This is exactly what the Cowboys needed ahead of this significant NFC clash.
Friday’s injury report revealed Tyron Smith and Zack Martin carry no game designation for the team’s Week 5 showdown versus the San Francisco 49ers. On Thursday’s padded practice, the five starting offensive line fully practiced together for the first time all year.
This is about as big of an early-season game as you can get.
Sunday’s meeting will also likely break a tie in the all-time series, as the teams enter knotted at 19-19-1. In addition to their five Super Bowl titles apiece, the Niners and Dallas rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, all time in NFC playoff wins and conference championship game appearances.
But, as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones alluded to earlier this week, for as important as Sunday’s meeting is, it very well could be a warmup act for a third straight playoff meeting in January. Because, as both sides are quick to remind, when you play for two of the NFL’s most successful franchises, the only thing better than beating the other side is winning the whole darn thing.
“There’s always a path in the NFC that goes through Dallas, goes through San Francisco,” McCarthy said. “I like to think that’s what makes this sport so great, the respect you need to have for your history.”
Cowboys vs. 49ers: Dallas must bring the heat on defense to cool off Brock Purdy and Co. in NFC blockbuster - Jared Dubin, CBS Sports
Micah Parsons and the Cowboys’ defense hold the key to a Dallas win.
Between Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys sport two of the most dominant edge rushers in the NFL, and Dan Quinn generates favorable one-on-one matchups for them with relative ease. They’re supported by Dante Fowler Jr., Sam Williams, and Dorance Armstrong, each of whom ranks in the top third of the league in pressure rate among the 215 players who have rushed the passer at least 40 times so far this season. Throw in what both Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston have done from the interior (they have each generated pressure about as often on a per-rush basis as Cameron Jordan), and there are just so many ways for the Cowboys to wreck things up front.
5 final Cowboys-49ers thoughts: Why stakes are high for Dallas in playoff rematch - David Moore, Dallas Morning News
The Cowboys need to overcome this hurdle to get where they want to go.
Dallas players and coaches haven’t shied away from or downplayed how much this game means to them.
“It means more than just one game,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “You got to treat it as one game. At the end of the day it would just be one game.
“But understanding these guys are undefeated in the conference. Fighting for the No. 1 seed, always trying to get every game that you can. You don’t go in any game, thinking that we don’t need this one or this one is as big as that one.
“But from a team that’s been consistent in the past few years, knocked us out of playoffs in last few years, there’s a lot that we can gain from this win that makes it definitely more than just one game.”
Bland’s matchup with Brandon Aiyuk is major.
Through two games filling in for Trevon Diggs as a feature boundary cornerback, second-year defender DaRon Bland has excelled which included his two interception performance last week against New England. This week, the challenge only grows more difficult against the San Francisco receiving weapons that he’ll line up against.
For the most part, Bland’s feature matchup will be against Brandon Aiyuk, who has started his fourth season in the NFL by averaging over 100 yards per game and has accounted for two of the 49ers’ five receiving touchdowns. His size and physicality in route running has caused issues for defenders, but Bland has an opportunity to match that physicality with his experience that he got at nickel last season.
If Bland can keep his matchups in check and keep his solid play consistent, Brock Purdy will be mistaken-prone in trying to force things to his side. Needless to say, a big opportunity awaits for the Fresno State product in his return to Northern California in his first game as a defensive captain for the Cowboys.
The tone is different this time around.
There’s been noticeably less bluster coming from the Cowboys ahead of this rematch. Instead, Dallas has been overtly complimentary of the 49ers dating back to last month.
“I just don’t think that we should sleep on Brock Purdy anymore,” Parsons said on a podcast after the season opener. “Yes, he was a seventh-round pick. And yes, he came in late in the season and won six straight games. Took them to the NFC Championship before his injury but, Purdy, you will not be slept on anymore, brother. I think people are coming for you the same way they come for (Aaron) Rodgers, for Patrick Mahomes. Yes, you’re surrounded by a great team but you are playing your butt off and you’ve got one hell of a story, brother.”
George Teague Recalls Famous Hit on Terrell Owens Over Cowboys’ Star: ‘I Would Do It Again’ - Tyler Lauletta, Sports Illustrated
Although over 20 years have passed, Teague’s mindset is the same.
“Would I go out there again today and hit Terrell Owens? Would that be worth it for me? Yes, I would do it again because of the principle,” Teague said. “I would do it again because I think it was the right thing to do.”
Teague’s hit against Owens was the result of tension that had been brewing between the 49ers and Cowboys the entire game. Owens celebrated on the star with no interference after scoring a touchdown earlier in the game, earning boos from the Dallas crowd.
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