The Dallas Cowboys’ season ended on a bizarre final play with 45.7 million people watching.
The team's 19-12 loss to the 49ers on Sunday was the most-watched matchup of the weekend and the second most-watched NFL divisional playoff game on record, according to Fox Sports.
It’s not the first time a record number of viewers have tuned in to watch the Cowboys lose. Dallas’ 2017 playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers drew 48.5 million viewers, the most-ever for a divisional playoff game.
The Cowboys' most recent loss is unique in that it was the most-watched telecast of any kind since the last Super Bowl and peaked with 51.5 million viewers.
Sunday’s AFC showdown between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals garnered 39.3 million viewers in comparison, per Show Buzz Daily.
Dallas and San Francisco once had a strong rivalry and it saw a revival on Sunday. 49ers tight end George Kittle made a suspenseful catch in the third quarter that teetered between his hands as he dodged cornerback Trevon Diggs and somehow secured the ball before the dive landed him on the field.
It took Kittle nine yards to secure possession of the pass, a reception that set San Francisco up for a 91-yard touchdown drive.
“I was just trying to be dramatic,” Kittle joked, via The Athletic. “It was just for TV. Just trying to get the ratings up.”
Tough 27 years for the Cowboys franchise
For the past 27 years, the Cowboys have not managed to make it out of the divisional round, an unfortunate stretch for a team that has goals to win it all.
Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein wrote that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told media members that he and the team were “sick” about the loss, a word he used six more times in a 2-minute span.
Still, he communicated that Sunday’s showing did not deter him from quarterback Dak Prescott or head coach Mike McCarthy.
“I would like to be right back here [next year] with the same hand, the same opportunity, with Prescott as the quarterback, and go get it,” Jones said. “ ... if we’ve got him at quarterback, I’ll take my chances.”
Prescott is a “good but not great” quarterback, according to Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel. After throwing for 206 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on Sunday, Prescott vowed to be better.
The 29-year-old quarterback is clearly not Dallas’ only issue. It’s fair to say that the “hundreds of thousands of Cowboys fans” Jones lamented over after the loss will be watching the team’s offseason moves intently for any signs of improvement.