The San Francisco 49ers have knocked the Dallas Cowboys out of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
However, the regular season has been a different story, and Dallas will attempt to defeat the 49ers for the eighth time in the past 10 meetings between the teams in their Sunday night showdown at Santa Clara, Calif.
Of course, the regular-season success enjoyed by the Cowboys (3-1) is dwarfed by the postseason setbacks.
San Francisco notched a 23-17 victory over the host Cowboys in the NFC wild-card round of the 2021 season. Last season, the 49ers prevailed 19-12 at home in an NFC divisional playoff game.
Those results are part of a rivalry that includes six NFC Championship Game matchups, four won by Dallas.
“It’s an important game. You understand the history,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “There’s obviously a lot of tradition with this game, and that’s a part of it. You live to play in these kinds of games. You dream about it. You don’t want to make it bigger than it is, but the reality is it’s not just another game.”
The 49ers (4-0) are one of the NFL’s last two unbeaten squads — the Philadelphia Eagles are the other — and have won 14 consecutive regular-season games. They also know the Cowboys just produced a 38-3 beatdown of the visiting New England Patriots.
“It’s a big game,” said San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. “They’re a really good team, and they bring it every time we see them in the playoffs, the past two years. So it’s a big game, but also, you don’t want to make it too big because it’s just another regular-season game.”
Cowboys running back Tony Pollard will be returning to the scene of where he broke his left fibula late in the first half of last season’s playoff meeting.
“We definitely have it in the back of our minds just that disappointment, that feeling,” Pollard said. “At this point, we’re using that as motivation and leaving the past in the past and we’re ready for this year.”
The romp over New England was Dallas’ third victory by 20 or more points this season. The 49ers have won three games by 18 or more points.
San Francisco ranks second in total offense (398 yards per game) and third in scoring offense (31.3 points per game) as it goes up against a Dallas unit that leads in scoring defense (10.3 points allowed per game) and is second in total defense (259.8 yards allowed per game). The Cowboys also lead the NFL with a plus-9 turnover ratio.
San Francisco routed the visiting Arizona Cardinals 35-16 last week behind four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) from running back Christian McCaffrey, who leads the NFL with 459 rushing yards.
Quarterback Brock Purdy was a stunning 20-of-21 passing. The 95.2 percent completion rate was the fourth highest by a signal-caller with at least 20 pass attempts in NFL history.
Purdy still hasn’t lost a regular-season start, prevailing in all nine during his two-year career. He also hasn’t thrown an interception in 112 throws this season while completing 72.3 percent and tossing five touchdown passes.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan bristled when it was suggested that Purdy’s success is due to the club’s offensive system.
“That’s pretty ridiculous,” Shanahan said. “You just got to watch the tape. I mean, he plays at a high level every time he’s been out there. And he’s done it in a lot of different situations versus a lot of different defenses.”
Four 49ers missed practice Wednesday due to injuries — center Jon Feliciano (concussion), linebacker Dre Greenlaw (ankle), running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) and cornerback Charvarius Ward (heel).
Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith (knee) could return after a two-game absence. Running back Rico Dowdle (hip) and tight end Peyton Hendershot (ankle) sat out practice with new injuries.