Santa Clara, CA.
Disappointment was thick in the Dallas Cowboys’ locker room as players tried to explain another frustrating playoff exit.
Safety Jayron Kearse was in tears.
Linebacker Micah Parsons spoke in his hushed tones, trying to make sense of seeing the Cowboys’ season end at the hand of the San Francisco 49ers.
Last year it was 23-17 in the wild card playoffs at home AT&T Stadium.
This time, it was 19-12 on the road in the divisional playoffs with a much better team.
The end result was the same, as the Cowboys are going home for the 27th straight season without at least reaching the NFC title game since their last Super Bowl title following the 1995 season.
Quarterback Dak Prescott threw two interceptions and maligned kicker Brett Maher missed an extra point attempt on the team’s lone touchdown to set the tone before the game ended with a bizarre lateral play that never got off the ground.
And then an angry coach Mike McCarthy was seen shoving a camera out of his face as he walked off the field.
McCarthy made it clear he didn’t shove the cameraman.
“I didn’t view it like that,” McCarthy said when asked about if he pushed or shoved a cameraman. “That was not the interaction at all.”
Noah Bullard, the sports photographer for KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth, said he moved the camera and it wasn’t a shove.
McCarthy acknowledged that emotions were raw in the Cowboys locker room.
And owner Jerry Jones agreed.
“I felt we were in a good situation to come in here and win this thing,” Jones said. “Frankly, I wouldn’t say surprised, I would say just real disappointed that we maybe couldn’t make something happen. Frankly, turnovers do settle the score with games like that. I’m so disappointed for our fans. We’ve got a locker room full of sick players.
“This is very sickening. We came up short. We’re sick. Just sick. Sick.”
Jones said the outcome of the game and loss to the 49ers for the second straight season would have no impact on the McCarthy’s job status.
“No. No. No, not at all,” Jones said.
The Cowboys have been to the playoffs 12 times since 1995.
They have lost seven times in the divisional round and five times in the wild-card round.
After losing the 49ers last season, the Cowboys vowed to make a real run in 2022. And with a 31-14 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild card game last Monday, the Cowboys had hopes of happier ending against the 49ers.
But the problems of the season proved to be their downfall as Prescott, who led the league with 15 interceptions in just 12 games, threw 2 interceptions against the 49ers, who turned them into six points.
“I thought this team, with Dak at quarterback, I thought we had a chance to get to and compete at the top level in this tournament,” Jones said. “I really did. That was our edge here tonight, I thought, the quarterback, the experience of the quarterback. They might have had a little edge in an area there, but I thought the quarterback was the edge.”
Prescott proved to be the team’s downfall
And he accepted full responsibility, one he will plans to carry into the offseason.
“I’m disappointed in the way that I’ve played,” Prescott said. “Those guys in that locker room gave it all. Both sides of the ball. And put me in a position to go win the game. And I wasn’t able to do that,” he said. “And, yeah, I mean, I put it on my shoulders. When you play this position, when you play for this organization, you’ve got to accept that. That’s the reality of it. And as I said, it will make me better.
“It sucks, as I said, that I don’t get another shot at it for a long time, but I know that when I wake up tomorrow, it will be the first thing on my mind, and it will as I carry it through in my training throughout this offseason, as we get to the start of next season. It’s about finding a way to get better, mastering everything that we can to make sure that we get over this hump, whatever it is, and give ourselves a chance of winning it all.”
This story was originally published January 23, 2023 6:00 AM.