Instant classic: Cowboys’ Cooper Rush finds Amari Cooper for juggling catch, sets up game-winning TD
By Meg Wilcox
It was a big fourth quarter for the Dallas Cowboys last night as they beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 to improve to 7-1 on the season.
Midway through the third quarter, Dak Prescott and company had to settle for a field goal on third down to push the Dallas lead to 13-3.
With the Cowboys in full control, San Francisco offensive tackle Garry Gilliam was penalized for what looked like a form of unsportsmanlike conduct.
Gilliam flipped the ball to a teammate, which resulted in a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, according to ESPN. With the 49ers trailing by seven, coach Kyle Shanahan called timeout to set up a 38-yard field goal attempt to bring his team within three points.
The clock had stopped at the 27-yard line with a minute and a half left in the third quarter. But as on many previous plays, the 49ers had called the Cowboys’ plays, meaning that defensive linemen and receivers alike had in effect altered the Cowboys’ plays as the clock wound down.
This time, an extra defender was on the play. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy followed in place of 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt and intercepted quarterback Dak Prescott, and took the football back 52 yards.
With one minute and 43 seconds left in the third quarter, the 49ers were driving, but then lost Malcolm Smith, who was ejected for punching Prescott.
The 49ers then called upon backup quarterback Nick Mullens, who was in uniform for just the first time this season, to attempt a 43-yard field goal to tie the game, 19-19.
Mullens was sacked by Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving, but the 49ers still had 28 seconds to try a comeback.
The Cowboys held the 49ers without a first down for nearly a full minute, then on third down, Prescott found wide receiver Amari Cooper for the 100-yard game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds left.
Dallas head coach Jason Garrett has been lauded as an innovator and smart decision-maker, often making substitutions when the clock is winding down.
Mullens, the second player to ever start for San Francisco in place of a starting quarterback, was quickly put on the 53-man roster by Shanahan after the game, which happened to be his first start as a professional quarterback.
That combined with the Cowboys’ wild third quarter meant that 50 different players contributed to Dallas’ points in the game, according to NBC Sports.
This game meant a lot to Dallas owner Jerry Jones, who has used words like “reckless” and “careless” to describe the 49ers offensive approach in past games.
Jones has repeatedly acknowledged that he is the “biggest critic” of NFL owners on the field, and that he only has to look at his own team to see that other teams are playing with a level of aggressiveness that he does not want to see.
“It’s not that any owner is reckless, or careless,” Jones told USA Today. “That’s just their style of play.”
The 49ers are now 0-9 on the season, having lost their last 11 games.