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49ers-Cowboys Thriller Is Most-Watched NFL Wildcard Playoff Game in 7 Years

More than 50 million watched that chaotic ending on CBS and Nickelodeon

Dallas Cowboys fans would certainly disagree, but CBS could not have asked for a better finish on Sunday afternoon to the wildcard playoff game between the Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.

The game between the bitter 1990s-era rivals drew 41.4 million viewers across CBS and Nickelodeon, the best performance for a wildcard playoff game in 7 years. The special kids-focused broadcast on Nick drew 1.3 million, which was down from the more than 2 million that watched last year’s presentation of the Chicago Bears-New Orleans Saints game.

The CBS-only number was 40.1 million; the game was also simulcast on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video. CBS says it was Paramount+’s most-streamed NFL game in its brief history.

After the 49ers raced out to a 23-7 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys stormed back to cut it to 23-17. Following a slew of errors and bad penalties by both teams, the Cowboys had a chance for a Hail Mary play at the end of the game, but could not stop the clock fast enough. CBS says the audience for that moment was more than 50 million viewers.

The 49ers will now head to Green Bay to play Aaron Rodgers and the top-seeded Packers on Saturday night. That game will air on Fox.

CBS’ other game (which was only simulcast on Paramount+), between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills drew 26.4 million viewers on a Saturday night. That game was never a contest, as the Bills cruised 47-17.

Fox’s Sunday afternoon matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles drew 30.3 million viewers. That game was also a no-content, as Brady’s team raced out to a 31-0 lead and won 31-15.

The Cincinnati Bengals-Las Vegas Raiders matchup that kicked off the weekend on NBC and Peacock drew 27.7 million. NBC/Peacock’s second game of the weekend between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs garnered just under 29 million viewers.

We do not yet have numbers for the Los Angeles Rams’ defeat of the Arizona Cardinals on ESPN and ABC, which aired on Monday night.

This coming weekend features the AFC’s top-seeded Tennessee Titans hosting the Bengals, followed by 49ers traveling to frosty Lambeau Field to take on the NFC’s top-seeded Green Bay Packers on Saturday. On Sunday, the Bucs play host to the Rams while the Bills head to Kansas City for a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs.