For a minute, it looked like the Cowboys may have been on the doorstep of leaving the NFL's collective jaw on the floor. With his team down by a touchdown and just six seconds left on the clock, Mike McCarthy was going deep in his bag of tricks with what looked like was going to be some type of lateral gadget play that would hopefully result in the Cowboys knotting up the game and possibly forcing overtime.
With the ball at their own 24-yard line, Dallas came out in an interesting formation that included zero offensive linemen down in their traditional spots and running back Ezekiel Elliott serving as the center set to hike the ball to Dak Prescott. That look alone was enough for San Francisco to call a timeout, which only built up the anticipation for whatever mayhem was about to unfold once the ball was snapped. Coming out of the timeout, the Cowboys lined up in the same formation -- that included linemen lined up on either side of the numbers -- and Elliott snapped the ball. And whatever Dallas hoped would happen, didn't.
Prescott immediately threw the ball to KaVontae Turpin and the receiver was taken down by 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward almost instantly, eliminating Dallas from the playoffs and robbing the rest of us of seeing what tricks McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore had up their sleeves.
The final play that sends the @49ers to the NFC Championship! #NFLPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/Du5KruFQ3q— NFL (@NFL) January 23, 2023
"It didn't get going," McCarthy told reporters of the play following the 19-12 loss that has San Francisco advancing to the NFC Championship game. "I really don't want to get into the detail of it, but that obviously wasn't the plan. It's obviously a gadget play or whatever. It's a last-play-situation call that we practice."
While that play was anticlimactic, it would have been an unbelievable turn of events if they were to pull it off. Even more interesting would have been McCarthy's next decision. If Dallas had scored on that trick play, it could have either tied the game with an extra point or gone for the two-point conversion and try to win the game right then and there. Postgame, McCarthy noted that Dallas would have gone for the win with the two-point attempt. While you may think that is largely due to kicker Brett Maher's immense struggles kicking extra points over the last two weeks -- including a blocked attempt earlier in this game -- McCarthy said that decision would have been made with the Cowboys' defense in mind.
"When we got the ball back in the last series, the plan was to go down and score and go for two for the win," McCarthy said. "That was the thought process. That had more to do with that I just felt like our defense was on the field a long time and I thought we picked it up in certain areas in the second half. But like I said, we just came up short."
Dallas' season comes to an end after a 12-5 regular season and a victory over the Buccaneers during Super Wild Card Weekend. This is also the second consecutive season that Jerry Jones' team has been sent home by San Francisco in the playoffs.