Jan 16, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Ced Wilson (1) attempts but is unable to make a catch in front of San Francisco 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt (3) during the second half of the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys-49ers most watched wild-card game in 7 years

Sunday’s playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers drew an average 41.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched NFL wild-card game in seven years.

The audience peaked at 50.2 million viewers for the ending of the 49ers’ 23-17 win. Nickelodeon drew 1.3 million viewers to its children-geared broadcast while CBS garnered an average of 40.2 million viewers.

It was the highest since the 2015 Cowboys-Detroit Lions game drew 42.3 million.

The Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay game came in second Sunday with 30.4 million viewers. Pittsburgh-Kansas City drew 28.9 million, Las Vegas-Cincinnati 27.7 million and New England-Buffalo 26.4 million.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) on the field before the game against the San Francisco 49ers in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott apologizes for ref comment after Cowboys’ loss

Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott apologized Tuesday for postgame remarks that appeared to support Cowboys fans who threw trash at referees after the team’s playoff loss Sunday.

“I deeply regret the comments I made regarding the officials after the game on Sunday,” Prescott said in a series of social media posts. “I was caught up in the emotion of a disappointing loss and my words were uncalled for and unfair.

“I hold the NFL Officials in the highest regard and have always respected their professionalism and the difficulty of their jobs. The safety of everyone who attends a game or participates on the field of a sporting event is a very serious matter. That was a mistake on my behalf, and I am sorry.”

Prescott’s Cowboys lost to the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in their wild-card matchup. The Cowboys, who were driving at the end of the game with no timeouts left, ran out of time to get off one more play because an official needed to touch the ball before the snap.

Some Dallas fans threw garbage onto to the field in protest. Cowboys defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence held up his helmet to block an incoming bottle as he left the field.

In his postgame press conference, Prescott said it was “sad” that fans were throwing trash at the team. But when a reporter said the trash was aimed at the officiating crew as it left the field, the quarterback responded, “Credit to them, then. Yeah. Credit to them.”

Earlier Tuesday, the National Basketball Referees Association spoke out, calling for the NFL to “take action” in light of Prescott’s remark.

“The NBRA condemns the comments by Dak Prescott condoning violence against game officials,” the statement read. “As an NFL leader, he should know better. We encourage the NFL to take action to discourage this deplorable behavior in the future.”

The NFL Referees Association, however, has made no such statement.

–Field Level Media

Jun 3, 2021; Frisco, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and CEO Stephen Jones and owner Jerry Jones on the sidelines during voluntary Organized Team Activities at the Star Training Facility in Frisco, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy to return as head coach

Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones expects head coach Mike McCarthy to return to Dallas next season.

Jones said Monday he “absolutely” felt McCarthy would be back and later in the day, Jones’ father and team owner Jerry Jones, said a coaching change was “not on the table.”

However, Jerry Jones said after Sunday’s wildcard loss to the San Francisco 49ers that he couldn’t remember being “this disappointed” after a loss.

The 49ers held on for a 23-17 victory but Dallas had a chance on its final possession despite setting a franchise record for penalties (14) in a playoff game.

With zero timeouts, the Cowboys drove into 49ers territory with quick passes toward the sideline to stop the clock. But Dallas’ last chance ended when Prescott ran 17 yards up the middle to the 49ers’ 24-yard line and could not spike the ball to stop the clock before time expired.

“That was the best option … it’s the right decision,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said officials told him after the play that they would review and, if necessary, put time back on the clock. Then, they announced instead that the game was over and exited the playing field.

“When you get this combination of players together, you need to have success,” Jones said Sunday night.

Changes are expected to a coaching staff that could be spun into flux with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore interviewing for current NFL head-coaching openings.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws the ball against Dallas Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong (92) in the second quarter in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

49ers hold off late push to eliminate Cowboys

Elijah Mitchell ran for 96 yards and a touchdown while the San Francisco 49ers’ defense overcame the loss of star end Nick Bosa to hold the Dallas Cowboys in check during a 23-17 win Sunday in the NFC wild-card round in Arlington, Texas.

Jimmy Garoppolo hit 16 of 25 throws for 172 yards with an interception for the 49ers, who will travel to top-seeded Green Bay next weekend for the NFC semifinals. Deebo Samuel added 110 yards from scrimmage, 72 on the ground, with a touchdown.

Samuel’s 26-yard scoring run, one play after Dak Prescott was intercepted by K’Waun Williams, gave San Francisco a 23-7 advantage with 5:50 left in the third quarter.

Greg Zuerlein’s 51-yard field goal and Prescott’s 5-yard touchdown run pulled the Cowboys within six points with 8:02 left. But Dallas’ last chance ended when Prescott ran 17 yards up the middle to the 49ers’ 24-yard line and could not spike the ball to stop the clock before time expired. Dallas was out of timeouts.

Bosa (concussion) didn’t play in the second half, but sixth-seeded San Francisco still held third-seeded Dallas to 307 total yards and sacked Prescott five times. Prescott completed just 23 of 43 passes for 254 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Dallas hurt its cause with 14 penalties for 89 yards. Four of them gave the 49ers first downs.

San Francisco initiated the scoring on the game’s first possession, marching 75 yards in just seven plays. Mitchell stepped into the end zone from the 4 on a toss sweep, slicing just inside the front right pylon at the 10:54 mark.

Gould upped the lead to 10-0 on the 49ers’ second drive, drilling a 53-yard field goal with 4:56 left. He connected from 40 yards out with 9:44 remaining in the first half, capping a drive of nearly eight minutes to make it 13-0.

Dallas finally got some traction on the next possession, going 67 yards in nine plays to get on the board. Prescott hooked up with Amari Cooper for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 5:24 on the clock to cut the deficit to 13-7.

Gould sent San Francisco into the locker room with a 16-7 lead after converting from 52 yards out with 3:08 left.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) lays on the field with an injury in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

49ers star DE Nick Bosa (concussion) exits vs. Cowboys

The San Francisco 49ers were dealt a blow in their bid to upset the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday when star defensive end Nick Bosa was declared out for the second half after suffering a concussion late in the first half.

Bosa was trying to get to quarterback Dak Prescott when he was held by La’el Collins. As Bosa was falling, his head hit the hip of a teammate. Bosa walked off the field under his own power but couldn’t pass concussion protocol before the second half.

In the first half, Bosa had three tackles and a half-sack, helping San Francisco mount a consistent pass rush. Prescott absorbed three sacks.

At the time of the injury, the 49ers led 16-7, and they boosted the lead to 16 points later in the stanza.

Bosa had 15.5 sacks in the regular season, which ranked fourth in the NFL.

–Field Level Media

Jan 8, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA;  Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys slight home favorite ahead of 49ers showdown

The Dallas Cowboys have Super Bowl dreams but perhaps the toughest matchup of all the home teams in the NFL Wild Card round.

That’s because the NFC’s third seed drew the sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers in the late-afternoon window on Sunday.

The Cowboys opened as 3.0-point favorites at BetMGM and FanDuel.

The line has moved to 2.5 at the former, with the 49ers backed by 54 percent of the bets and 51 percent of the spread-line money. The action has favored Dallas more at FanDuel, where the team is being backed by 55 percent of the bets and 67 percent of the money.

San Francisco boasts a strong running game and a stronger run defense. It enters with momentum after finishing a 10-7 season with seven wins in their last nine games.

“We know we have a chance to do something special,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “You don’t get that opportunity every year. I’ve been on a number of teams that went to the Super Bowl… there’s a feeling and you want to make them count as long as you have them.”

Some believe the 49ers’ chances of making a deep postseason run hinge on what Garoppolo does. The version of him that led a rally from a 17-0 second quarter deficit in a 27-24 overtime win at the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday can help San Francisco win multiple playoff games.

Garoppolo connected on 23 of 32 passes for 316 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, spearheading an 88-yard touchdown drive in the final 90 seconds that forced overtime. And he did that with a thumb injury suffered in a Dec. 23 loss at Tennessee that will require surgery when the season ends.

When asked about the thumb on Wednesday, Garoppolo said, “It was a little sore after the (Rams) game, but it’s feeling great right now.”

The 49ers are seventh in the league in rushing at 127.4 yards per-game despite losing Raheem Mostert after two carries in the season opener with a knee injury. Rookie Elijah Mitchell returned from a December injury to average 102 yards per-game over his last two outings.

San Francisco also expanded Deebo Samuel’s role when necessary, using him like Atlanta used Cordarrelle Patterson. In addition to his 1,405 receiving yards, Samuel rushed for 365 yards this season — good enough for second on the team — and led the club with eight rushing scores.

But the game’s most intriguing portion figures to occur when Dallas (12-5) owns the ball. That’s because its high-powered offense must cope with a defense ranked second in the league against the rush and fifth in the league in sacks with 48.

The good news for the Cowboys is that left tackle Tyron Smith has been activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and is expected to start. That should ease the mind of quarterback Dak Prescott, who will lean on Smith to keep the likes of Nick Bosa from disrupting his pocket.

Prescott is coming off a highly efficient, highly productive performance in Dallas’ final regular season game. In a 51-26 road rout of Philadelphia on Jan. 8, Prescott completed 21 of 27 attempts for 295 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters and 22 seconds of action.

The Cowboys finished the season as the NFL’s top-scoring team at 31.2 points per game and set a franchise record with 22 different players scoring at least one touchdown.

Prescott spread the wealth around, with CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and Amari Cooper each catching at least 68 passes. Four other players caught between 35 and 47 balls, and Ezekiel Elliott squeaked out a 1,000-yard season on the ground with 87 yards at Philadelphia, giving him 1,002 in the regular season.

The matchup also features a reunion of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. They were together in Atlanta when the Falcons made Super Bowl 51 with Quinn as the head coach, only to infamously blow a 28-3 lead and lose in overtime to the New England Patriots.

Quinn invoked the memories of some early 90s playoff showdowns between these franchises when asked about this game.

“I can hear (John) Madden and (Pat) Summerall talking it through,” Quinn said. “My first Dallas and Niner playoff game — I’m pretty fired up to do it, man.”

The 49ers and the Cowboys have met in the playoffs seven previous times, but this will be their first postseason matchup since Jan. 15, 1995, a 38-28 49ers win.

Cowboys linebacker Keanu Neal was ruled out with a biceps injury along with backup running back Tony Pollard (foot). Backups Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard are expected to be called upon to play more significant roles with Neal out.

The 49ers listed four players as questionable on their final injury report: linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair (knee) and Marcell Harris (Achilles), punter Mitch Wishnowsky (concussion) and safety Talanoa Hufanga (knee).

–Field Level Media

Dec 16, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; A detailed view of the NFL shield logo on the field at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-NFL player Junior Siavii dies at 43

Former NFL defensive tackle Junior Siavii died after being found unresponsive in a federal prison. He was 43.

The Kansas City Star reported he was pronounced dead Thursday afternoon at a hospital, where he was taken after being found in his cell at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. He was awaiting trial on gun and drug trafficking charges.

His cause of death was not announced.

Siavii had been at the medium-security prison since Dec. 17, the newspaper reported. He was arrested in 2019 on suspicion of illegal firearms possession and later indicted on charges of trafficking methamphetamine.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected Siavii with the 36th overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. He appeared in 26 games with the Chiefs, missed three seasons with injuries and returned to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys in 2009. He later played with the Seattle Seahawks before retiring in 2011 because of injury.

The 6-foot-5 Siavii was a native of American Samoa and played in college at Oregon.

In all, Siavii appeared in 56 games (six starts) and recorded 56 tackles (six for loss), three quarterback hits and one fumble recovery.

–Field Level Media

Aug 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (2) runs the ball against Dallas Cowboys linebacker Keanu Neal (42) in the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys ILB Keanu Neal is game-time decision vs. 49ers

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Keanu Neal is a game-time decision for the NFC wild-card game against the visiting the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said there is concern the inside linebacker won’t be ready to go due to a biceps strain.

McCarthy said Monday he expected Neal to be on the field without restrictions by the end of the week, but that didn’t happen. And on Friday, McCarthy said a decision on Neal’s status would “come down to the wire.”

Twice this season, the Cowboys have been without Neal due to positive COVID-19 tests. He most recently went on the COVID-19 list on Dec. 31.

Neal could be critical facing the 49ers’ power-running game and a passing offense that leans on tight end George Kittle.

If Neal is inactive, backups Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard would be called upon to play more significant roles.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys Trevon Diggs (L) and Amari Cooper (R) pose on the field after the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the 2021 Cotton Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Report: NFL fines Cowboys WR Amari Cooper for violating protocol

The NFL fined Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper more than $14,000 on Thursday for violating the COVID-19 protocol as an unvaccinated player, ESPN reported.

Cooper was docked $14,650 for attending a Dallas Mavericks game on Jan. 5 without a mask.

Cooper, who missed two games in November after a positive test, is unvaccinated. He attended the NBA game with CeeDee Lamb, but Lamb is vaccinated and isn’t subject to the same rules as Cooper.

Specifically, this one: “A player who is not fully vaccinated is prohibited from attending a professional sporting event unless he is seated in a separated seating section, such as a suite or owner’s box, is wearing PPE, and there are no more than 10 people in that separate seating section.”

Cooper defended his actions during an interview last week on 105.3 The Fan.

“When I do go somewhere, I mean, I was pictured not wearing a mask, but that’s because I was eating and drinking. I don’t know how to do that with a mask on. So I just think there’s risk all across the board. I don’t feel like anybody is staying home, you know what I mean? Am I supposed to just sit in the house all day?” Cooper said.

“I don’t really understand how to be extra careful because just by us going to practice every day, being around each other, we have teammates on our team who have kids. They take their kids to school who are around hundreds of other kids, who are around their parents when they go home, so forth and so on,” Cooper went on. “So I don’t feel like we can be safe in the environment that we’re in. I feel like the only way we can be safe is if no one goes out and everybody is quarantining for an extended amount of time.”

Cooper, 27, caught 68 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games this season for the Cowboys, who host the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC wild-card game Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws a pass against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys, 49ers ‘fired up’ for tough playoff meeting

The Dallas Cowboys have Super Bowl dreams but perhaps the toughest matchup of all the home teams in the NFL Wild Card round.

That’s because the NFC’s third seed drew the sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers in the late-afternoon window on Sunday. San Francisco boasts a strong running game and a stronger run defense. It enters with momentum after finishing a 10-7 season with seven wins in their last nine games.

“We know we have a chance to do something special,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “You don’t get that opportunity every year. I’ve been on a number of teams that went to the Super Bowl… there’s a feeling and you want to make them count as long as you have them.”

Some believe the 49ers’ chances of making a deep postseason run hinge on what Garoppolo does. The version of him that led a rally from a 17-0 second quarter deficit in a 27-24 overtime win at the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday can help San Francisco win multiple playoff games.

Garoppolo connected on 23 of 32 passes for 316 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, spearheading an 88-yard touchdown drive in the final 90 seconds that forced overtime. And he did that with a thumb injury suffered in a Dec. 23 loss at Tennessee that will require surgery when the season ends.

When asked about the thumb on Wednesday, Garoppolo said, “It was a little sore after the (Rams) game, but it’s feeling great right now.”

The 49ers are seventh in the league in rushing at 127.4 yards per-game despite losing Raheem Mostert after two carries in the season opener with a knee injury. Rookie Elijah Mitchell returned from a December injury to average 102 yards per-game over his last two outings.

San Francisco also expanded Deebo Samuel’s role when necessary, using him like Atlanta used Cordarrelle Patterson. In addition to his 1,405 receiving yards, Samuel rushed for 365 yards this season — good enough for second on the team — and led the club with eight rushing scores.

But the game’s most intriguing portion figures to occur when Dallas (12-5) owns the ball. That’s because its high-powered offense must cope with a defense ranked second in the league against the rush and fifth in the league in sacks with 48.

The good news for the Cowboys is that left tackle Tyron Smith has been activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and is expected to start. That should ease the mind of quarterback Dak Prescott, who will lean on Smith to keep the likes of Nick Bosa from disrupting his pocket.

Prescott is coming off a highly efficient, highly productive performance in Dallas’ final regular season game. In a 51-26 road rout of Philadelphia on Jan. 8, Prescott completed 21 of 27 attempts for 295 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters and 22 seconds of action.

The Cowboys finished the season as the NFL’s top-scoring team at 31.2 points per game and set a franchise record with 22 different players scoring at least one touchdown.

Prescott spread the wealth around, with CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz and Amari Cooper each catching at least 68 passes. Four other players caught between 35 and 47 balls, and Ezekiel Elliott squeaked out a 1,000-yard season on the ground with 87 yards at Philadelphia, giving him 1,002 in the regular season.

The matchup also features a reunion of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. They were together in Atlanta when the Falcons made Super Bowl 51 with Quinn as the head coach, only to infamously blow a 28-3 lead and lose in overtime to the New England Patriots.

Quinn invoked the memories of some early 90s playoff showdowns between these franchises when asked about this game.

“I can hear (John) Madden and (Pat) Summerall talking it through,” Quinn said. “My first Dallas and Niner playoff game — I’m pretty fired up to do it, man.”

The 49ers and the Cowboys have met in the playoffs seven previous times, but this will be their first postseason matchup since Jan. 15, 1995, a 38-28 49ers win.

–Field Level Media