In sports there are rivalries that run thicker than blood. And football rivalries are in a sense more raw than other sports rivalries. There seems to be much more at stake.
One of the most talked about football rivalries is that of the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. It is a rivalry that has a rich and lustrous past. Both teams were dominate in the 80s, creating such magical moments as “the catch,” making the 49ers and Cowboys almost titans in the 90s and into today. When Terrell Owens celebrated his touchdowns at midfield on the Cowboy’s star logo, it only stirred bad blood that had been festering for some time.
And even though both teams have had their low points in each franchise recently, it is apparent this rivalry still exists today.
Fans already created a rumbling through Monster Park’s corridors on week three of the 2005 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys were playing the San Francisco 49ers at San Francisco. Even though it was early in the season and both teams were still finding out where they stand in the league, the atmosphere was as boisterous as a playoff or even a Super Bowl game.
Before kickoff, the tempo in the stadium rose as the players motioned to the crowd to stand up and get loud.
It got loud. And louder. And even louder. As the game went on, it did not slow down. When the Cowboys went on the field offensively, it got even louder.
The Cowboys started the game conservatively, which led to problems, moving the ball only so far yet not far enough to score. The 49ers scored on the ensuing drive on a 15 yard pass from Quarterback Tim Rattay to Arnaz Battle. The second quarter started with a bang for the 49ers that seemed as though they would blow this game out of the water.
The Cowboys marched down the field and scored a touchdown off a 6 yard run by Bledsoe. Cowboys Kicker Jose Cortez — a one time 49er — missed the extra point. After the play, offensive guard Larry Allen got into Cortez’s face and teammates had to separate Allen from Cortez. The atmosphere got even crazier when the 49ers came back with a huge strike from Rattay to Wide Receiver Brandon Lloyd on an 89 yard touchdown pass.
At this point, the aggressive play calling by the 49ers showed this just wasn’t a normal game. The 49ers had something to prove, and they showed they were ready for a dogfight.
The next drive for Bledsoe and the Cowboys ended in only confusion, as San Francisco safety Tony Parrish ran back a 34-yard interception for a touchdown. At this point it was 21-6 San Francisco mid-second quarter.
Bledsoe led his team on the next drive, going downfield and ending a drive with an impressive touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten. An attempted two point conversion failed, which gave the 49ers more than three minutes to come back.
The Rattay led a 13 play drive that ate much of the time off the clock, but could not convert in the red zone. The 49ers settled with a field goal, and at half time it was 24-12 San Francisco.
At this point, many of the San Francisco fans were eating up the spotlight. The game seemed to be going their way, with the 49ers being able to answer back any scoring attempt the Cowboys made. But one thing true 49er fans have seen recently is the sluggish way they play in the second half. So even though there was excitement, there was a sense of anxiety to get this game over with.Boy, were the 49er fans right.
The second half started with the 49ers going 3 and out, punting to a Cowboys team looking like they had something to prove and reeling to get back into the game.
After the punt, Bledsoe led the Cowboys on a 10 play drive with a 1 yard run touchdown run by running back Julius Jones.
After punts from both sides, the 49ers fumbled away the ball, giving the Cowboys a sigh of relief and a chance to take the lead. But the Cowboys turned it back over to the 49ers with another Parrish interception. The 49ers scored on a 13 yard touchdown pass from Rattay to Lloyd. San Francisco 31 Dallas 19 ended the 3rd quarter.
But the 4th quarter is where the magic began, the magic that has fueled this rivalry since the beginning of these two-storied franchises’ constant skirmishes.
The Cowboys came down the field and scored at the beginning of the quarter on another 1 yard touchdown run by Jones.
The next drive worked against the 49ers, as Rattay threw an interception into the hands of Dallas linebacker Al Singleton, yet the Cowboys could not convert the turnover to points. Both teams punted it away as time began to wind down. At 31-26 San Francisco, everyone was on edge since all the Cowboys needed was a touchdown to take over the game.
And score the Cowboys did on a long drive that ended in a 14-yard clutch touchdown pass from Bledsoe to wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. Johnson, whose catch looked so familiar to past clutch catches by former future hall of fame Wide Receiver Jerry Rice, even acknowledged that the catch looked similar.
“I think it’s taken out of Jerry Rice back in the day,” Johnson said to reporters after the game.
The Cowboys took more than four minutes off the clock and took the lead with a successful two-point conversion, leaving the score 34-31 Dallas and less than two minutes for the 49ers to score.
The 49ers started the drive sharp, but it soon ended when Dallas linebacker Dat Nguyen intercepted the ball with 1 minute remaining, closing any chance of a late 49er comeback that we have seen in the past. Final Score: Dallas Cowboys 34, San Francisco 49ers 31.
Out of nowhere Monster Park seemed to be filled with Cowboy fans, as the crowd seemingly changed like a chameleon from red to blue. The Heckling 49er fans who had been basking in the glory all afternoon were now leaving the stands trudging their feet with each step up the stair, their heads hung low. The Cowboys fans had the last laugh, turning Monster Park into a home away from home for the Cowboys players.
The game ending on a rallied comeback says something about this rivalry. It is alive and well, still surviving after all these years. The players may have changed, but to the fans the rivalry hasn’t. It was a dogfight till the end, with Dallas walking away the victor and looking down at a stunned San Francisco team.