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Cowboys vs. 49ers playoff game: A long history between these two NFC rivals

The Cowboys and 49ers go back a long way in the NFC as far as playoffs go.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young (8) is Photo credit should read ROBERT DAEMMRICH/AFP via Getty Images

Heading into the Sunday’s games, the most likely opponent for the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs was the Arizona Cardinals. Coming out of Sunday’s games, the Cowboys drew the San Francisco 49ers. Along the way, Dallas also managed to move up to the third seed in the NFC. The two teams will square off in AT&T Stadium on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

This will just be the continuation of a long history with the 49ers, with plenty of playoff games played between the two organizations. They have met 37 times in NFL history, with seven of those playoff contests. Overall, the Cowboys lead the series 19-17-1. That’s pretty close. They last met in 2020 with the Cowboys winning 41-33.

Of those seven playoff games, the Cowboys lead 5-2. The Cowboys beat the 49ers twice in two years in the NFC Championship game in 1970 and 1971. The Cowboys beat the 49ers in a Divisional game in 1972.

Then came the big one, the one everyone remembers and has gone down in NFL lore. The Joe Montana-led 49ers beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship for the 1981 season on a play that is known as “The Catch.” That game transitioned the Cowboys from being the power in the NFC in the ‘70s to the 49ers run of excellence in the 1980s. Dallas managed to grab two Super Bowl wins in the ‘70s, while San Francisco picked up four in the ‘80s.

Then came the ‘90s and the pendulum swung once again. The Cowboys became the dominant team by winning three Super Bowls and beating the 49ers twice in NFC Championship games (1992, 1993) while the 49ers won the Championship game in 1994 and won another Super Bowl. By then end of that stretch the two teams led the NFL in Super Bowl trophies with five apiece. Pittsburgh and New England have since surpassed them with six each.

The teams have even shared a few notable champions like Charles Haley, Deion Sanders and Ken Norton, Jr.

The two franchises will renew their rivalry once again next weekend. Maybe this will be the start of another dominant run for the two teams, but with the Cowboys leading the way.

Here is your NFL playoff schedule for the Wildcard Round.


Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, January 16th at 1:00pm ET on FOX

San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys

Sunday, January 16th at 4:30pm ET on CBS

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams

Monday, January 17th at 8:15pm ET on ESPN


Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

Saturday, January 15th at 4:30pm ET on NBC

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Saturday, January 15th at 8:15pm ET on CBS

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, January 16th at 8:15pm ET on NBC

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