April 14, 2024
Here is what you need to know for Sunday night's game between the host 49ers (4-0) and the NFC-rival Dallas Cowboys (3-1).

SANTA CLARA – So much for savoring a victory.

Questions about the Dallas Cowboys – their next opponent — bombarded 49ers players before they even got dressed after Sunday’s 35-16 home win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Same thing happened to the Cowboys immediately after they beat the visiting New England Patriots 38-3, the most lopsided loss in Bill Belichick’s coaching career.

See, there’s never a minute to waste when it comes to staging another 49ers-Cowboys showdown, the next of which goes down this Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium between the 49ers (4-0) and Cowboys (3-1).

“We just know what they’re capable of, and a win in San Francisco would be magnificent,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told Dallas-area reporters. “A win against that team would feel like you’re playing for the marbles in the NFL. When you’re a guest of a team that’s undefeated …we’re going to come in there and try to stay on the field with them.”

The 49ers’ field is where the Cowboys got eliminated from last year’s NFC divisional playoffs, a year after the 49ers won in a wild-card matchup in Arlington, Texas.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, right after Sunday’s win, got blitzed by reporters asking about January’s 19-12 exit. “We’re so far passed that to be honest with you, that’s obvious,” Prescott replied. “If you just want to piss me off going into this weekend, I appreciate that, appreciate that. I do. Yeah, appreciate that, appreciate that.”

The 49ers-Cowboys series is tied at 19-19-1, including six battles for a Super Bowl berth. This is their first prime-time meeting hosted by the 49ers since 1983, a 42-17 win on “Monday Night Football.”

“Dallas, it’s always going to be one of those, what they call ‘ice-bag games.’ It’s a physical game,” said 49ers left tackle Trent Williams, who’s never cared for the Cowboys, either while growing up two hours east of Dallas in Longview, Texas, or by facing them in the NFL with Washington and the 49ers.

Here is how the 40th meeting shapes up:

TOP-FIVE STORYLINES

HISTORY LESSONS: As right tackle Colton McKivitz said: “This one will be a little extra, the history of the playoffs and the history of these two franchises. There’s definitely going to be a buzz.” Recent history saw the 49ers advance in the past two postseasons, but this rivalry’s roots are in the NFC Championship Game: Dallas won the 1970, ’71, ’92 and ’93 meetings; the 49ers won in the 1981 and ’94 seasons en route to their first and last Super Bowl wins.

RUSHING LEADERS: Christian McCaffrey’s four-touchdown outburst Sunday and his NFL-leading 459 rushing yards are garnering national attention. Not far behind him, with the fifth-most rushing yards (311), is Tony Pollard, who sustained a fractured left fibula on Jimmie Ward’s tackle in last season’s playoff matchup. Dallas’ defense allowed 222 rushing yards in losing at Arizona and ranks 27th at 4.61-yards allowed per carry; the 49ers’ run defense ranks third in yards per game (66.0).

PARSONS VS. BOSA: At this time last year, Micah Parsons was the early favorite for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, an award that instead went to the 49ers’ Nick Bosa. Parsons is off to another impressive start (four sacks, eight quarterback hits, NFC Defender of the Month). Parsons played through a second-quarter knee injury Sunday (44 of 55 snaps). Although the 49ers offensive line played “unbelievable” against Arizona, coach Kyle Shanahan expects a “huge” challenge with the Cowboys’ pass rush and speed. As for Bosa, he has just one sack but his 10 quarterback hits are third-most behind Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt and Cleveand’s Myles Garrett, the latter of whom hosts the 49ers on Oct. 15.

TREY LANCE REUNION: Traded a month ago for a fourth-round pick, Lance is serving as the Cowboys No. 3 (emergency) quarterback behind Prescott and Cooper Rush. Lance told the Cowboys’ website last week: “It’s been good for me to get a new look and a fresh start. It’s a breath of fresh air here.” Coach Mike McCarthy praised Lance’s work ethic as he learns from quarterbacks coach Scott Tolzien, a 49ers third-stringer in 2011-12.

QUARTERBACK SPOTLIGHT: OK, the quarterbacks that matter most are Prescott and the 49ers’ Brock Purdy, who completed 20-of-21 passes Sunday while displaying the “timing element and anticipation” that Shanahan loves. Purdy has thrown 211 consecutive passes without an interception; Prescott’s only interception clinched their Week 3 loss at Arizona. Purdy’s top targets are Brandon Aiyuk (17 catches, 320 yards, two touchdowns), Deebo Samuel (17 catches, 247 yards, one touchdown) and George Kittle (14 catches, 148 yards); the Cowboys’ go-to man remains CeeDee Lamb (23 catches, 309 yards, one touchdown).

INJURY WATCH

Here are the 49ers’ health issues:

Running back Elijah Mitchell (knee)

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel (knee, rib)

Wide receiver Jauan Jennings (shin)

Offensive lineman Jon Feliciano (concussion)

*Cornerback Ambry Thomas (knee)

*Linebacker Dre Greenlaw (ankle)

*Greenlaw, Thomas were not mentioned by coach Kyle Shanahan on Monday’s conference call despite recent injuries. All other injuries are listed as “day to day” issues, although Feliciano must clear the NFL’s concussion protocol to resume special-teams duties.

Here are the Cowboys’ health issues:

Left tackle Tyron Smith (knee)

Right guard Zack Martin (leg)

Running back Rico Dowdle (hip)

Tight end Peyton Hendershot (ankle)

C Tyler Biadasz (hamstring)

*CB Trevon Diggs (knee) went on injured reserve last week; his replacement, DaRon Bland returned one of his two interceptions Sunday for a touchdown.

SERIES RECORDS

Not only are they tied at 19-19-1, the 49ers are 10-10 at home against the Cowboys and they’ve split the last six meetings. Dallas leads 5-4 in playoff action.

In their last regular-season meeting, the visiting 49ers fell 41-33 in December 2020, with Nick Mullens tearing an elbow ligament and Javon Kinlaw huring his knee for long-term ramifications. The last regular-season game at Levi’s Stadium was Oct. 22, 2017, when Prescott threw three touchdown passes in a a 40-10 Cowboys win to spoil C.J. Beathard’s starting debut.

SUNDAY NIGHT SPOTLIGHT

The only other time these rivals met for a Sunday night kickoff: a 24-6 win by the 49ers at Dallas on Nov. 11, 1990.  The 49ers hold a 3-1 advantage in prime-time matchups, including that 1983 home tilt in which Joe Montana threw four touchdown passes.

Overall, the 49ers are 17-18 on Sunday night (12-9 at home). They are 3-4 under coach Kyle Shanahan, losing their last three appearances (2021 home games against Green Bay and Indianapolis; last season at Denver).

“Anytime there’s matchups, especially for the night games, that’s what’s great for our league,” Shanahan said. “There’s nothing more fun than being a part of it as a player or coach. These are the games you live for and enjoy. But it’s a whole week to get there with big preparation.

“I know people will be amped up, they love it when the rest of the league gets to watch them.”

MILESTONE MARKERS

Winning would make Purdy 10-0 and match Mike Tomczak (Chicago Bears, 1986-87) as the second-most consecutive wins to start a quarterback’s career since 1990. Ben Roethlisberger started 15-0 for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-05; Purdy could potentially equal that mark Nov. 15 at home against Tampa Bay and surpass it on Thanksgiving night in Seattle.

After McCaffrey surpassed Jerry Rice’s 49ers record Sunday by scoring in a 13th consecutive game (including playoffs), he next could tie Emmitt Smith’s 14-game spree for the 1995 Cowboys (who dethroned the 49ers as Super Bowl champs). The only players in NFL history with a longer streak (playoffs included) are Lenny Moore (17), John Riggins (15), and O.J. Simpson (15).

Rice still holds the franchise’s record when it comes to strictly regular-season games (13); Purdy is on a 10-game regular-season touchdown streak.

CROSSOVER SCOUTING

The 49ers, to an extent, already studied Cowboys’ film last week to prepare for the Cardinals, who won 28-16 in their Week 3 matchup in Arizona. “You get to see a little crossover,” Shanahan said. “But I really never prepare the week before (the following week’s game). It takes away from the week you’re at. There’s always time to get it done.” That time is now.

AIKMAN’S TAKE

Ex-Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, appearing on ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown, said the 49ers are this season’s most impressive team. “They play a style of football that reminds me a lot of some of the teams I was part of. They’re very physical. If you’re going to play the 49ers, whether you’re playing their offense or against their defense, you better bring some physicality, because if you don’t match that, you’re going to have a really tough time. That’s why Dallas in the postseason has had a hard time. This is going to be a great game. It’s a great matchup between what I think are the two titans in the NFC, along with Philadelphia.”

WEATHER FORECAST

Sunny, 82 degrees, with 10 to 15 mph winds, according to weather.com. That’s similar to this past Sunday’s game (sunny, 75 degrees, 9 mph winds at kickoff).

BETTING LINE

The 49ers are favored by 3 ½ points and the over/under point total is 45, according to BetMGM. This season, the 49ers are 3-0-1 against the spread, and they needed Purdy’s fourth-quarter touchdown sneak Sunday to cover their 14-point spread.

Prediction: 49ers 30, Cowboys 23

 

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