The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys inked the latest chapter of a historic rivalry on "Sunday Night Football." This Week 5 matchup is the second of five primetime games on San Francisco's schedule in 2023, and arguably the most anticipated home game of the regular season slate. With the 42-10 win, the 49ers have edged past Dallas in the all-time series, which now sits at 20-19-1.
"I was really excited about us this week. I knew it was our biggest game so far in terms of nationally media and hype," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Sometimes you worry your team might get too up for stuff. I watched them all Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - they were so locked in all week. They didn't make too big of a deal of this game. They seemed so ready to go."
Here are six takeaways from Sunday's game:
Tight End George Kittle Gets a Hat Trick on "Sunday Night Football"
It appears that "The People's Tight End" likes to show out against the Cowboys because he's had game-changing plays in the last two meetings between Dallas and San Francisco. It was the juggle catch that lasted forever in the 2022 NFC Divisional Round Game, and on Sunday, it was his three trips to the end zone that will be remembered from this Week 5, primetime battle.
Kittle's first target of the night was a 19-yard score to cap of a seven-play, 75-yard opening drive for the 49ers. Then in the second quarter, following an exchange of fumble recoveries, the 49ers began their fifth offensive series with favorable field position. San Francisco opened up the drive at the Dallas 38 yard line and employed an intricate trick play to get Kittle to the end zone for the 38-yard score. Head to the next takeaway on the list for the full breakdown of this play.
His third and final touchdown came in the third quarter on third-and-two. Purdy went over the middle to a wide open Kittle to put the team ahead 28-10. Kittle shared how chemistry with Brock Purdy helped him put together a hat trick in Week 5.
"Brock's consistency is what's really helpful," Kittle said. "Also, being able to see Vernon (Davis) pregame, he told me to score three touchdowns to tie his record, so I was was like, 'Fine, Vernon, I'll do that. I'll tell Brock.' Brock is just so consistent every single day. He's the same guy he is on Wednesday as he is on Sunday. He's super detailed. He's super confident. It's everything you want in quarterback.
49ers Break Out the Trick Plays
Shanahan's intricate offense was on display in the second quarter of Sunday's game with a flea flicker variation that resulted in a 38-yard touchdown reception by Kittle. Prior to making the 38-yard connection with Kittle, Brock Purdy handed the ball off to running back Christian McCaffrey, who pitched it to wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who then pitched it back to Purdy to air it out to Kittle on the right side. The sophomore quarterback made an accurate throw with a Dallas defender closing in on him in the backfield. The touchdown was Kittle's second of the game and gave the 49ers the 14-0 advantage with 13:16 left in the first half.
"(The flea flicker) is something we've had in for a little bit and we just walk through it every week. We keep it up for when we need to call it," Shanahan said. "Based off who we were going against today, we planned on calling it. Seeing it work for someone else gives you more confidence (to run it)."
Team Effort for a Red Zone Turnover
Linebacker Fred Warner punched out the ball from the arms of Cowboys running back Tony Pollard in the final seconds of the first quarter at Dallas' five yard line. The ball went loose near the sideline and bounced off another San Francisco defender before defensive lineman Kevin Givens recovered it at the 16 yard line.
CMC Extends His Touchdown Streak to 14-Consecutive Games
The 49ers do-it-all running back kept his touchdown scoring-streak alive against Dallas by barreling into paydirt in the second quarter of the Week 5 contest. With his one-yard rushing score, CMC has scored one-or-more touchdowns in 14-straight games and is tied with former Dallas running back Emmitt Smith for the most-consecutive games with a touchdown (including the playoffs) since 1990.
He closed out the day with 19 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground and another two catches for 27 yards through the air.
"It's such a fun win to be a part of when there's so many guys played so well," McCaffrey said. "The defense played lights out. (Dallas defense) is a good defense and to win like that is a testament to character of this team and how well we can play."
Four-Sack Showing for the 49ers Defense
After managing just one sack in Week 4, the 49ers defense came into Sunday's primetime matchup ready to disrupt Dallas' offense. Defensive lineman Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa got home first, splitting a third down sack on the Cowboys second offensive series to force back-to-back three-and-outs.
San Francisco's second sack came early in the second quarter. On third-and-two, Prescott left the pocket and subsequently was chased and brought down by Warner for a loss of six yards. The play effectively ended Dallas' drive and marked the third three-and-out forced by the 49ers defense. Fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw rounded out the trio of first half sacks with a takedown of Prescott for a loss of one yard on the final play of the first half. Givens added a fourth sack in the fourth quarter by bringing down Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush.
A deep ball attempt by Prescott in the third quarter was turned into a second turnover for the 49ers defense. Gipson Sr. intercepted a pass intended for Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks and returned the pick 26 yards to set his team up on the San Francisco 38 yard line. The 49ers offense turned the ensuing possession into points with a one-yard touchdown reception from fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Later on in the half, cornerback Deommodore Lenoir deflected a Prescott pass attempt and Warner picked it off for interception No. 2 of the night. On the next possession, Purdy handed it off to running back Jordan Mason for the 26-yard score. Linebacker Oren Burks picked off Prescott with 12:50 left to go in the game to complete the interception trifecta and lock down his first-career interception.
"When its your night, it's your night. To do that in front of the whole country, it was pretty cool," Warner said. "I wanted us to be top defense tonight, and I think we did that."