, they’re running off the field.”

Kemp said in a pool report that George was trailing the play at a proper distance and acted appropriately to get the ball spotted correctly. The umpire has to touch the ball before another play can happen.

Kemp said the decision that the snap came after the clock expired was made on the field, not on a replay assist from New York.

“The umpire was simply spotting the ball properly,” Kemp said. “He collided with the players as he was setting the ball because he was moving it to the proper spot.”

The 49ers overcame an interception by Jimmy Garoppolo when they led by 13 in the fourth quarter. Prescott ran for a touchdown to get the Cowboys within a score and had a chance to drive them to a go-ahead score. But the 49ers got a stop at midfield when Prescott’s desperation fourth-down pass was just out of receiver Cedrick Wilson’s reach.

After a 14th penalty from the NFL’s most-penalized team in the regular season helped the 49ers run out most of the clock — and the frantic final seconds as the Cowboys tried for the win — the 49ers clinched their first playoff victory at Dallas in a storied postseason rivalry.

Now they head to Green Bay for a divisional game, looking for another trip to the NFC championship game two years after losing to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

“It was like the whole day, it really was,” Garoppolo said of the final sequence. “It was a dogfight, hell of an atmosphere out here. I mean, the fans were nuts. It was everything we thought it was going to be. It was fun.”

The wait for the Cowboys to get that far in the playoffs will reach at least 27 years after another first-game flameout in the postseason for Prescott, the second in three trips over six seasons for the star quarterback. It was his first playoff game since signing a $40 million-a-year contract in the offseason.

game Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) reacts next to 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead, middle, and cornerback Ambry Thomas (20) after the final play of an NFC wild-card game in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) reacts next to 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead, middle, and cornerback Ambry Thomas (20) after the final play of an NFC wild-card game in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (Roger Steinman/AP)

The 49ers were in control in the fourth quarter — but not leaning on the running game they figured could carry them to a win — when Garoppolo threw an interception to Anthony Brown that set up Prescott’s 7-yard scoring run.

Garoppolo’s mistake wasn’t long after Prescott was picked off at the Dallas 26 by K’Waun Williams and Samuel ran untouched on a cutback up the middle to the end zone on the next play for a 23-7 lead.

The 49ers lost star pass rusher Nick Bosa to a concussion just before halftime when he was crunched in the head and neck area by teammate D.J. Jones. But the 49ers kept enough pressure on Prescott, finishing with five sacks while holding the NFL’s No. 1 offense to 307 yards.

“Guys just stepping up big in big key situations, that’s really what it was all day,” Garoppolo said. “Early on, we got it rolling with the offense and the defense just throughout the entire day. We got some dogs on our defense, man. It’s fun.”

The 49ers scored on their first four possessions but three times settled for field goals from Robbie Gould to help keep the Cowboys close.

The Cowboys had all three timeouts after Prescott’s desperate pass to Wilson fell incomplete.

The 49ers got a first down on the second holding penalty by a Dallas defensive lineman on a running play, and Samuel got all but a few inches needed for a first down on a third-and-11 run with a minute remaining.

The 49ers planned to try to finish off the victory with a fourth-down play, but a false-start penalty led to a punt instead.

The Cowboys started at their 20 with 32 seconds to go. Wilson pitched to CeeDee Lamb on a hook-and-ladder play for 20 yards, and tight end Dalton Schultz gained 9 yards before getting out of bounds with 14 seconds remaining.

When Prescott slid at the end of a 17-yard run, there were eight seconds to go. The snap didn’t beat the clock.

Rookie Elijah Mitchell ran for 96 yards for the 49ers and the game’s first points on a 4-yard run. Samuel had 72 yards on 10 carries and three catches for 38 yards.

As was the case most of the season, the Cowboys couldn’t get the running game going with Ezekiel Elliott. The two-time rushing champion had 31 yards on 12 carries as the Cowboys were outgained 169-77 on the ground.

Prescott was 23 of 43 for 254 yards. Garoppolo, who doesn’t know when his last game with the 49ers will be with rookie Trey Lance waiting his turn, was 16 of 25 for 172 yards.

Gould became the career leader for makes in the playoffs without a miss at 18. Two of his field goals were from at least 50 yards (53, 52).

Game Tom Brady and the Buccaneers blow out the Eagles 31-15

game Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) calls a timeout against the Eagles during an NFC wild-card game Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) calls a timeout against the Eagles during an NFC wild-card game Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (Mark LoMoglio/AP)

As the game clock expired, Tom Brady raised his arms in triumph along the sideline, whirled and tossed a football into the stands.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their jubilant 44-year-old quarterback took the first step on what they hope will be a journey back to the Super Bowl, dominating the Philadelphia Eagles 31-15 in a NFC wild-card playoff victory Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

“It only gets tougher from here,” said the seven-time Super Bowl winner, who’s trying to help the Bucs become the first team to repeat as NFL champions since the Brady-led New England Patriots won back-to-back titles in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

The Bucs set the tempo from the start, with Brady leading a pair of long touchdown drives in the first quarter and building the lead to 17-0 by halftime.

The three-time league MVP finished off the Eagles with TD passes of 2 yards to Rob Gronkowski and 36 yards to Mike Evans, improving his dazzling playoff record to 35-11 in a record 46 postseason starts.

The Bucs defense did its part, too, intercepting Jalen Hurts twice in the Eagles quarterback’s playoff debut.

“We did some good things,” Brady said. “We’re just going to have to keep doing what we did today. Everyone’s got to touch it, make some explosive plays. Did a good job possessing it, the defense played great, so it was a great team win. Special teams played awesome — one of the best days we had on special teams all year.”

Brady completed 29 of 37 attempts without an interception while extending his postseason record for TD passes to 85.

But the Bucs had matters well in hand before the reigning Super Bowl MVP found Gronkowski wide open in the middle of the end zone to make it 24-0 midway through the third quarter. The 6-foot-5 Evans punctuated his TD catch for a 31-0 lead with a front flip over the goal line.

Brady targeted Evans 10 times, completing nine of the throws for 117 yards. He’s 5-0 in postseason games since joining the Bucs in 2020 after 20 seasons with the Patriots.

“I don’t ever take it for granted,” Evans said of Brady’s leadership. “When he came to this team, I knew he was going to change the franchise. He’s done that and then some. He makes sure we’re always ready to play. He makes sure that we know what we’re doing and he makes sure that we give it our all. That’s all you can ask for from a leader.”

game Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, right, celebrates with wide receiver Mike Evans after Evans caught a touchdown pass against the Eagles on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Tampa, Fla.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, right, celebrates with wide receiver Mike Evans after Evans caught a touchdown pass against the Eagles on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (Mark LoMoglio, AP Photo)

The Eagles scored on Boston Scott’s 34-yard run and Hurts’ 16-yard TD pass to Kenneth Gainwell, both in the fourth quarter. A 2-point conversion trimmed their deficit to 16 with 4:45 remaining, but that was as close as it would get.

“We didn’t play good enough today, I didn’t play good enough today,” said Hurts, who was wearing a protective boot on his left foot after the game.

“This game does not define us, does not define who we are. We know all the different things that we’ve overcome. I know as a football team we’ll be back,” added Hurts, who at 23 is the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game for the Eagles. “We’ll be back. This is a feeling that will kind of simmer in our hearts, simmer for us all.”

Giovani Bernard scored on a 2-yard run and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a second-year pro filling in for injured running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, covered the final yard of a 70-yard drive that put the Bucs up 14-0.

Brady led the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions this season, but the Bucs gained the upper hand in this one by running the ball and keeping it away from Hurts and the league’s leading rushing attack.

The Bucs ran 25 plays to the Eagles’ eight in the first quarter, outgaining the Eagles 137-17 and compiling an 11-1 edge in first downs.

It didn’t get much better after that, with a Tampa Bay defense fortified by the return of injured linebackers Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul turning away Hurts’ most promising drive of the opening half with Mike Edwards’ end-zone interception.

The Eagles won four of their last five games to earn the No. 7 playoff seed in the NFC; however, the turning point in their season came when running the ball became a focal point of the offense during the second half of a 28-22 home loss to the Bucs.

The Eagles ran for at least 130 yards in their next nine games, including seven in a row with more than 175. Hurt led the team with 784 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing, becoming the eighth quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 750.

Hurts finished his playoff debut 23 of 43 for 258 yards. He ran for a team-high 39 yards on eight attempts, with the Eagles finishing with 95 rushing yards overall — well below their season average of 159.7 per game.

“I didn’t sense for a moment that the moment was too big for them. I just think we made some mistakes,” first-year Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “We just didn’t make some plays. We didn’t coach good enough at the end of the day.”

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