Game rewind: Cowboys 34, 49ers 31
THE HERO Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe shrugged off his first two interceptions of the season – one of which was returned 34 yards for a touchdown by 49ers' safety Tony Parrish – to lead his team from behind all day until the Cowboys ultimately pulled out the victory in the final minutes on the second of his two touchdown passes. Bledsoe stood strong in the pocket throughout the afternoon and often got the ball to receivers just as he was getting hit upon release. Bledsoe completed 24 of 38 passes for 363 yards, driving the Cowboys to two fourth-quarter touchdowns that allowed Dallas to erase a 12-point San Francisco lead entering the period. On the game-winning touchdown, Bledsoe put a 14-yard pass on the money to receiver Keyshawn Johnson in the corner of the end zone, and then did it again on the nearly-identical two-point conversion pass that followed. THE GOAT Where was free safety Mike Rumph when San Francisco needed him over the middle on passing downs? The Niners needed Rumph to play a solid center field to put away this game, but he was caught out of position on long bombs of 58 and 44 yards from Bledsoe to Terry Glenn, each of which allowed the Cowboys to get down the field quickly on their final two touchdown drives. But Rumph wasn't the only goat on a San Francisco defense that allowed the Cowboys three other receptions of 26 yards or more. Cornerback Ahmed Plummer was slow to react while getting beaten by Johnson for the game-winning touchdown, but he also knocked away three passes during the game. KEY STAT The Cowboys were 5-of-5 in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on each of their five trips inside San Francisco's 20-yard line. If the 49ers had buckled up and limited Dallas to a field goal or less on just one of those drives, San Francisco would have won the game. THE TURNING POINT The 49ers had a first down at the Dallas 1-yard line with 41 seconds remaining in the first half. Instead of pushing the football into the end zone for a touchdown that would have given San Francisco a 28-12 halftime lead, Kevan Barlow was stopped for no gain on first down, Tim Rattay fumbled the snap on second down and the 49ers proceeded to botch their clock management of the final 30 seconds before halftime, settling for a field goal that kept Dallas within 24-12 at the half and seemed to sap San Francisco of momentum. Dallas stopped the San Francisco offense on a three-and-out to begin the second half, then took a short punt and went on a 10-play, 55-yard touchdown drive to get within 24-19 early in the third period. THE BIG PLAY In a game of big plays – including Brandon Lloyd's 89-yard touchdown pass from Rattay and Parrish's interception return for a touchdown – there were two that stood out as being the most consequential in the outcome. One of them – Bledsoe's 58-yard pass to Glenn on second-and-10 from the Dallas 28-yard line – allowed the Cowboys to get right back in the game after they'd fallen behind 31-19 near the end of the third quarter. The other – Bledsoe's 44-yard pass to Glenn on second-and-6 from the Dallas 41 – allowed the Dallas offense to get in position to pull out the victory after the Cowboys had been forced to punt on their previous two fourth-quarter drives. STANDOUT PERFORMER It was Bledsoe, because he engineered the rally that pulled out the win, but he got help from tight end Jason Witten (six catches for 85 yards and one touchdown), Glenn (five catches for 137 yards) and Johnson (five catches for 74 yards and one touchdown). A special mention in a losing cause goes to Lloyd, who turned two of his four receptions into highlight-reel touchdown catches on his way to a career-high 142 yards receiving. BY THE NUMBERS 2: Touchdown receptions by Brandon Lloyd, a career high 3: Turnovers produced by each team 4: Career two-interception games by 49ers safety Tony Parrish 5: Tackles for loss on Cowboys by San Francisco defenders 5.4: Rushing average per carry for Kevan Barlow, who entered the game average 2.3 yards per carry this season 6.2: Average gain per offensive play by Cowboys 6.4: Average gain per offensive play by 49ers 8: Penalties by 49ers, who entered the game with a NFL-low seven penalties through the season's first two weeks 11: Career fourth-quarter interceptions by 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay 17: Total career interceptions by Rattay 19: First downs by the 49ers, one short of their combined total in their first two games 21: Rushing yards by Rattay, his career high 24: First-half points by the 49ers, their most in a first half since scoring 34 in the first two quarters of a 50-14 victory over Arizona in 2003 26: Carries by Dallas running back Julius Jones, the 10th time in 10 career starts he has had 20 or more carries 32:05: Time of possession by Dallas offense, the third consecutive time this season the Niners have lost the battle of time possession 101: Points allowed by 49ers in three games so far this season 124: Total rushing yards by 49ers, 32 more than the combined total of their first two games 144.3: Quarterback rating for Rattay in first half 227: Total yards of offense by 49ers in first half, more than they gained in four quarters during either of their first two games 390: Total yards of offense by 49ers, 31 more than the combined total of their first two games 443: Total yards of offense gained by Cowboys 1,431: Yards allowed by San Francisco defense in first three games of the season FAST FACTS --- The 49ers saw their lead in the all-time series between the two teams cut to 16-14-1. --- Rattay's 89-yard touchdown throw to Lloyd was the sixth-longest passing play in 49ers history. It also was San Francisco's longest play from scrimmage since Garrison Hearst's 96-yard touchdown run against the New York Jets in the 1998 season opener. --- Lloyd had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, besting his previous career high of 93 yards against the Jets last year. --- Rattay threw three touchdown passes for the second time, matching his career high of three thrown against the St. Louis Rams in 2003. --- Parrish's interception return for a touchdown was San Francisco's first since Ahmed Plummer returned an interception 68 yards for a score against Chicago in the 2003 season opener. --- Niners' defensive end Marques Douglas recovered a fumble for the second consecutive game. --- Bryant Young surpassed his entire 2004 sack total when he dropped Bledsoe for a nine-yard loss in the first quarter. Young now has four sacks in three games this year after producing three sacks last season.
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