The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers have been battling on NFL fields for some time now, six decades this year to be exact.
Playing their first-ever game against each other in 1960, the Niners-Cowboys rivalry game is one most fans have circled on their calendars especially since they do not get to meet every season. In total, the two franchises have played 29 regular-season games and seven games against one another in the postseason. As of today, the Cowboys hold a solitary win over their rivals with the all-time head-to-head standing at 18-17-1 in favor of Dallas.
San Francisco has recently enjoyed more success, including a Super Bowl run. But the last time two franchises met the Cowboys embarrassed the 49ers with a 40-10 mauling, in Levi's Stadium no less. Though their last meeting was one-sided, the historic rivalry has not been without memorable moments. And from those moments, there are a few that stand out as truly iconic and savage.
So before the 49ers get their shot at revenge and tying the all-time record, here's a list of the most savage 49ers-Cowboys rivalry moments.
Special mention: Postseason and NFC Championship games
Although not necessarily a singular moment, nothing puts gas on a rivalry more than playing games with higher stakes, and the NFL postseason is as high-stakes as it gets.
In the history of their feud, the Cowboys and 49ers have met in the postseason seven times with Dallas holding the winning record at 5-2. Out of these games, the two teams have battled it out for a trip to the Super Bowl six times.
The two teams met in back-to-back NFC Championship games in 1971 and 1972 and another in 1981, where one of the greatest moments of the rivalry and the league played out. But out of all their meetings, nothing comes close to the trilogy of Conference title games they had in the 1990s.
The Cowboys and Niners would dominate the NFL for a four-year stretch from 1993-1996. The two franchises would run the show, splitting Lombardi Trophies in those four seasons, three for Dallas and one for San Francisco. The crazy part? They had to play each other three times to get to the Super Bowl. And even more unbelievable, whichever team won the NFC Championship would eventually go on to win the Super Bowl in three straight years.
Runner-up: 1985 NFL Draft, 49ers trading two pick to move up to 16 to steal Jerry Rice from the Cowboys, who picked 17th.
3. Deion defects to Dallas
This definitely was one moment that got people talking. Fresh off a Championship season with the 49ers, it wasn't a great time for 1994 Defensive Player of the Year Deion Sanders. After he outgrew his welcome in San Francisco, Sanders, who only a year prior left the team that drafted him to play for the 49ers, entered free agency looking for a brand new home.
Multiple teams ended up courting the star defensive back but he would end up signing with who wanted him more. And no one would come close to Texas billionaire Jerry Jones. After losing out on a possible third-straight Lombardi trophy, Jones and his Cowboys would complete one of the greatest defections in NFL rivalry history. That season, the Dallas Cowboys would win their third title in four years and Sanders would become one of only a handful of players to ever win back-to-back rings with different teams.
2. T.O. stomps the Star
In September of the 2000 season, Terrell Owens and the San Francisco 49ers had a memorable trip to Texas Stadium, to say the least. After scoring a touchdown, Owens rushed to the famous Dallas Star in midfield and stood there with his arms out wide, staring up to the sky. Owens has since claimed he didn't mean any disrespect, though what happened next might prove him otherwise.
The Cowboys would respond with an Emmitt Smith touchdown run and as soon as he scored, Smith ran to the middle of the field, knelt on the Star, and stared down the San Francisco bench. As we all know him, Owens would not be outdone. After scoring another touchdown, Owens would again make his way to midfield but this time Dallas' George Teague wouldn't let hime get away with it.
As Owens set foot on the Star, Teague rushed in and hit him, sending the star receiver to ground. But of course, Owens would get right back up and stomp on the Star once again. Savage, indeed.
1. The Catch
How could this not take the top spot?
Led by legendary quarterback Joe Montana, the San Francisco 49ers faced off against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship, the third time the franchises met for a shot at the Super Bowl.
The 49ers were up, 21-17, heading into the fourth and were one quarter away from taking down the Dallas power house. The momentum, however, would quickly shift as the Cowboys scored 10 unanswered points, one field goal and an easy touchdown coming off 49ers fumble. On the very next drive, the Dallas defense would force another turnover, this time picking off a Montana pass.
But they didn't call him “The Comeback Kid” for nothing.
After a couple of plays on their next offensive drive, Dallas punted the ball away, setting the stage for one of the most legendary drives in football history. In just under four minutes, Montana would proceed to march the 49ers offense 83 yards in 13 plays. With 58 seconds left in the game, the Niners had a 3rd and three on Dallas' six-yard line.
The original plan was to run a play they had used earlier in the game that led to a Freddie Solomon touchdown. This time, however, Solomon failed his route and was not open for the potential score. Even worse, the 49ers offensive line crumbled and let three Cowboys into their backfield.
With Montana backpedaling and heading for the sideline, the game and the shot at a title seemed lost, until what happened next. Under extreme pressure from the Dallas defense, Montana would throw a lofting past into the end zone, where Dwight Clark would catch the ball by the tip of his fingers. The extra point was good and the rest is history.
San Francisco would go on to win the the Super Bowl and would continue to have a great run through the 1980s, winning three more rings. Dallas wouldn't be as fortunate. They would not return to the big game for the rest of the decade and would cap it off with a franchise-worst 1-15 season in 1989.
“The Catch” is still considered as one of the greatest moments in NFL history and not only was the individual play unforgettable, but the contrast in records and championships from that point on is what made this moment truly savage.