The most memorable events from the Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers rivalry

This weekend, the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers will continue their long-running rivalry, this time beneath the bright lights of Levi’s Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.”

This is the first time the teams have met in prime time since 1990, and only the fourth time in their long and illustrious history. This is also their third overall meeting in three years.

The Cowboys-Niners rivalry resurfaced after a 27-year hiatus in the 2021 NFC wild-card round and again in last year’s NFC divisional round.

San Francisco won both postseason meetings, tying the series at 19-19-1. It doesn’t get much larger than the 4-0 Niners versus the 3-1 Cowboys in Week 5. That’s why neither coach understated the significance of a victory on Sunday night.

Kyle Shanahan, the Niners’ coach, has fond recollections of Cowboys-49ers games from 1992 to 1994, when his father, Mike Shanahan, was the Niners’ offensive coordinator. He believes the teams’ recent games have revived their rivalry.

“Anytime you play each other in the playoffs, it’s always usually a bit bigger the next year,” he remarked. “And having that back-to-back was huge.” That’s what I always remembered as a kid. They were in the NFC Championship game all three years I lived here. So just playing them in the playoffs two years ago reminded me of that. “Those histories pile up.”

Dallas coach Mike McCarthy witnessed the rivalry firsthand while serving as the Niners’ offensive coordinator in 2005. “The Catch” was his first memory of it. McCarthy, unlike Shanahan, has a more bitter taste after how the last two matches ended, which is why he’s excited for another chance to leave his mark on the rivalry this year.

“There can only be one winner in this game,” McCarthy remarked. “We recognize that… This is not solely about what occurred last year. We know who we’re playing and have a solid idea of how they want to play. That’s why you’re getting to start it on ‘Sunday Night Football.'”

Here are some of the best events that helped the 49ers-Cowboys rivalry become one of the best non-division rivalries in NFL history, as chosen by NFL Nation reporters Nick Wagoner and Todd Archer.

The Cowboys’ playoff anguish has become a tradition, with the wild-card loss to the 49ers in 2021 joining Tony Romo’s bobbled snap against Seattle in 2006 and Dez Bryant’s overruled catch against Green Bay in 2014.

Dak Prescott had a 17-yard run to the San Francisco 24 with 14 seconds left. The Cowboys rushed to the line of scrimmage without a timeout, but the umpire collided with Prescott and center Tyler Biadasz and did not set the ball for play.


The clock expired, and the Cowboys were out of time for a potential game-winning touchdown, falling 23-17.


The Cowboys stated after the game that they practiced the situation every week, but they were unable to pull it off in time in game conditions.

The Cowboys stated after the game that they practiced the situation every week, but they were unable to pull it off in time in game conditions.

Jerry Jones, the team’s owner and general manager, was as disappointed and angered as he had been with any previous playoff defeat. Jones believed the Cowboys were ready for a postseason run with a 12-5 record, NFC East crown, and a healthy squad. Instead, he let coach Mike McCarthy spin in the wind for a few weeks while attempting to keep defensive coordinator Dan Quinn from accepting a head-coaching position elsewhere.


The 49ers went on a tear, reaching the NFC Championship Game for the second time in Kyle Shanahan’s tenure. Their season ended almost as heartbreakingly, with a 17-7 loss.

Rivalry reignites, II
It was a different playoff round — divisional rather than wild card. It was held in a different location, Levi’s location, rather than in&T Stadium. But the score remained the same: Niners 19-12.

What makes this one unique? Two interceptions by Dak Prescott, one inside San Francisco’s red zone in the second quarter with the score tied. The 49ers converted Prescott’s first fumble in the first quarter into a field goal, giving them a 9-6 lead.


The Cowboys lost Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard to a leg injury one play before the interception. The Dallas offense was dormant from that point forward. The offensive in San Francisco was marginally better, but it lacked

There were no giveaways, and George Kittle’s 30-yard grab from Brock Purdy sparked the only scoring drive of the second half.

The Cowboys had an opportunity to tie the game after taking over with 3:04 remaining, but they went three and out. They regained possession with 45 seconds remaining but failed to threaten, and their final play, with Ezekiel Elliott at center, was devastating.


The Niners’ victory advances them to the NFC Championship Game against the

Philadelphia Eagles, but their hopes were crushed in the first quarter when Purdy suffered an arm injury. Josh Johnson, his substitute, was injured in the third quarter, forcing running back Christian McCaffrey to play quarterback. Todd Archer’s

‘Captain Comeback’ is now available.

A split shoulder kept Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach out for the majority of the 1972 season, but he cemented his reputation as “Captain Comeback” in the fourth quarter of the divisional round.


Dallas quarterback Craig Morton opened the game but threw two interceptions and lost a fumble as San Francisco built a 21-6 lead in the second quarter.


“They were mocking us. “They were making fun of us during the game,” Dallas safety Charlie Waters claimed. “They were having a great time.”

having the upper hand. They didn’t think we’d be able to come back since our offense was faltering. We were doing nothing at all.”

The Cowboys’ offense was kept scoreless in the third quarter, prompting coach Tom Landry to change quarterbacks in the fourth.


Staubach lost the ball on his first possession but compensated by guiding Dallas to a spectacular comeback. He found Billy Parks and Ron Sellers for touchdowns in the last two minutes, giving Dallas a 30-28 advantage.


Waters sealed the game by intercepting 49ers quarterback John Brodie.

With less than five minutes remaining in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, Joe Montana and company trailed the Cowboys 27-21.

But Montana and Dwight Clark worked their magic on third down.


Montana eluded three defenders, slid to his right, and tossed the ball to the back of the end zone, where Clark made the game-winning catch with 51 seconds left in regulation.


But the play almost didn’t happen.


“I was thinking of throwing the ball away,” Montana admitted after the game. “But I saw him come open and I figured if I could hang on another half-second …”

‘How ’bout them Cowboys?’
After ending the regular season 13-3, Dallas steamrolled its NFC East opponents, the Philadelphia Eagles, 34-10 in the divisional round, securing their spot in the 1992 NFC Championship game against the 49ers.

Meanwhile, San Francisco concluded the season 14-2 and defeated Washington in a tight divisional-round encounter. Furthermore, after winning four Super Bowls with Montana in the 1980s, the franchise hoped to extend that streak with Steve Young as its quarterback.


With Young and Jerry Rice on one side and Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin on the other, both teams were loaded with offensive firepower.

Despite this, the first half saw a low-scoring back-and-forth fight, with the two deadlocked at 10 at halftime.

Dallas scored three of the game’s final four touchdowns in the second half, securing the victory and a trip to Super Bowl XXVII.


However, before facing the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson had this to say:


“How ’bout them Cowboys?”

And with that, a slogan that has lasted through generations of Dallas fans was formed.

‘We will win the game, and we will print it in 3-inch headlines.’

Johnson uttered another remarkable line that has stood the test of time in 1993.


Johnson called a local sports radio broadcast before their second consecutive NFC Championship game and made an unusual announcement.


“We will win the game,” Johnson predicted. “You could put that in three-inch headlines.”


He wasn’t entirely wrong.

Dallas beat San Francisco 38-21 to advance to Super Bowl XXVIII, aided by a three-touchdown second quarter.

The Niners and Cowboys faced for the third time in the NFC championship game, with opposing quarterbacks. Aikman came in with a 7-0 postseason record, but Young had yet to go over the hump and reach the Super Bowl.

However, the tide eventually turned in favor of the 49ers in 1994.


On the first drive, Aikman threw a pick-six to Eric Davis. Then, on Dallas’ second possession, Irvin fumbled, and Young took advantage of the favorable field position by connecting with Ricky Watters for a 29-yard touchdown. On the ensuing play, the Cowboys committed another costly early mistake when Kevin Williams mishandled the kickoff, allowing San Francisco to score.

With more than seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, the 49ers lead 21-0.

Despite putting up a fight, Dallas recorded 451 total yards of offense to San Francisco’s 294, but couldn’t overcome five turnovers.


Young made his first Super Bowl appearance as the Niners’ starting quarterback with the 38-28 victory.


‘Deion Sweepstakes’ is won by Dallas.

Deion Sanders, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl XXXIX champion, was riding high heading into the 1995 offseason. However, his one-year contract with San Francisco had expired, and it was time to move on.

Along with the Niners and Cowboys, the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, and Philadelphia Eagles entered the “Deion Sweepstakes.”


Dallas signed Sanders to a seven-year, $35 million contract in Week 2, making him the NFL’s highest paid defensive player at the time.

Sanders did not make his debut for America’s Team until Week 9 due to surgery, but he made an immediate impact and went on to be a part of his second Super Bowl-winning group in as many years.

T.O.’s star-studded birthday bash

Terrell Owens’ history is defined by characteristic celebrations and unforgettable experiences, and a star was born on September 24, 2000.

Owens sprinted to midfield after a 3-yard touchdown reception and spread his arms on the Cowboys logo. Nearly a minute later, former Dallas running back Emmitt Smith scored his own touchdown and then returned to the star to mimic Owens. T.O. later scored again and returned to the center of the field in Texas Stadium, but Cowboys’ safety George Teague met him at the star and made a crushing hit.

Owens justified his decision to stand on the star on an edition of ESPN’s Mike & Mike radio show in 2016.


“It had nothing to do with me taunting my opponent, nothing to do with me taunting the Cowboys.” My coach was like, ‘Yo,’ and he urged me to do it. Go to the star, thank God for keeping an eye on this game, and show him who the best player is today.’ And that’s exactly what I did.”

Tony Romo leads the Niners to victory in overtime.
Tony Romo led Dallas to an unexpected comeback win in Week 2 of the 2011 season.

Romo was hit several times in the first half, including one from a blindside blitz that caused him obvious pain. His injuries were ultimately revealed to be a broken rib and a punctured lung, and he missed all but the final series of the third quarter. He’d be back in the fourth quarter.


In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys trailed by as many as ten points, but the tide suddenly turned.


Romo completed 5 of 6 throws on the drive that forced OT. The winning field goal was set up by his 77-yard pass to Jesse Holley. Romo made a connection onĀ 20 of 33 attempts, he completed 345 yards and two touchdowns, with almost 200 yards coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.

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