It's said by many to be the most intense rivalry in NFL history, and after a two-season break, the rivalry will be revived when the Cowboys host the 49ers in the first game of the 2014 regular season.
The rivalry dates back to the 1970s when the Cowboys knocked the 49ers out of the playoffs three consecutive years in 1970, 1971, and 1972.
The two teams never met again until the legendary 1981 NFC Championship. The Game. The Catch. The Cowboys trailed the 49ers 21-20 at the beginning of the 4th quarter. San Francisco fumbled and the Cowboys return it for a 21-yard TD. With just under five minutes to go, Joe Montana led the 49ers in an 83-yard run to the Cowboys' 6-yard line. 58 seconds left. Montana threw an almost too-high pass to wide receiver Dwight Clark, who just managed to snatch it down for the heartbreaking 28-27 victory.
Three-year NFC Championship series
The 49ers went on to win the Super Bowl that year, and again in 1985, 1989 and 1990. However, their mass success came to a screeching halt at the 1992 NFC Championship. The 49ers were coming off a 14-2 season, and the Cowboys were basking in the glory of new star quarterback Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith. The game was tied 10-10 at halftime, but the Cowboys forced two major turnovers in the second half, nipping away any chance San Francisco had at advancing.
In the 1993 NFC Championship, the result was more of the same. Dallas started off hot, scoring as many points in the 2nd quarter as the 49ers scored the entire game. The Cowboys came out on top with a 38-21 win.
The tides changed for the 49ers in the '94 season when they squared up against the Cowboys yet again at the NFC Championship. Aikman entered the game with a 7-0 win-loss record as a starter in the playoffs, and after two straight wins, odds were in the Cowboys' favor to win. But the 49ers came to play, forcing three turnovers in the 1st quarter and converting all three into touchdowns. The Cowboys never could quite recover and lost the game 38-28.
The strength of the rivalry at this time is that it seemed whoever won the NFC title game, went on to win the Super Bowl. It's also worth noting that the Cowboys and the 49ers are tied for the second most Super Bowl wins in history with five each (the Pittsburgh Steelers hold the record with six).
Dallas is coming off a dismal preseason run, and a tough rivalry game like this one may be the push they need to get the ball rolling. The Cowboys have won the past three matchups between the two rivals, and the all-time record stands tied at 16-16-1.
The game kicks off on Sunday at 3:25 p.m.