It doesn’t have quite the shine that it once had in the 1980’s and again in the 1990’s, but the Cowboys-49ers rivalry goes all the way back to November of 1960, a game that San Fran won 26-14. Since 1960, these teams have gone head-to-head 35 times, it’s a deadlock at 17-17-1 (tie came in 1969). There was a time where the argument could be made that this rivalry was the ultimate decider on who was winning the Lombardi Trophy.
The Dallas Cowboys were beat by the 49ers in three of their first five meetings. The Cowboys came roaring back between 1970-1980, winning seven of the next eight meetings, including sending the 49ers home three times in the playoffs. Most of the 1980’s belonged to Joe Montana and his 49ers, who brought forth some gut-wrenching memories for Dallas. The Cowboys and 49ers were closely matched in the early 90’s but Dallas got three rings to the 49ers’ one.
Since 2000, the rivalry has kind of been back and forth with little fanfare. Still, these teams have accounted for 14 NFC Championship appearances, 14 Super Bowl appearances, and 10 Super Bowl titles. It’s still one of those great rivalries of NFL-lore that brings back some good times in your fandom. Let’s take a trip down memory lane with a few awesome looks to the past from a couple of front page writers, I’ll start:
2011 Cowboys 27 49ers 24 (OT) - Late-Game Heroics From A Battered Warrior
After dropping their first game to the Jets, this game got off to a rocky start as Dan Bailey missed a 21-yarder, only the second attempt of his career. Tony Romo was getting brutalized in the second quarter, taking hits from every red and gold jersey on the field. Before you knew it, the Cowboys were down 14-0. Romo led the Cowboys on a two-minute drive for a touchdown to cut the lead to seven points at halftime. However, when they returned to the game, Tony Romo did not as he was pulled from the game with injured ribs.
The grizzled veteran, Jon Kitna (who led the team to 5-3 in 2010), came in to start the third. Six plays later at the 49ers’ 28-yard line, Kitna threw an interception, killing an opportunity. Alex Smith would give it right back a few plays later on an interception by Alan Ball. Kitna would find Miles Austin on a five-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. On the next Cowboys’ drive, Kitna threw another interception setting up an easy 49ers touchdown and within five minutes, San Fran was up by 10 to start the fourth quarter.
In the ultimate sign of toughness the camera pans to Tony Romo, who’s strapping on his helmet to return. With fractured ribs and a punctured lung that we didn’t find out until after this one, Romo led a 76-yard touchdown drive aided by a 25-yard score for Miles Austin. With just over four minutes left, the wincing and gingerly-moving Romo led a 10-play drive without Dez Bryant (out for the game) and Austin (hamstring injury late in the game). Dan Bailey evened the score with a 48-yard field goal that sent this one to overtime.
The 49ers had a third-down catch overturned and punted it back to the red-hot Romo. On first down, without his best receivers, Romo pumped up Jesse Holley, a reality TV star from North Carolina who won a contest giving him a tryout. Holley only played two seasons but Romo found him here and he took it 77-yards to set up Dan Bailey’s first game-winning field goal. Romo had to be helped off the podium after the game but when asked why he returned, Romo winced and said something to the tune of “it’s hard to come back from 0-2.” Just a classic, gutsy performance that earned Romo tons of respect.
A Mudslinging Championship Win At Candlestick- 1992 NFC Championship Game
“The 1992 NFC Championship game in the mud in San Francisco launched the Cowboys on a great four year run of NFL dominance, with three Super Bowl wins and a fourth that likely could have been had if Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson had figured out how to sort out credit. The game is often remembered for the late game slant pass to Alvin Harper, but there was much more to the game than that. Emmitt Smith gained 114 yards rushing and caught seven passes for 59 more yards.
An early touchdown pass to Jerry Rice was called back because Russell Maryland was being held on the play. Kelvin Martin caught one six yard pass on the day, but it was for an unreviewable touchdown where you couldn't really see if the ball crossed the plane. This game didn't completely erase the bad feelings from "the Catch" that sunk Dallas 11 years earlier, but it went a long way towards doing so.
The following year, when the teams would meet again in Dallas for the NFC Championship game, Jimmy Johnson could confidently predict victory before the game. But in 1992, it was a fantastic game between two closely matched teams. Dallas gained 416 yards to SF's 415, with Dallas gaining seven more yards on the ground and six fewer passing yards. First downs were equal at 24. Each team had four penalties. A fumble by Ricky Watters, Emmitt's mid-game dominance, and Dallas's late-game heroics were the deciding factors. Two weeks later, Dallas crushed the Buffalo Bills. It was a great time to be a Cowboys fan!”
It’s Got To Be The 1992 NFC Championship, It Avenged An 11-year Heartbreaker
“My favorite Cowboys/49ers memory is from the 1992 NFC Championship where the big Alvin Harper slant pass cinched a trip to the Super Bowl. However, the reason that was so significant stems back from what happened in the 1981 NFC Championship game. After the 49ers went ahead late in the fourth quarter by some play that I don't particularly recall because it wasn't that significant, the Cowboys would have one final shot to win the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Danny White would hit Drew Pearson on a deep slant route that looked like he was off to the races, but a 49ers defender would make a horse collar tackle to save a touchdown. Soon after, White would fumble the ball and with it - the Cowboys Super Bowl hopes.
Apparently after Joe Montana threw that late game TD to this Dwight Schrutte guy or something, it was said that he had an exchange with Ed "Too Tall" Jones. Supposedly, Jones said, "you just beat America's Team." in which Montana arrogantly said, "well, you can sit at home with the rest of America and watch the Super Bowl." Classy guy. I'm not sure if this is even true. I can't ever see in the replay where Jones and Montana had an exchange of words. It sounds made up just to spice up the moment.
So not only does the 1992 game serve as payback for many Cowboys fans who were heartbroken from "The Tackle" (I will never refer to it as "The Catch"), but Mark Tuinei got a nice dig on his friend, Jesse Sapolu, who played center for the 49ers. Sapolu had said before the game that the road to the Super Bowl ran through Candlestick Park. After the Cowboys beat the 49ers, Tuinei ran over to him and said, "thanks for the directions." Ha, take that!”
“The 49ers used an 89-yard touchdown to Brandon Lloyd and then a 34-yard interception return by Tony Parrish, who later played briefly for the Cowboys, to build a 21-6 advantage.
However, Drew Bledsoe and the offense went to work in the second half. Trailing by 12 heading into the fourth, Bledsoe engineered a scoring drive that ended with Julius Jones’ 1-yard run. And then in the final minutes, Bledsoe hit Keyshawn Johnson for a clutch 14-yard touchdown, followed by a successful 2-point conversion to grab the 34-31 lead.
The 49ers, quarterbacked by Tim Rattay, tried to make one last rally, but linebacker Dat Nguyen picked off a pass to seal the win. It was the Cowboys’ first regular season win in San Francisco in nine previous seasons.”
How about it, gang?! What are some of your favorite moments from this rivalry?