Cowboys, 49ers meet again in postseason in wild-card round

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looks to throw against the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 9 in Inglewood, Calif. Sunday’s postseason meeting between the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys will be their first since the 1990s.

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Old playoff foes Dallas and San Francisco haven’t met in the postseason since the last of three consecutive NFC championship games in the 1990s.

The wild-card meeting Sunday is the first step toward a Super Bowl instead of the last, with Dak Prescott and the Cowboys (12-5) trying to get that far in the playoffs for the first time since the year after their rivalry with the 49ers was the biggest thing going in the NFL.

Prescott was the starter from the beginning of his rookie season in 2016, leading Dallas to the top seed in the NFC before a loss to Green Bay in his playoff debut at home. Now he’s the $40 million-a-year quarterback trying to get the storied franchise’s long-awaited run going in his third trip to the postseason.

“I don’t necessarily know why people have labeled the word ‘pressure’ as such a bad thing honestly,” Prescott said. “I think it creates high expectations and high standards, and they usually create high results.”

Jimmy Garoppolo and the visiting 49ers (10-7) are two years removed from losing to Kansas City in the Super Bowl. They needed a tense victory at the Los Angeles Rams in the finale to qualify for the playoffs while the Cowboys cruised late in the season as NFC East champs.

“We know we have a chance to do something special and it’s just you don’t get that opportunity every year,” said Garoppolo, who was Tom Brady’s backup for two of New England’s Super Bowl titles before getting his start against Patrick Mahomes when the Chiefs rallied in the fourth quarter for a 31-20 victory.

“And so I’ve been on a number of teams that went to the Super Bowl, and I’m not saying anything like that, but just there’s a feeling and you want to make them count as long as you have them I guess,” Garoppolo said.

Garoppolo knows every game from here on out could be his last with the 49ers. San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft Trey Lance third overall last spring, and it’s only a matter of time before the former North Dakota State quarterback gets his chance.

But each time Garoppolo helps lead the Niners to a win, it gives him another game this season and raises some questions about whether he could return in 2022 for the final year of his contract.

“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Garoppolo said. “It has been in mine really this whole season. I knew what type of season it was, knew everything that was going on behind the scenes and whatnot. So it was a little different. But, at the same time, you’ve got to toe that line because you don’t want to get too emotional in those moments.”

The Cowboys led the NFL in points and yards, but pockets of inconsistency led to about a month of chatter over whether Prescott was in a slump.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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