San Francisco Chronicle

Cowboys’ divisional playoff rut continues


For all the progress of the first road playoff victory in 30 years, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys still can’t get out of their divisional-round rut.

They now have another year to think about it.

“They’re all independen­t,” the Dallas quarterbac­k said after dropping to 0-3 in divisional games, almost half of the record seven consecutiv­e losses in this round for the Cowboys.

“You can’t take one from the other or think about that. But all I can think about right now is this game and how disappoint­ed I am in my play at this point.”

Prescott threw two intercepti­ons in a 19-12 loss to the 49ers, a week after easily his best playoff performanc­e in a victory at Tampa Bay that eliminated seven-time Super Bowl champ Tom Brady.

The Cowboys (13-6) have fallen short of the NFC Championsh­ip Game in 12 consecutiv­e playoff appearance­s since winning the most recent of their five Super Bowl titles 27 years ago.

Prescott was the problem early, but the defense was a big letdown late by allowing two long scoring drives.

The offseason focus, though, will be largely on Prescott’s failures.

He went from a personal-playoff-best 143.3 passer rating against the Bucs to a playoff-worst 63.6 against the Niners. His career-high 17 intercepti­ons, playoffs included, led the NFL.

Owner/general manager Jerry Jones remains committed to Prescott. The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has two years left on a four-year contract that pays $40 million per season.

“We’ll come out of here with something good out of this,” Jones said. “That’s an edge. Tonight didn’t change my mind about the edge with him.”

• Running back Ezekiel Elliott and tight end Dalton Schultz might have played their final games with the Cowboys. If so, both endings left something to be desired.

Elliott was the center for a strange formation on the final play, getting run over by a defender after the shotgun snap to Prescott. Receiver KaVontae Turpin was tackled before the Cowboys could start pitching the ball on a play that began 76 yards from the end zone.

Schultz, a Stanford alum, inexplicab­ly didn’t get a second foot down on the catch before that play, costing about 15 yards of field position.

Elliott could be cut without significan­t salary-cap implicatio­ns on the $90 million, six-year extension he signed three years ago.

Schultz, who scored three touchdowns in the playoffs, played on the franchise tag and appears unlikely to do so again. It probably will take a longterm contract to keep him.

• Running back Tony Pollard, who emerged as the best playmaker on offense, broke his left fibula against the 49ers when he was tackled in the first half.

He was on the final year of his rookie contract, and still will be rehabbing an injury that will require surgery when free agency opens in March. Pollard might be headed for the franchise tag.

• CeeDee Lamb had a career season in his debut as the No. 1 receiver after the offseason trade of Amari Cooper in a costcuttin­g move.

The Cowboys didn’t really figure out how to replace Cooper, though. Before the ill-conceived final play, Noah Brown (two receptions) and T.Y. Hilton (one) were the only receivers with a catch after Lamb’s 10 grabs for 117 yards. Michael Gallup, who signed a $58 million, five-year contract last offseason, was shut out against the 49ers.

• Brett Maher is a free agent after setting an NFL record with four missed extra-point kicks in the wild-card win over the Bucs. He had one blocked against the 49ers, but the kick looked as if it would have missed, anyway. He finished the season by missing six of his last seven PAT tries.

Maher stabilized a shaky situation as a late add in training camp when a kicking competitio­n flopped. Playoffs included, he was 31-for-34 (91%) on field-goal tries. Payton, Panthers talk: Carolina interviewe­d Sean Payton for its headcoachi­ng vacancy. Payton, 59, the former New Orleans head coach who sat out this season, is drawing interest from teams with head-coaching openings. including the Broncos.

 ?? Josie Lepe/Associated Press ?? Dallas quarterbac­k Dak Prescott walks off the field Sunday after the Cowboys’ 19-12 divisional-round playoff loss to the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Josie Lepe/Associated Press Dallas quarterbac­k Dak Prescott walks off the field Sunday after the Cowboys’ 19-12 divisional-round playoff loss to the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.

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