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Dak Prescott digs early hole for Cowboys with 2 1st-half interceptions in loss to 49ers

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during a divisional round playoff football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during a divisional round playoff football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Dak Prescott cruised in the wild-card round with a four-touchdown game in a Dallas Cowboys romp.

That was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The San Francisco 49ers defense is a different beast and made Prescott pay for early mistakes in Sunday's divisional round with a pair of first-half interceptions. The mistakes proved costly as the 49ers held on for a 19-12 win to advance to the NFC championship.

Facing third-and-9 from the Dallas 21-yard line in the first quarter, Prescott lofted a pass to Michael Gallup down the left sideline as the 49ers pass rush converged. Deommodore Lenoir intervened.

The 49ers cornerback jumped the route and picked off the pass for the first turnover of the day.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the 49ers offense didn't make the most of the opportunity. San Francisco managed just a field goal and a 3-0 lead after taking over possession at the Dallas 21. But it was a troubling start for the Cowboys that carried over into the second quarter.

With the game tied at 6-6 and the Cowboys driving late in the second quarter, Prescott threw another interception. This one stifled a scoring chance in the red zone. With 1:24 left in the half, Prescott looked to CeeDee Lamb in the flat on second-and-2. Instead he found Fred Warner.

The 49ers linebacker was one of two defenders with a shot at the ball. He secured it for an interception that he returned to San Francisco 28-yard line. The 49ers converted the turnover into a field goal for a 9-6 halftime lead.

At his best, Prescott can be one of the game's most dangerous quarterbacks. It's a lesson the Bucs learned the hard way last week. But he's been prone to mistakes and overaggressive play this season and tied Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills with a league-worst 15 interceptions this season. Turning the ball over against the league's best defense in San Francisco is a formula for failure.