Of this there can be no doubt.
The Cowboys-49ers playoff rivalry is the NFL’s best, certainly in the Super Bowl era.
When you combine regular season meetings with postseason games, the all-time series is tied 17-17-1. (The 13-13 tie was on Thanksgiving night at the Cotton Bowl in 1969. I remember, because it pissed me off.)
But the Cowboys have won five of their eight playoff matchups with San Francisco. The exceptions were the NFC Championship Game following the 1981 season (“The Catch”), the 1994 NFC Championship Game that kept the ‘Boys out of their third straight Super Bowl, and last year’s “couldn’t get the ball spotted and snapped in time” debacle.
Notice how I just blew through that reference to “The Catch”? With the possible exception of Super Bowl XIII, no football game has ever hurt me that deeply and permanently.
But I digress. And it’s not like I haven’t had plenty of big fun against the ‘Niners.
1970 NFC Championship Game—Cowboys win and secure their first Super Bowl berth.
1971 NFC Championship Game—Cowboys win en route to a SB VI victory over the Dolphins.
1972 Divisional Playoff—Roger Staubach comes off the bench to rally the Cowboys from a 28-13 fourth-quarter deficit to win 30-28.
1992 NFC Championship Game—Dallas wins in the mud at the ‘Stick. Jimmah asks, “How ‘bout them Cowboys?”
1993 NFC Championship game—What? You want some more, Buffalo Bills? Comin’ right up!
Which brings us to this Sunday in Santa Clara. This is gonna rock. This will be Big Boy football.
Can Dallas win? Well, sure. That’s a good team coming off a very good performance.
Will Dallas win? It will be very difficult to win in that environment.
San Francisco will run the ball very effectively, as the ‘Niners almost always do. And SF has the best defense in the league, bar none.
Now, it is true that the 49er D has looked a little less dominant in recent weeks. Seattle pushed that front around to a surprising degree in the first half of last week’s Wild Card game. So, there’s hope. But overall, SF has the quickest, toughest and nastiest defense in the NFL.
The Dallas D is good—except when it’s not. The ‘Niners have been consistent enough to win eleven straight games.
The Cowboys will have to hit some big plays, because the 49ers most certainly will. Tony Pollard is going to have to get loose. And more than once.
To win, Dallas will have to do something that no other team has done yet—rattle Brock Purdy. You can’t do that if you can’t stop the ‘Niners’ running game.
Both tight ends—Schultz and Kittle—will play major roles.
Final score? Check back in this space Saturday morning.