SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers should look to the Dallas Cowboys for an example of how to thrive while missing some star players.
With Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and two starting offensive lineman sidelined by injuries, the Cowboys still managed to beat San Francisco 24-17 Sunday for their third straight win.
Now the Niners (1-3) head into a short week following their third straight loss dealing with injuries to two key defensive players, most notably star linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Bowman was carted off the field with a lower left leg injury that appeared to be serious after he went down without contact in the third quarter.
“It is tough to see anyone go down,” safety Eric Reid said. “We will see what happens and the next guy has to step in and that is what we have to do. That next guy has some big shoes to fill.”
First-round defensive lineman DeForest Buckner also left with an injury and had a walking boot on his left foot after the game, leaving two potential holes in a defense with a Thursday night game upcoming against Arizona.
The Cowboys (3-1) did just fine without their key players. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 245 yards and two scores and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott had his second straight 100-yard game, rushing for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Backup receiver Brice Butler caught one TD pass and Terrance Williams caught another as the Cowboys are thriving without some of their best players.
“There were a number of backups in the lineup on both sides of the ball,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Guys just stepping up prepared, accountable, come to work every day, do their job.”
Here are some other takeaways from the Cowboys win over the Niners:
STAGNANT OFFENSE: After scoring TDs on their first two drives of the game, the 49ers offense stalled. San Francisco had one field goal the rest of the way as Blaine Gabbert struggled for any consistency. Gabbert missed an open Torrey Smith on a deep ball midway through the fourth quarter, turning a possible go-ahead touchdown into an interception , and then completed only a 3-yard pass on fourth-and-6 to end San Francisco’s final drive in Dallas territory.
“We started fast like we wanted to all week,” Gabbert said. “Got the run game going. Got some passes in there. Jumped up to 14-0 and just stalled there a little bit.”
POISED ROOKIE: The early 14-point deficit didn’t shake Prescott a bit. He remained calm and led the Cowboys back with another mistake-free performance. He went 23 for 32 and his 131 attempts without an interception are the most ever for a player in his first four games.
“He isn’t going to blink,” Butler said. “No scenario is too big for him. We expect that from him and he expects that from himself.”
LONG TIME COMING: After being slowed by injuries for much of his career, Morris Claiborne is finally playing like the first-round pick he was for Dallas in 2012. He had his first interception since 2014 and also made the key tackle on Smith on the fourth-down play .
“It feels good to get an interception anytime in a game,” Claiborne said. “It’s been a long time since I had one. It feels great to finally get one and to get one in a win.”
MOMENTUM TURN: Two plays in the second quarter ended up shifting the momentum in Dallas’ favor. Jaquiski Tartt was called for a personal foul after the Niners appeared to get a third-down stop with a sack of Prescott. Tartt hit Prescott after he was already wrapped up on the play, leading to the penalty. Three plays later, Dallas scored its first TD on Prescott’s pass to Williams.
Later in the quarter, Bradley Pinion shanked a punt for 26 yards, giving Dallas a short field. The Cowboys capitalized with the TD pass to Butler that tied the game.