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Cowboys-49ers wildcard game renews a great rivalry



San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana in action against the Dallas Cowboys during the NFC playoff game on January 10, 1982.

San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana in motion towards the Dallas Cowboys through the NFC playoff sport on January 10, 1982.
Picture: AP

January 10, 1982, is the day it began. Most longtime Niners and Cowboys followers will level to this present day as the beginning of a rivalry that lasted the higher a part of 20 years. The 1981 NFC championship sport at Candlestick Park between the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys was the start of an period and, in some ways, signified the demise of one other.

That 1981-82 NFC championship sport, which San Francisco received 28-27, is often known as “The Catch” sport for Joe Montana’s game-winning TD cross to Dwight Clark at the back of the top zone. It was Third-and-3 for Montana and the 49ers, on the Cowboys’ six-yard-line with 58-seconds left in regulation. Upon the snap, Montana rolled proper, nearly operating out of bounds with a number of Dallas defenders bearing down on him earlier than launching the ball towards the top line of the endzone. Then Clark, like a thief within the night time, got here leaping from out of nowhere for the catch, cementing San Francisco’s first NFC championship victory and Tremendous Bowl look.

For those who grew up within the Bay Space within the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s, whether or not you’re a Niners fan or not, you’ve seen that play extra occasions than you’ll be able to keep in mind. The 49ers went on to win their first Tremendous Bowl that season, then one other three earlier than the top of the ’80s. San Francisco had stolen the NFC crown from Dallas after which dominated the 80s with honorable point out to the New York Giants, Washington (you recognize), and the Chicago Bears. Washington received two whereas the Giants and Bears took one Lombardi trophy house apiece through the decade.

For Dallas, the demoralizing loss within the closing seconds of that championship sport actually signified the top of a dynasty. The Cowboys did make it again to the NFC championship the next yr, however solely 9 video games had been performed that common season (‘82-83), so for some, there’s an asterisk subsequent to that season for everyone. Dallas wouldn’t make it again to the NFC title sport till the 1992-93 season, the place they’d face off towards the 49ers. The Cowboys and Niners performed in three consecutive NFC championship video games from 1992-95. The winner went on to win all three of these Tremendous Bowls.

One other facet of this rivalry that basically intensified issues within the ’90s was the variety of distinguished gamers that flip-flopped from one aspect to the opposite within the midst of all of the unhealthy blood. After successful two rings with the 49ers within the 80s, outdoors rusher Charles Haley was the primary big-name participant to depart for Dallas after the ’91-92 season, seemingly shifting the stability of energy within the NFC. Haley helped the Cowboys win back-to-back Tremendous Bowls in his first two years on the workforce.

In ‘94, Ken Norton Jr. left Dallas for SF, and the Niners beat the Cowboys within the NFC title sport en path to successful Tremendous Bowl quantity 5. However an much more important acquisition that yr for the Niners was the signing of Deion Sanders. San Francisco had no reply for Cowboys star receiver Michael Irvin within the earlier two years. Irvin had repeatedly roasted Niners defensive backs, and they also went out and employed a mercenary to cope with Irvin. However the next yr, for causes that also aren’t fully clear, San Francisco allowed Sanders to change into a free agent. So, in fact, Jerry Jones being the opportunist he’s all the time been, swooped proper in and signed Prime Time to a seven-year, $35-million contract. On the time, it was extraordinary for a cornerback to ink such a profitable deal. Enable me to place this in perspective for anybody beneath the age of 30. This transfer was about as impactful to the league as Kevin Durant becoming a member of the Golden State Warriors in 2016. That’s not hyperbole, it’s a truth. Deion going to Dallas shifted the highlight and energy dynamic again to Large D.

Finally, as we obtained via that center a part of the 90s, the Inexperienced Bay Packers would sneak into the NFC combine because the Cowboys and 49ers pale into the background. Everybody knew that the NFC would undergo both Dallas or San Francisco for almost half a decade. At the moment, the NFC championship sport was seen because the “actual” Tremendous Bowl. Even going again to the 80s, it was almost two decades the place the NFC not solely received the Tremendous Bowl however often blew out their AFC opponent regardless of who they confronted.

This Cowboys-Niners wildcard sport Sunday is essential for therefore many causes. Not simply because the winner strikes one step nearer to the last word prize, but it surely’s additionally the primary time these franchises will sq. off within the postseason in a couple of quarter century. This sport is necessary to generations of Cowboys and Niners followers not simply within the Bay Space and Dallas but additionally throughout the nation. I’m positive this sport will pull the best ranking of the weekend. There’s an excessive amount of historical past concerned with this sport no to. I simply hope we get an awesome battle like so lots of these video games performed again within the day.

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