Cowboys vs. 49ers: A Rivalry Revisited

By Nathan Maxfield

Today’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers should mean a lot more than it seemingly does.  On one side you have Tony Romo coming off a game in which he singlehandedly took the blame for the loss to the NY JETS.  On the other side you have Alex Smith playing in his seventh season with the San Francisco 49ers and yet still showing no signs of being a legitimate starter in the NFL.

This certainly isn’t a matchup of Troy Aikman versus Steve Young!  Nor is it anywhere near the matchup of Danny White and Joe Montana.  Instead this time we get Tony Romo, trying to prove that he is a winner as a QB in the NFL and Alex Smith trying to prove that he was worth the #1 draft pick in 2005.  Personally I have my doubts about both.

For most football fans the Dallas Cowboys vs. The San Francisco reminds them of a battle of great teams.  Both are tied for 2nd in Super Bowl victories with 5 a piece.  They have met 7 times in the NFC Playoffs and the winner of their matchup has gone on to win the Super Bowl 5 times.

The rivalry really got its teeth in the 1990s where the teams met in the NFC Championship Game 3 straight years with the Cowboys winning 2 out of 3.  It was common to most fans to view these games as the actual Super Bowl as both teams were clearly the most dominant teams in football and far superior the their AFC counterparts.

“The Cowboys games seemed like the Super Bowl – people remember those almost more,” former tight end Brent Jones said, referring to the conference title games in the 1992, ’93 and ’94 seasons. “It was the two behemoths squaring off. Everybody around the league knew the two best teams in football were playing.”

Not only does the matchup have historical implications but the games themselves did as well.  For instance, you have perhaps the most famous play in football – “The Catch”.  The play that won the 49ers the 1982 NFC Championship and propelled Joe Montana to his first Super Bowl victory and a Hall of Fame career.

Nearly 30 years after Dwight Clark made his mark in NFL history, he reminisced about the importance of the games between the 2 storied franchises, “The America’s Team thing rubs the other 31 teams a little raw,” he said Tuesday. “Not that they’re as much of an America’s Team now, and not that they have the arrogance now, but why are they America’s Team? They probably named themselves that. …”

“They were just so arrogant back in the ’80s, like they were sitting on their high horse. When you lost to the Cowboys, it hurt bad. It was nice to knock them off.”

But Sunday’s game is not a matchup of two dominant teams.  It won’t be the preview of the NFC Championship game.  And it most certainly will not be viewed like a Super Bowl.  It’s a game between 2 teams who have struggled in recent years.  It’s a battle of quarterbacks with something to prove.  But though the names have changed and the stakes have lessened this game will be another chapter in the much heralded rivalry.

Will we see another T.O. celebrating on the star moment?  Odds are we will not. Neither team has that sort of personality on their roster or that level of arrogance.  I suspect we will see Tony Romo vanquish some demons while Alex Smith continues to prove he is one of the 5 worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL.  I doubt this game will be an instant classic like many of the matchups before.  The Cowboys offensive talent should trump what the 49ers can do on both sides of the ball.

Back to back road games are tough, but it’s a little easier when you’re facing a team like the San Francisco 49ers.  There is no Dwight Clark to snatch a ball out of the air to steal a victory.  There is no Joe Montana or Steve Young to turn a negative play into a positive using pure talent and determination.  Finally there is definitely not Jerry Rice putting the best wide receiver skills in the game on display.  No, instead there is career failure Alex Smith, a troubled receiver with a history of drops Braylon Edwards and a team that will struggle to have a winning record in the pathetic NFC West.  This one should be easy for the Dallas Cowboys.

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Topics: Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Cowboys Vs. San Fransico 49ers, Dwight Clark, Game Preview, Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers, The Catch

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