Howie Mooney
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Sunday, January 29, 2023


As the National Football League marches through their postseason, there have been, and will doubtlessly be, any number of compelling matchups that will draw eyeballs and inspire a lot of talk, whether it’s on sports talk radio, television, social media or just around the water cooler.  Wait.  Do water coolers still even exist?  Anyway, people will be talking.  Lots of people.

In the old days, we couldn’t wait to see a possible playoff game involving the Giants and Cowboys or the Giants and 49ers or the Cowboys and the burgundy, gold and white team from Washington.  The Dolphins and Chargers had some great games in the 1980s, as did the Steelers and Houston Oilers.  Remember them?  They were great when they had Earl Campbell running over opponents while carrying the ball.

If the Super Bowl featured the Steelers and Cowboys back in the 1970s, then whoa.....clear the calendar.  That Sunday was going to be reserved strictly for football.  And maybe for the food too. 

But, there were a couple of teams that, through the decades of the league since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, have consistently produced playoff games that have given us competitive and entertaining football game after game after game.  They have met up in the postseason eight times going into the 2022 season, and played again in 2023.  It was the ninth time that the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers have competed in an elimination game.

The first eight were all compelling contests.

Even as you read that last paragraph, I know that you are thinking about one of those games in particular and we will talk about that one....and the others as well.  Before we get to each of them in detail, I’ll tell you that Dallas won five of the first eight and that left three for the 49ers.  The Cowboys have won three Super Bowls after defeating the Niners while San Francisco have won two after they eliminated Dallas.


January 3, 1971 – NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park, San Francisco  

Going into the 1970 season, the Dallas Cowboys had been a speed bump for teams that were on their way to the NFL title game.  Going back a few years, in 1966 and 1967, the Green Bay Packers drove by or ran over the Cowboys on their way to consecutive Super Bowls.  After that, it was the Cleveland Browns’ turn to pick on the Cowpokes.  They eliminated Dallas in each of ’68 and ’69 on their way to the league championship game.

The team with the star on their helmets had endured a fair bit of frustration heading into the 1970 Conference championship match against the San Francisco 49ers.  A lot of the talk going into the game was addressing Dallas’ inability to win a game when everything was on the line.  There was a clamour from fans during the season to fire coach Tom Landry when the team was just 5-4 in mid-November.  They had just been humiliated 38-0 in a home loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.  The man famous for his fedora managed to keep his job through that storm.

At the time that the Cowboys were struggling, just a game above .500, the 49ers were cruising, having lost one game to that point with a record of 7-1-1.  Their only loss was by a single point, a 21-20 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons on the third weekend of the season.  

They weren’t the best team in the NFC – that was the Minnesota Vikings – but when the two teams met in the first round of the playoffs, San Francisco handled Minny 17-14 to survive and advance to play the Cowboys.  Dallas had knocked off the Detroit Lions 5-0.  (You read that right.  5-0.)

As this game began, both defenses played stout and neither team was able to get a touchdown in the first half.  The 49ers and Cowboys exchanged field goals and it was a 3-3 game as the second quarter came to an end.  Duane Thomas had been the workhorse for Dallas as they rushed for 119 yards in that first half, but the game was tied as the teams headed into the locker room.

Cowboys’ quarterback Craig Morton struggled and completed only three passes through the first thirty minutes.  That was one of the contributing factors to the low score.  The Dallas defense turned the game around in the third quarter as they picked off two John Brodie passes and gave their offense excellent field position after both turnovers.  Morton, Thomas, Bob Hayes and Walt Garrison capitalized and ten minutes after the intermission, it was 17-3 for the visitors.

A few minutes later, Brodie hit Dick Witcher for a Niners’ score to make it 17-10, but that was as close as they would get and neither team could tally a point in the final quarter.  Finally, the Dallas Cowboys won an important game and they would move on to the Super Bowl against the Baltimore Colts.

In the jubilant victors’ locker room, there seemed to be equal parts of relief and celebration.  Dan Reeves was a Cowboys’ halfback AND an assistant coach, and he spoke at length to reporters about the team’s mindset after this game.  

“They said we couldn’t win the big ones...and how could we argue with them?  But this season, I think we changed their minds.  We beat Kansas City and Washington, with both victories coming after humiliating losses.  We beat Cleveland in the mud.  Let’s face it.  We had our backs to the wall after the St. Louis game.  But, for some reason, we relaxed.  The big thing was coach Landry calling the plays.  Look, I was a quarterback for nearly all my life, and I didn’t feel like he should.  But we needed that.  It took the pressure off Craig.”

Landry was quite subdued with the press after the game.  Jeff Myers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described the coach’s tone as “a whisper”.  “We ran the ball well and we played good defense.  It was a typical Dallas game.  We looked this way most of the time during the winning streak.”  

But Bob Lilly, the Cowboys’ outstanding defensive tackle, was not going to let anyone try to squelch his unmitigated joy.  As a kid, he grew up in a small Texas town and the most exciting time he experienced was a trip away from his rural roots to venture out to the big city for a day.  From the crowded shower room in the visitors’ confines, Lilly stuck his head out and shouted loudly, “I feel about like when I was a kid in Throckmorton and we went to Dallas for the first time.  Boy, what a thrill that was!”

Dallas went into Super Bowl V against the Colts as a slight favourite.  On one book, they were favoured by 2 ½ points.  On another, they were the top choice by a single point.  On yet another, the teams were even money.   Baltimore would win 16-13 on a last second field goal by Jim O’Brien.

The Cowboys would have to try to win the biggest one on another day.


January 2, 1972 – NFC Championship Game at Texas Stadium, Dallas  

In the NFC title game the year before, the 49ers and Cowboys played a really tight game.  It resembled a heavyweight title fight as they battled to a 3-3 tie at the half before Dallas’ defense won the game for them in the third quarter.  In this version of the Conference championship matchup, it was their defense that set things up again, and the ‘Boys got started slightly earlier than they had almost a year before, to the day.

The Dallas ‘Doomsday Defense’ was so good in this game that they allowed John Brodie and the 49ers only one first down in the entire first half.  And when it came to setting the table for Roger Staubach and the offense, they did that in the second quarter.  With San Francisco pinned deep in their own territory, Brodie tried to set up a screen pass to his fullback Ken Willard.

The Niners’ quarterback thought he had a passing lane to his man but what his eyes saw was not what was really there.  George Andrie was the Cowboys’ defensive end and he explained what happened on that play.  “We were in a linebacker blitz.  I don’t think Brodie saw me.  I saw a screen forming.”  Brodie threw the ball.  He thought he was throwing it toward Willard.  He threw it straight to Andrie.

In the typical fashion of a man who is not accustomed to having the ball thrown to him, Andrie told reporters, “I was just happy to be able to hold on to the ball.”  Bob Lilly, as everyone saw the year before, spoke what was exactly in his mind.  “Maybe John (Brodie) couldn’t see George for me.  The ball hit George right in the gut.  I was just hoping he wouldn’t fumble.”

Andrie ran the ball back to the 49ers two-yard-line.  Two plays later, Calvin Hill jumped over the pile and scored to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.  San Francisco managed a field goal in the third quarter, but that was it.  Duane Thomas added another Dallas touchdown in the fourth quarter.  The final score was 14-3, in favour of the home team.  

They were off to play in another Super Bowl, this time against the Miami Dolphins.  Miami had dumped the Baltimore Colts 21-0.  For their part, the Colts, almost to a man, figured that the Dolphins could win against these Cowboys, even though Dallas went into the game as a 6-point favourite.

Johnny Unitas was the Colts’ quarterback and at the time was 38-years-old.  “Can Miami beat the Cowboys?  I don’t know why not.  They’re a fine team.  Griese is a good quarterback.  They have a good rush.  They don’t make many mistakes.  Sure, I give them a real good chance.”

Bubba Smith, the Colts’ intimidating defensive end, agreed with his quarterback on whether or not Miami could handle the Cowboys.  “You bet.  But they gotta run the ball and they gotta rush the passer.  They do things like our team is famous for doing, capitalizing on the other team’s mistakes and then hitting when you got the other team groggy.  They’re good.”

The Dolphins might have been good against the Colts but they couldn’t carry their momentum from the AFC title game to the Superdome in New Orleans for Super Bowl VI.  Staubach, Lilly, Hayes, Andrie and the Cowboys finally won the big game, easily covering the spread and destroying Miami by a score of 24-3.


December 23, 1972 – NFC Divisional Game at Candlestick Park, San Francisco  

Holy Freaking Doodle!  This game was wild.  The previous two years, when these teams faced each other in the postseason, it was the respective defenses that took control and imposed their wills on the games.  That would not be the case in this Divisional Round contest.  The first play of the game was an example of what was in store the rest of the afternoon.

Dallas kicked off to start the game, and the 49ers’ Vic Washington – a former Ottawa Rough Rider – caught and briefly fumbled the ball, but he picked it back up on his own 3-yard-line and he then scampered 97 yards for the game’s opening touchdown.  Seventeen seconds had elapsed in the game and it was 7-0 for the home team.

Six minutes into the second quarter, San Francisco was ahead by a score of 21-3 after the Washington score and a couple more by fullback Larry Schreiber.  A Toni Fritsch field goal and a Craig Morton pass to Lance Alworth for a touchdown before the half ended made the score 21-13.  Schreiber scored the only touchdown of the third quarter after a Craig Morton fumble deep in the Dallas end.  Ten minutes into the third quarter, it was 28-13 for the Niners.

Early in the fourth quarter, kicker Bruce Gossett missed a field goal attempt, but at the moment, no one believed that the 49ers’ fifteen point lead was anywhere near surmountable.  By this point, Roger Staubach had replaced Craig Morton.  But the San Francisco pass rush was getting past the Cowboys’ offensive line and was just as vicious on the new quarterback as they had been on his predecessor.

About five minutes into the final quarter, though, Calvin Hill took off on a 48-yard-run into Niners’ territory.  That resulted in a Fritsch field goal to make it a 28-16 game with just less than ten minutes remaining in the game.  For the next five minutes, neither team could move the ball.  There were less than five minutes to go now.  It looked like John Brodie would be able to get his team past this Cowboys’ group that had become his barrier to advancing in the playoffs.

With less than two minutes left in the game, Dallas took over the ball on their own 45-yard-line.  A couple of Staubach passes later, the ball was on the 49ers’ 20.  

Then, immediately, the former Navy pivot hit Billy Parks for a touchdown.  It was 28-23 with 90 seconds left to play.  Suddenly, people were on edge.  Everyone in the park knew that the onside kick was coming.  Toni Fritsch pounded a line drive right at the 49ers front line.  It was directed at Preston Riley, a receiver.  He couldn’t hold on to the ball.  Cowboys’ veteran Mel Renfro was in the right place at the right time.  He fell on the ball on the 50.  Dallas still had a chance.

It’s 28-23 for the Niners.  The Cowboys had the ball at midfield.  It was first down.  Staubach couldn’t find a receiver on his first reads.  He took off.  He made it down to the 29-yard-line.  The clock showed that there were 56 seconds left.  Staubach then hit Parks on the sideline at the San Francisco ten-yard-line.  

On the next play, 49ers’ linebacker Frank Nunley blitzed.  That left Ron Sellers one-on-one with rookie safety Windlan Hall.  Hall was a rookie making his first start and before that point, he had played well all afternoon.  Staubach found Sellers over the middle for a touchdown.  There were now 52 seconds left.  Suddenly, it was 30-28 for Dallas.  There was still time on the clock though.  San Francisco only needed a field goal.  The previous week, Brodie pulled victory from the jaws of defeat against Minnesota.  There was still hope.

Brodie completed a 23-yard pass to Preston Riley.  He was trying to get his team to within field goal range.  But there was a penalty.  It was holding.  The completion had to come back.  Brodie tried again.  This time, his pass was intercepted by Charlie Waters.  The game was over.  What had been a wonderful day at Candlestick for thousands of people, and not just fans, ended up being a day of misery.  49ers’ players and coaches were feeling the same things.

San Francisco coach Dick Nolan was disconsolate.  “I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before,” he told reporters.  “At the end, we were playing prevent defense.  But when they get inside the 30, you have to go man-for-man.”

Windlan Hall was also among those who felt tremendously upset.  “Man, you never know.  I thought I’d done well.  And then lightning struck on that catch by Sellers.  They had three wide receivers on the play.  My man was Sellers.  I wasn’t surprised he cut crossfield on a post pattern.  I should have played him more inside when he made his move.”

Preston Riley was another 49er who was beside himself after the game.  He talked about that onside kick with reporters.  “It (the ball) was twisting and turning.  What the Dickens!  I just missed it.  What more can I say?”

The Cowboys had beaten the 49ers in the Divisional Round in spectacular fashion.  But, the following week, they lost to Washington in the NFC Championship game by the score of 26-3.  Billy Kilmer and Charley Taylor teamed up to dominate their divisional foes.  

George Allen came up with an effective game plan and his team moved on to play the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.  The problem for Allen’s team was that they were facing the perfect 1972 Dolphins.  Miami won 14-7.  Washington’s only touchdown came as a result of Garo Yepremian’s horrible pass attempt on a botched field goal.

It would be a few years before the Cowboys and 49ers met again in the NFL playoffs.


January 10, 1982 – NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park, San Francisco  

By the 1981 season, most of the players who had participated in the games between the Cowboys and Niners of the early 1970s were sitting at home and watching the games on television.  Gone were Roger Staubach and John Brodie.  In were Danny White and Joe Montana.  On defense, Dallas now had behemoths like Harvey Martin and Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones badgering quarterbacks and Everson Walls chasing down enemy passes.

This game was far from aesthetically perfect.  There were plenty of turnovers on both sides.  But mistakes make for exciting games, and as far as the series of playoff games between these two teams goes, this one was perhaps the game that kept fans both in or near their seats and on the edge of them at the same time.

Along with both teams coughing up the ball, they also took turns holding the lead.  And it went back and forth.  At no time in this game was either team ever more than a single score ahead of the other...and the final result went down to the final minute to resolve itself.

In the first quarter, it was the 49ers who got on the board first.  Their 63-yard drive ended when Joe Montana connected with Freddie Solomon from eight yards out to put the home team up by a touchdown.  But a 44-yard Rafael Septien field goal made it 7-3.  On the next 49ers possession, Bill Ring fumbled on his own 30 and the Cowboys took advantage on a 26-yard Danny White scoring pass to Tony Hill.  Dallas was up 10-7 by the end of the first fifteen minutes.

In the second quarter, Montana managed to escape the clutches of D. D. Lewis and hit Dwight Clark with a 20-yard touchdown pass to allow the Niners to regain the lead.  But the Cowboys answered back with a scoring drive of their own that culminated in a five-yard scoring run before the half.  Dallas took a three-point lead into the locker room at the intermission.

San Francisco managed to get the only points in the third quarter.  A 49ers’ drive ended with a 2-yard scoring run by Johnny Davis.  Ray Wersching’s kick was good.  After 45 minutes, the score was 21-17 in favour of the home side.  The Cowboys jumped back into the lead in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard Septien field goal and a 21-yard Danny White pass to Doug Cosbie to make it 27-21.

When Everson Walls picked off a Montana pass in the fourth quarter, it appeared that the game might be over.  But the Niners’ defense stiffened and they forced Dallas to punt.  With less than five minutes remaining in the game, they took possession of the ball on their own 11-yard line.  Bill Walsh knew what he intended to do.  “We wanted to methodically cut them apart,” he would say after the game to the press.

At this moment, 49ers’ owner Eddie DeBartolo was standing on the sidelines off to the side of the San Francisco bench.  At the same time, high above the field, Cowboys’ president and general manager Tex Schramm was in a box and he could not sit down.  A woman approached DeBartolo and offered him a hug and the reassurance that his team would win.  She seemed to know it.  Schramm was holding a drink in a Styrofoam cup but he was shaking such that he was unable to sip any of his beverage.

As the 49ers were marching the ball down the Candlestick sod, Eddie DeBartolo had cameras practically in his face.  When Montana executed a great reverse, giving the ball to Freddie Solomon for a 14-yard gain, the owner applauded his team’s successful advances.  Then Dwight Clark caught a Montana pass at the Dallas 25.  DeBartolo was filled with hope.  Upstairs, Schramm was filled with dread.

“Come on, babies, come on, babies,” Schramm was heard saying.  He began praying for a big play as he watched with the Cowboys’ business manager Joe Bailey.  “Come on babies.  Please, please.  Need a turnover.  Need a turnover.”  Meanwhile, Montana was matriculating the ball further into Dallas territory.  

With just over a minute remaining, the 49ers scrimmaged from the 13-yard line.  Montana handed the ball to Lenvil Elliott who rounded the corner and carried it down to the six.  DeBartolo was on a knee, his gaze transfixed on the goings-on deep in the Dallas end of the field.  Players had gathered around him by this point.  They were shouting and screaming, but DeBartolo couldn’t speak.  He could only watch.  

There were 51 seconds on the clock.  

Montana took the snap and he stepped back and scrambled to the right.  DeBartolo stood to get a better look.  As his quarterback rolled to his right, Dwight Clark mirrored him but did so in the end zone.  Montana had three Cowboys chasing him but he knew his only possible target was Clark.  He also knew that he could not afford an interception in this situation.  

As he was getting closer to the sideline, he threw the ball high so that if it wasn’t caught, he would have another opportunity from the six.  Clark saw the ball and went up.  It was in such a place that he was the only person who could have touched.  Clark timed his leap perfectly and secured the ball in his hands.  He got his feet down in bounds and the game was now tied.  Wersching kicked the biggest point-after of his career and the 49ers suddenly led the game 28-27.

But there were still fifty seconds remaining in the game.  There was still time for Danny White to move his team into field goal position.  The kickoff went to Timmy Newsome who lugged the ball out to the 25-yard line.  On his first play, White found Drew Pearson for a 31-yard gain.  The ball was across midfield and on the Niners’ 44.  There were 38 seconds on the clock.  “Come on, babies.”

On the next play, 49ers’ defensive end Lawrence Pillars hit White.  The ball was jarred loose.  San Francisco’s other end, Jim Stuckey, was there to fall on it.  Upstairs, Schramm stood and waited.  Was there a whistle?  No.  There wasn’t.  “No good sonofabitch!”  The replay was shown in the box and Schramm then came to the realization that the game and the Cowboys’ season were over.  

Almost immediately, fans began leaving their seats and were heading down toward the playing surface.  According to Mike Downey of the Detroit Free Press, “Eddie DeBartolo is in heaven.  Thousands have swarmed the field.  Cops are hitting them with clubs.  Cops on horseback are hitting kids.  Joe Montana is running for his life.  He has the football.  He has the game.  He just wants to live to tell about it.”

Of course, he did live to talk about it.  He played another day.  His 49ers advanced to play in Super Bowl XVI.  Their opponents would be the Cincinnati Bengals.  They had defeated the San Diego Chargers in sub-zero temperatures at Riverfront (or as one newspaper termed it, Shiverfront) Stadium by a score of 27-7.  The Super Bowl would be played at the Pontiac Silverdome, home of the Detroit Lions.  San Francisco would win that game 26-21.  It was their first of five championships over a 13-year span.


January 17, 1993 – NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park, San Francisco  

A lot of things had changed in Big D since the last time these two teams faced each other in the postseason eleven years prior.  Tom Landry had been replaced by Jimmy Johnson.  Bill Walsh had gotten everything he could out of coaching and gave way to George Seifert.  Steve Young was now the quarterback of the 49ers and his Dallas counterpart was now Troy Aikman.  Aikman had a couple of greats as his prime targets in Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.  Young had Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters.

In 1989, the Cowboys had bottomed out with a 1-15 record.  That was Aikman’s first year at quarterback and Johnson’s first year as coach.  Over the next three seasons, they got progressively better and in 1992, they compiled a record of 13-3.  The 49ers had been the ‘Team of the 80s’ under Walsh and under Seifert, they were still an excellent football club.  They won 14 games to finish first in the NFC West.  

One man who had been a constant for the 49ers in the second half of the previous decade was defensive standout Charles Haley.  In 1986, he was selected to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team.  In 1990, he was the Defensive Player of the Year as selected by both the Associated Press and United Press International.  He had been a three-time Pro Bowl player in his time in San Francisco.  He was also part of two Super Bowl winning teams there in 1988 and 1989.  But in August of 1992, the 49ers traded Haley to the Cowboys for a pair of draft picks.  

In this NFC Championship game, it was the Cowboys who got on the board first.  After their first possession they punted and the ball was fumbled by San Francisco’s Alan Grant and recovered by Dallas’ Daryl Johnston on the 22.  On the next play, Aikman completed a pass to Michael Irvin who carried it to the 1-yard line.  They couldn’t punch it into the end zone so they settled for a 20-yard Lin Elliott field goal.  

On the ensuing kickoff, Marc Logan took the Elliott kickoff and returned it to the Dallas 48.  It took eight plays, but the Niners managed to get the ball across the goal line on a one-yard run by Steve Young.  The first quarter ended with San Francisco leading Dallas 7-3.  

About five minutes into the second frame, Watters fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Cowboys’ Kevin Smith at the 49ers’ 39-yard line.  Eventually, Emmitt Smith ran the ball into the end zone from four yards out.  On the Niners’ next possession, they marched down deep into Dallas territory but all they could get out of it was a 20-yard field goal by Mike Cofer.  The half ended with the score knotted at 10-10.

On their first possession of the second half, the Cowboys looked efficient and effective as they went 78 yards in eight plays over the span of 4:15.  Their drive ended with a three-yard run by ‘The Moose’, Daryl Johnston.  The ‘Boys never looked back from that point forward.  They were never tied, nor did they ever trail in the game again.  They controlled the ball and the clock the rest of the way and won the game 30-20, punching their ticket for the Super Bowl.

After the game, in the victorious Dallas locker room, Charles Haley was the focus of a media scrum and he talked about coming back to San Francisco and playing his former mates after having been traded away when he and George Seifert had some differences of opinion on how he should be used.

“It went through my mind about a hundred times coming back here and playing against my old teammates and having the fans against me.  I just knew it was me against the world, so I went out and played with a level head,” Haley told reporters.  

He also talked about how it felt to go back to the Super Bowl with his new team.  “This is probably one of the biggest thrills of my life.  These guys believe in themselves and in their abilities.  There’s a lot of talent on this team.  As long as guys stay focused and you don’t have a lot of ego things – guys holding out and all of that – you’ll keep the team as a unit.”

A few minutes into the scrum, Haley was interrupted by a familiar voice screaming his name.  It was Eddie DeBartolo.  Upon seeing his old boss, he quickly dispatched the media wretches and the two had a brief conversation.  Haley and DeBartolo hugged each other and exchanged kind words.  DeBartolo even planted a kiss on Haley’s cheek.  It was clear to the people who witnessed the exchange that whatever differences Haley may have had with Seifert, his relationship with the owner of the 49ers was quite fine.

The Cowboys made life miserable for Steve Young the entire game and one of the players who stood out was Tony Casillas.  He sacked Young three times, matching his total for the entire season.  “I made a personal vendetta to go out there and rush the passer.  We tried to get in his face all day long.”

Casillas also talked about how the team had progressed so far since they were at the bottom of the league just a few short years before.  “I think it all trickles down from Coach Johnson, because I’ve never met any guy that wanted to win so bad.  We never lost sight of what we were here for, and that’s to win a football game.”

Alvin Harper had three receptions for 117 yards.  His longest was a 70-yard play.  There were some that were suggesting that this might have been a coming out party for the second year man out of Tennessee.  But Harper was having none of it.  “I don’t think I’ve arrived.  We’ve all arrived.”

The next day, the Cowboys were installed as seven-point favourites for the title game by Harrah’s in Las Vegas.  The over-under was set at 44.  Dallas was set to face the Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.  They easily covered the spread, in case you were wondering.  The Cowboys defeated the Bills 52-17.  Sorry, Buffalo fans.


January 23, 1994 – NFC Championship Game at Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas  

All of the news going into this game concerned comments that the Cowboys’ coach, Jimmy Johnson, had made about the 49ers and about guaranteeing a Dallas victory.  On the Thursday night before the NFC Championship game, Johnson was driving to dinner and was listening to a Fort Worth radio station.  

Dan Reeves was the coach of the New York Giants at the time and he was asked to predict the outcome of the upcoming title game.  He figured that Dallas would win.  Johnson called in and said, “We will win the ballgame and you can put it in three-inch headlines.  We will win the ballgame.”  His words caused a ripple that wouldn’t necessarily be seen right away, but come game-time, it would be evident what effect they actually had.

Anyway, Johnson’s comments made their way to San Francisco and they apparently got under the skin of George Seifert.  The normally low-key Seifert reacted by doing what Johnson had done, he went on the radio to make his comments.  “Well, the man’s got balls, I’ll tell you that.  I don’t know if they’re brass or papier-mache.  We’ll find out here pretty soon.”

In the Friday media availability, Johnson told reporters that he had heard Seifert’s comments.  Johnson said, “They’re not papier-mache.”  The press were kind of agog at the escalation of emotion on display and they were just going back and forth to get comments and Johnson seemed happy to oblige.

“I mean, here we are in the NFC Championship Game, and do you think I’m going to tiptoe around like I’m scared to death?  I know my statements caused quite a stir, but I really don’t see anything earthshaking about it.  I just gave you my opinion.  I think we’re going to win the ballgame.”

What Johnson did was to set the kettle on high and wait for game time to approach.  The 49ers were the ones who seemed to be reaching the boiling point – and that was before the referee flipped the ceremonial coin.  While the 49ers players were being introduced, there were Cowboys’ players out on the field already.  Apparently, this struck a nerve with some members of the San Francisco club.

Dallas linebacker Ken Norton told the media how things went down during the warm-ups.  “We came out early, and I guess we were in their way, and they didn’t like that.  Any time you get people like that, pushing and shoving, not thinking about the football game, you feel like you’ve got them where you want them.”

Niners’ wide receiver John Taylor talked after the game about how he and his teammates felt about the Cowboys being out on the field early.  “They didn’t show us much respect at the beginning of the game.  I’m sure that had a lot to do with some of the fighting.”  I’ll talk about ‘the fighting’ in a moment.

Cowboys’ defensive back Kevin Smith told reporters about the state of mind, before the game, of the man he would be covering on that particular Sunday.  That man, of course, was the all-world receiver Jerry Rice.  “I tried to shake his hand.  He wouldn’t shake.  He flipped me off.  If you present that challenge to me before the game even starts, I feel like I have you.  That’s my game.  You’re not only in my stadium, now you’re in my pocket.”

When the game started, everyone saw that the 49ers had some kind of burr under their saddle.  On Dallas’ first possession, 49ers’ linebacker Bill Romanowski punched Cowboys’ tight end Scott Galbraith, but no flag was thrown.  On San Francisco’s first possession, Rice, perhaps feeling some lingering resentment and frustration from the pre-game, threw a punch at Kevin Smith.  That one did draw a flag.  Rice was called for a 15-yard personal foul.

“There was a little bit of talking going on,” Rice told reporters after the game.  “I tried to dish out a little myself and got the flag.”  Smith described the scene the way he saw it.  “We exchanged words, he didn’t like it and threw a punch.”   Oh.  The two teams did play a football game as well.  And you may already be able to surmise how things turned out.

Dallas scored the only points of the first quarter when Emmitt Smith scored on a five-yard run.  That was the final play of a 75-yard drive.  It took eleven plays in total for the Cowboys to march down the field.  The key play was a third down and 1 on the 49ers 22.  Smith managed to get two yards to keep the drive going.  

On the first play of the second quarter, the Niners tied the score when Tom Rathman caught a pass from Steve Young for a seven-yard touchdown.  After the Cofer extra point, the game was tied 7-7.  That would be the closest that San Francisco would come all day to taking a lead or winning this game.  Dallas piled up three straight touchdowns before the halftime break and never looked back after that.  They outgained the 49ers 273-110 in that first half and they won the game by a score of 38-21.

There was some concern in the third quarter when Troy Aikman got his bell rung.  The team doctor, J. R. Zamorano came over to talk to the quarterback.  Zamorano asked Aikman who the most valuable player of the previous year’s Super Bowl was.  Hint: It had been Aikman – but Aikman didn’t know the answer.  

The doctor then asked Aikman where that year’s Super Bowl was being played.  Aikman, who grew up in Henryetta, Oklahoma, told Zamorano “Henryetta!”  That was it for him.  Bernie Kosar was summoned to play the rest of the game.  Kosar did just fine.

After the game, there was just more explanation of what had happened before the game.  Jim Jeffcoat had the last word on all of that.  “We can talk the talk if we want to, because we can also walk the walk.  Don’t ever come in here and challenge us like that, or we will destroy you.”  Johnson, in his private words to the team after the game, made a pledge to his players.  “I promise I’ll try to keep my mouth shut next week.”

The Cowboys went into Super Bowl XXVIII as ten-point favourites over the AFC Champion Buffalo Bills.  Dallas covered that number winning the game by a score of 30-13.  One of the odd stats from this team was that they were the first NFL team to start a season 0-2 and make it to the Super Bowl.  Jimmy Johnson became the first ever NFC coach to win consecutive championships as well.

In the end, the 49ers ran into a team that was just way too much for them.  John Taylor summed it all up.  “They came out and scored first and got the crowd into the game.  From that point on, it just seemed that it was our team against Dallas, Texas.”


January 15, 1995 – NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park, San Francisco  

On January 30, 1994, the Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills for the second straight year, this time by a score of 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII.  It was the first and only time that the same two teams have faced each other in back-to-back Super Bowls.  Jimmy Johnson was celebrated and basked in the glory of his consecutive victories.  It may not have sat well with someone else who may have felt that he also deserved credit for the successes of the Cowboys.  That man?  Why, it was Jerry Jones, of course.

All that would come out long after, of course, but you’d think that in the weeks and months after that January 30th victory, it would all have been smiles and sunshine.  But, it apparently was not.  And that was why it was so surprising to so many people, when about two months after the Cowboys were celebrating football’s ultimate prize, Jones and Johnson appeared together at a media conference to tell the world that Johnson would be leaving the team “by mutual agreement” between the two men.

What the actual.........?

March 29 at about 1:30 in the afternoon, the two men sat down in front of reporters to tell them how and why they came to this decision.  You had to sift through the word salad to get somewhere near the truth.  On that day, they had nothing but fine things to say about each other.  But in the almost thirty years since, both men have been installed in the Hall of Fame in Canton, and both have gone on to varying degrees of success.  Neither is suffering.

But as the time has gone by, the acrimony between the two has only escalated.  In 2022, Johnson appeared on Fox & Friends and told Steve Doocy, “When we were together, everything was 100%.  We were happy, we’re hugging each other, one thing or another.  But there was a conflict and there was tension toward the end of my career with Dallas.”

When Johnson was hired by Jones (right after Jones fired Tom Landry), he thought their roles were clearly defined.  “We were in his automobile and he said, ‘Jimmy, you’re in charge of the football, I’m in charge of the money and we’ll make sports history.’  Well, we made sports history.  And everything worked fine for a long time and then all of a sudden, we started winning and then, when we started winning, things changed a little bit.  There started to be a little tension.”

What changed was that now Jimmy started getting all the credit for the team’s success and Jerry didn’t like that.  Johnson and Jones were teammates at the University of Arkansas and had been great friends.  Johnson was Jones’ first choice as coach when he bought the Cowboys.  But as time went on and the team won more and more, Johnson acknowledges that there may have been an issue and he may have had a hand in exacerbating it.

“People say ‘he meddled too much’.  No, he didn’t meddle.  It’s just that when we started winning, he wanted to be more in the spotlight.  I was proud of what we accomplished.  Maybe, I didn’t want to share it.  I take fault in a lot of it.  I should have shared it more.”  Indeed, Jerry did feel that he deserved some of the credit and he has used that as a wedge to keep Johnson off of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, even though he announced in 2020 that Johnson’s name would go up on that ring.

In 2022, when it was suggested to Jones that keeping Johnson’s name off the ring was, at this point, “petty”, Jones exploded.  “It’s B.S. for anybody to be making anything of it.  I said I’m going to put him in.  Now, when I put him in and the circumstances and what I do with that – there’s a lot more than Jimmy to think about here, and I’ve got a lot of other lives out here that have laid a lot on the line on the field that need to be in that Ring of Honor as well.  How I do that, what I do it with, I get to make that decision.  And it isn’t, at the end of the day, all tailored around whether Jimmy’s snivelling or not.”

But in a 2014 piece in ESPN by Don Van Natta, Jones claimed one reason as to why Johnson wasn’t in the Ring.  “Disloyalty....I couldn’t handle the disloyalty.  Whether it was right or not, by every measurement you can go, I had paid so many times a higher price to get to be there than he had paid, it was unbelievable.  By any way you wanna measure it, wear and tear, pain, worry, buttkickin’, the criticism – everything in the book.”

In fact, Jones felt such disdain for Johnson that he told Van Natta that the Super Bowl the Cowboys won in 1996 with Barry Switzer as coach meant “10 to 1....1,000 to 1” more than the two he had won in 1993 and 1994 with Johnson.  “Just simply because I guess I am still that damn frustrated with the way everything happened with Jimmy.”

So, with everything that went down in the spring of 1994, the Cowboys went into the fall with Barry Switzer as their new coach.  The draft that spring brought offensive guard Larry Allen to the team.  Ken Norton, Jr. became a free agent and after the league instituted a salary cap before the 1994 season, the Cowboys felt they could acquire a linebacker through the draft. 

Both the Cowboys and the 49ers, the teams who competed in each of the past two NFC Championship Games, seemed to be on a collision course again in this season.  Heading into Week 11 of the NFL schedule, Dallas (8-1) was set to invade San Francisco (7-2) and this long-anticipated game lived up to the pre-game hype like a great heavyweight championship fight would.

The Cowboys had beaten the Niners in each of their last three meetings – the two previous NFC Title games and a regular season game at Candlestick Park in 1993.  Turnovers had played a role in those three Dallas victories.  The Cowboys had seven takeaways in those games.  San Francisco had just one.  Turnovers would, of course, play a role in this game as well.

Emmitt Smith got Dallas on the board first when he scored on a four-yard run in the first quarter.  Smith managed 50 yards on 15 carries in the opening thirty minutes.  But a Rickey Jackson hit on Smith late in the first half left him on the ground for a while before he finally got up and headed to the sideline.  

“I got him right up under the neck,” Jackson told the media after the game.  “I wasn’t looking for him to see me.  If he sees you, he can make you miss.  I don’t think he was the same after that.  Every time I play him, I have his number.  I kind of know what he likes to do.”  Smith did gain 16 yards on two carries on the Cowboys’ first drive in the third quarter.  But he carried the ball only nine more times in the game after that for just 12 yards.

The Niners tied the game in the second quarter when Steve Young carried the ball over on a plunge play from the Dallas 1-yard line.  Both defenses were stingy as the tough first half ended in a 7-7 tie.  But in the third quarter, after a poor John Jett punt, the 49ers took possession of the ball on their own 43.  

On the first play, Young spotted Jerry Rice on the left sideline and completed a pass to him at the Dallas 15.  Rice side-stepped defensive back Larry Brown and tiptoed into the end zone to give San Francisco a 14-7 lead.  It was a lead they would not relinquish.  Young hit Brent Jones with another scoring pass in the fourth quarter.  Another Smith run made it 21-14, but that was how the game would end.  There was a sense that the 49ers and their fans were now allowing themselves to breathe again after a drought against that Cowboys’ team.

The Cowboys had a chance to tie things up late in the game but Merton Hanks picked off an Aikman pass inside the San Francisco five-yard line to seal the deal.  It was Hanks’ second interception of the game.  Oh, and incidentally, according to the Napa Valley Register, that 49ers win evened the all-time regular season series between the two teams at 11-11-1.

It came as a surprise to pretty much no one that, come playoff time, the 49ers and Cowboys would end up at least with an idea that they would face each other at some point.  San Francisco finished with the league’s best record at 13-3.  The Cowboys completed their schedule at 12-4.  

Each team had a bye to the Divisional Round and had to wait to see who they would face after the Wild Card games.  The Niners would host the Chicago Bears while Dallas would face the Green Bay Packers.  Neither team had to fear much.  San Francisco easily dispatched the Bears 44-15 while the Cowboys barely broke a sweat against the Pack, outclassing them 35-9.  The two teams would face each other for the conference title for the third straight year.

While a lot of folks were anxiously awaiting another game like the one in November, those people would be quite disappointed.  Not to say that this one was over early, but......this one, at Candlestick Park, was over early.  How early?  The Cowboys’ first possession early.

On Dallas’ third play from scrimmage, Troy Aikman put a ball up for Kevin Williams.  Eric Davis tracked it, left his man, Michael Irvin, and intercepted it at the Dallas 44.  From there, he found his way down the field and took the ball all the way to the end zone untouched.  “It was a calculated risk,” said Davis.  “I had my back to my receiver to make them think I was manned up on him.  I made my break and I just beat him to the ball.”  Just like that, it was 7-0 for the 49ers just over a minute into the game.  

On the next Cowboys’ possession, Davis was covering Irvin who had just caught an Aikman pass.  “He (Irvin) didn’t go back outside like he usually does,” the defensive back told reporters after the game.  “He broke inside.  I just tried to strip it out and I got my hands on the ball.”  Davis forced that fumble.  It was recovered by the Niners’ Tim McDonald on the Dallas 39.  Five plays after that, Steve Young hooked up with Ricky Watters for a 29-yard touchdown.  At the 4:19 mark of the first quarter, it was 14-0 for the home side.

Then, on the next kickoff, Dallas’ returner Kevin Williams coughed up the ball on the Cowboys’ 35 yard-line.  It was recovered by the 49ers kicker, Doug Brien.  Minutes later, they had moved the ball down to the Cowboys’ 1 and Young gave the ball to William Floyd.  He plowed over from there and, before the first quarter was even half-done, it was 21-0 for San Francisco.  The game wasn’t over, was over.  

The closest that Dallas would ever get in this game was to within ten points.  The game ended 38-28 for the Niners.  

What did Barry Switzer say?  What could he say?  “You go out and play five minutes of the ballgame and give San Francisco 21 points....It’s kind of like the Keystone Cops.  It’s a laugher.”  Emmitt Smith concurred with his coach.  “Spotting them a 21-point lead was like spotting Carl Lewis twenty yards in a 100-yard dash.”

Two weeks later, the 49ers would handily defeat the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX.  

After the game, Charles Haley announced that this game would be his last.  The 31-year old Haley congratulated the 49ers and then surprised the media with his statement.  “The bottom line is that this was my final football game.  That’s it for me.  I’ve had a great time in Dallas, but it’s over.”

Oh, and here’s a little tidbit to end this part of the story.  Fox covered the game and they had, as a sideline reporter, Jimmy Johnson.  Jerry Jones was not amused.  He called the league office and asked that his former coach not be allowed to be on the sidelines to work for the network at this game.  The league denied Jones’ request.  

After the game, an unidentified Fox official told reporters that the league was not going to acquiesce to the Cowboys’ owner.  “They told Jerry that Jimmy is a private citizen working for Fox and that they weren’t going to get involved in it.”  Apparently, Jones was concerned that Johnson would be a distraction to his players. 


January 16, 2022 – NFC Wild Card Round at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas  

It felt like a generation had gone by since these two teams had last played against each other in a playoff game.  It had been a generation since either team had won a Super Bowl.  The 49ers won Super Bowl XXIX in January of 1995, dumping the San Diego Chargers by a score of 49-26.  The following year, the Cowboys got past the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 in SB XXX.  At least San Francisco could say they had played in a couple of Super Bowls after those other ones.  Dallas had never been to a Super Bowl since.

In the 2021 season, the Cowboys finished first in the NFC East at 12-5, three games ahead of the 

Philadelphia Eagles.  Over in the NFC West, two games separated three teams.  The Los Angeles Rams won the division with a 12-5 record.  The Arizona Cardinals were second at 11-6 and the Niners made the wild card round at 10-7.  San Francisco would travel to Arlington to take on Dallas in the first round matchup.  The Cowboys would be installed as three-point favourites.  

Kellen Moore, Dak Prescott and their ‘Air Coryell’ offensive scheme would produce the most proficient offense in the league.  In 17 games, they scored 530 points for an average of 31.2 points per game.  Defensively, they allowed 21.1 points per game which was good enough for seventh in the league.

For the 49ers, Mike McDaniel, Jimmy Garoppolo and their ‘West Coast’ offense scored 100 points fewer than the Cowboys had, but their defense was barely behind the Dallas ‘D’ in terms of points allowed per game.  

Prescott threw a team-record 37 touchdown passes in 2021 and his coaches and teammates were all saying the right things as they headed into this first-round elimination game.  Mike McCarthy said, “He asked me the other day, he says, ‘What do you need from me?’ And I said, ‘I need you to keep being exactly how you are’.  He does a tremendous job of being so consistent in his approach, in his expression of how clear his job responsibility is, not only to the offense but our football team.”

Speaking for the defense was Demarcus Lawrence.  “I believe Dak’s going to own the moment.  He’s going to show y’all what he really is all about and he’s going to take this playoffs by storm.”  

Prescott’s running back and best friend Ezekiel Elliott talked about his quarterback’s mental and emotional maturity.  “I wouldn’t go out there with any other quarterback.  I know how serious he takes his job and he takes that burden.  I know he’s going to do everything he needs to between now and Sunday to prepare and be ready to go out there and lead us.”

Two seasons before this wild card game, Garoppolo and the 49ers lost Super Bowl LIV 31-20 to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.  But in the spring of 2021, San Francisco drafted Trey Lance to be their signal caller of the future (and maybe of the present).  Garoppolo was acutely aware that he needed to win in order to keep playing.  

He had another year left on his contract after 2021.  All he could do was to play as well as he possibly could.  That kind of desperation could be a positive for someone with the right personality – someone who maintains the ultimate confidence in their abilities but operates like every play could be their last.

“It’s always in the back of your mind.  It has been in mine really this whole season.  I knew what type of season it was, knew everything that was going on behind the scenes and whatnot.  So it was a little different.  But at the same time, you’ve got to toe that line because you don’t want to get too emotional in those moments.”

Two quarterbacks.  Two situations.  One man playing for his proverbial life, the other trying to win a big game for the first time.

Dallas kicked off to start the game.  The 49ers started their first possession at their own 25.  Garoppolo looked poised as he alternated between running plays and short passes.  After seven plays, they had the ball down at the Dallas 4-yard line.  Garoppolo handed the ball to Elijah Mitchell who ran the ball over the goal line for the first score of the game.  After Robbie Gould’s extra point, it was 7-0 for the visitors.

After a quick three-and-out, Dallas punted and San Francisco had the ball at their own 42 to start their second possession.  They held it for nine plays and drove it down to the Dallas 35.  Robbie Gould hammered a 53-yard field goal through the uprights.  The Niners were up 10-0.

The Cowboys’ started at their own nine-yard line after the Gould field goal.  Prescott and the offense managed to get a first down but that was it.  Bryan Anger than boomed a 59-yard punt.  San Francisco took over the ball at their own 22.  Twelve plays and 56 yards later, Gould was successful on a 40-yard field goal and the visitors were up 13-0.

Prescott and his Dallas teammates finally got things going after getting the ball back.  Tony Pollard started things off by returning the kickoff 32 yards to the 33.  Three first downs and a Prescott-to-Amari Cooper touchdown pass from 20 yards out later, the Cowboys were on the scoreboard and the fans at AT&T Stadium could let out a collective exhale.

There were just over five minutes remaining in the half.  The score was 13-7.  Garoppolo was able to move the ball from his own 25 to the Dallas 34 (41 yards) in five plays.  Gould connected on a 52-yard field goal to make the score 16-7 before the half.  After 30 minutes, the three-point underdog was up by nine.

Viewers spent the intermission watching the Fox panel complete their Wordle puzzles and then it was back to the ball game!!  When the third quarter started, it appeared that both teams had re-instituted some defense into their schemes.  The teams exchanged punts to start the second half.  Then, Dallas got the ball at their own 23.

Dak Prescott tried to throw a ball to Cee Dee Lamb.  It was incomplete.  He then fired a ball to Dalton Schultz for 14 yards and a first down.  A penalty and a sack left Dallas scrimmaging the ball on second down with 28 yards to go from their own 19.  Prescott tried to force a short pass to Cedrick Wilson but it was intercepted by K’Waun Williams at the Dallas 26.  It took the 49ers one play to score.  Deebo Samuel ran it 26 yards to paydirt.  Just over nine minutes into the third quarter, San Francisco was up 23-7.  

Dallas managed to score ten points in the fourth quarter, but when it came down to crunch time, Prescott ran himself out of time.  The game ended with Dallas controlling the ball deep in Niners’ territory but just running out of clock.  The Cowboys, the most penalized team in the regular season, committed fourteen fouls in this game and they contributed to their failed attempt to score at the end of the game.

After the game, Jimmy Garoppolo spoke about the tension he felt while he was playing in this contest.  “It was a dogfight, hell of an atmosphere out here, I mean, the fans were nuts.  It was everything we thought it was going to be.  It was fun.”  His teammates came through on both sides of the ball, holding the league’s top offense to just 307 total yards.

“Guys just stepping up big in big key situations, that’s really what it was all day.  Early on, we got it rolling with the offense and the defense just throughout the entire day.  We got some dogs on our defense, man.  It’s fun.”

Jerry Jones didn’t seem happy after the game.  His team had the ball to close the first half and also, to start the second half, and could score on neither of these possessions.  That said, “The team should not have been in a position to make that last play be something controversial.  I’m not going to make it bigger than it is.”

San Francisco won the game 23-17.  They then beat the Green Bay Packers 13-10 before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams 20-17 in the NFC Championship Game.


January 21, 2023 – NFC Divisional Round at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California 

In the 2022 season, the San Francisco 49ers finished 13-4 and they won their last ten regular season games.  The Dallas Cowboys finished second in the NFC East with a 12-5 record.  That wasn’t bad, but in their last four games, they went 2-2 and they lost their last regular season game 26-6 to the Washington Commanders.  And they didn’t look good in the process.

Going into this Divisional Round game, the 49ers were four-point favourites.  Their rookie quarterback, Brock Purdy, had been THE national story in football for weeks!  Purdy was the last man taken in the 2022 NFL Draft and that distinction earned him the moniker ‘Mr. Irrelevant’.  But he was proving to be anything but irrelevant to the success of his football club.

For Dak Prescott, the issue had been his ability (or inability) to win a game when it mattered.  But he had a great wild card round game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and now, the discussion was about whether or not he could keep that going against Purdy and the 49ers.

San Francisco, in general, and Purdy, in particular had been under the microscope in their first round win over the Seattle Seahawks.  But the Niners had other weapons in its arsenal to throw at Prescott and the Cowboys.  Nick Bosa and Fred Warner were a pair of the most imposing defensive players in the league and they anchored a suffocating defense that could keep pretty much any team off balance and off the scoresheet.

Yahoo! Sports asked six experts to predict which team they thought would win this divisional matchup.  Five of them chose San Francisco.  The one man who chose Dallas, Jarrett Bell, picked them to win by a single point.  The over-under for the game was 46.5 and, interestingly enough, all six figured that the score would end up over than number.

In the past, playoff games between these two teams had been comprised of storylines and characters and had dramatic outcomes.  This one lacked all of those.  It was not an aesthetically beautiful football game at all.  And in the end, the Niners defense was the deciding factor as they stifled Prescott and allowed their team to come out on top by a score of 19-12.

They forced Prescott to surrender two interceptions, both of which resulted in San Francisco field goals, in a game in which every point mattered.  

When I said that this game lacked storylines, there was one that seemed to come up again and again for Dallas during the week following their wild card win over Tampa Bay.  Their place kicker, former Ottawa RedBlack Brett Maher, had missed four extra points in the wild card game against Tampa Bay.  Combine that with the one he had missed on the Cowboy’s touchdown against Washington in their last regular season game and he had missed five consecutive extra point attempts coming into this game.  

To say all eyes would be on him would be a gross understatement.  Then, when Dallas got a touchdown on a drive that took them 14 plays to go 74 yards, Maher’s conversion try was blocked.  He would make field goal attempts from 25 and 43 yards, respectively, after that.  But late in the first half, it appeared that the Cowboys’ goose was cooked when Tony Pollard took a short pass but, while being tackled by a pair of 49ers’ defenders, had his ankle crushed.  He would leave the game, never to return.

The half ended with San Francisco leading 9-6.  Maher’s 25-yard field goal tied the score at 9-9 in the third quarter.  Late in that frame, Purdy and his mates had a third down on the Dallas 20.  Demarcus Lawrence and Leighton Vander Esch combined to sack Purdy at a time when such a play was vital.  

But at the beginning of the play, Cowboys’ safety Donovan Wilson was caught holding on to tight end George Kittle and the sack was nullified and Purdy had a fresh set of downs in excellent scoring position.  Three plays later, as the fourth quarter was just beginning, Christian McCaffrey found himself in the end zone with the go-ahead touchdown.  The result, from that point on, was academic.  The Niners were moving on and the Cowboys were going home after the 19-12 result.

Purdy became just the fourth quarterback to be drafted either in the sixth round or later, or be undrafted, to reach a conference final game.  He joined Dieter Brock (1985), Kurt Warner (1999) and Tom Brady (2001) in that club.

One of the strange things about the aftermath of this game was the way that the Cowboys seemed to throw their quarterback under the proverbial bus.  Yes, Prescott threw a pair of interceptions that resulted in scores by the 49ers, and after the game, he took responsibility for his team’s loss.  But then, on the Cowboys’ official Twitter feed, the team just crapped all over him in a post from just before midnight that Sunday evening.

Dak Prescott gave away the ball twice in the narrow loss to the 49ers, in a matchup the Cowboys had a chance to win if they didn’t generate self-inflicted wounds.  #DALvsSF  #DallasCowboys 

Cowboy-haters undoubtedly found the tweet hilarious, but on another level, one would never expect the player’s team to treat him in such an egregious manner.  There are many who surmised that, given the length of time the tweet remained up on the team’s official Twitter page, that Jerry Jones had to know it was there and his knowledge was therefore tacit approval of its existence.

That said, for Cowboy fans, the loss was a bad one and would no doubt sting.

But as we all have known for decades, postseason games between these two teams have long given us all plenty of discussion points as time has gone by.  And isn’t that why we all love sports?

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You can get Howie's book, Crazy Days & Wild Nights, on Amazon. It makes the perfect gift for the sports fan in your life....or even you! You can listen to Howie and his co-host Shawn Lavigne on The Sports Lunatics Show, a sports history podcast, right here on the FiredUp Network, or on 212 different platforms wherever you find your podcasts, including Alexa.  Howie also hosts Like Father, Like Son with his son, Reese, here on the FiredUp Network and those same platforms as well.