Cowboys face 49ers for record-tying 9th time in playoffs
DALLAS (13-5) at SAN FRANCISCO (14-4)
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK NFL LINE: 49ers by 3 1/2
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Cowboys 11-7; 49ers 12-6
SERIES RECORD: Cowboys lead 19-18-1
LAST MEETING: 49ers beat Cowboys 23-17 on Jan. 16, 2022, in wild-card round at Dallas.
LAST WEEK: Cowboys beat Buccaneers 31-14; 49ers beat Seahawks 41-23.
COWBOYS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (9), PASS (14), SCORING (4)
COWBOYS DEFENSE: OVERALL (12), RUSH (22), PASS (8), SCORING (5)
49ERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (5), RUSH (8), PASS (13), SCORING (6)
49ERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (1), RUSH (2), PASS (20), SCORING (1)
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Cowboys plus-10; 49ers plus-13.
COWBOYS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Tony Pollard is the closest thing Dallas has to Christian McCaffrey’s skillset. He has clearly become the primary threat over Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and might be the team’s best offensive player. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry to 2.1 for Elliott in the wild-card victory. Pollard has eight plays of at least 30 yards this season, and three of them are catches — all for touchdowns.
49ERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Brock Purdy will be trying to join Joe Flacco (2008) and Mark Sanchez (2009) as the only rookie QBs to win two playoff starts. Purdy is 6-0 as a starter and has thrown at least two TD passes in seven straight games. He threw for 332 yards and three TDs last week and also rushed for a score, becoming the first rookie to account for at least four touchdowns in a playoff game.
KEY MATCHUP: Dallas WR CeeDee Lamb vs. San Francisco CB Charvarius Ward. The Niners have frequently used Ward on No. 1 receivers this season to good results, but he did get beat deep for a 50-yard TD last week by Seattle’s DK Metcalf. If Ward can do a good job sticking close to Lamb that should give the pass rush extra time to get to Dak Prescott.
KEY INJURIES: Dallas LT Jason Peters is expected to be sidelined after injuring a hip against the Bucs. If so, the Cowboys would start the OL they settled on when eight-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith made his season debut in Week 15 coming off a torn hamstring and started on the right side instead of the left. Dallas decided at that time to leave rookie first-round pick Tyler Smith at LT. Peters’ injury meant the return of Connor McGovern to LG, where Tyler Smith started last week. ... S Jayron Kearse, a key piece in trying to defend against McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel, injured a knee against Tampa Bay but could play. ... DE Samson Ebukam and WR Jauan Jennings are expected to play for San Francisco despite being limited this week by ankle injuries.
SERIES NOTES: The teams are meeting for a record-tying ninth time in the playoffs with Dallas winning five of the previous eight. ... The Niners won last season’s matchup in the wild-card round. ... The only other matchups to happen nine times in the postseason are San Francisco-Green Bay and Dallas against the Rams. ... The Cowboys have won the past four road games in the series — all in the regular season — since a loss in 1997.
STATS AND STUFF: The Cowboys’ six-game losing streak in the divisional round is the longest since the 1970 merger. The most recent victory was the last of four in a row during the 1995 season, when Dallas won the most recent of its five Super Bowl titles. ... The win over the Bucs ended an eight-game road playoff losing streak for the Cowboys, which was tied for the second longest in NFL history. It came on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the previous road win, which was at San Francisco in an NFC championship game. ... Dallas’ 36 playoff victories are tied with Green Bay and Pittsburgh for second all time. New England leads with 37. ... QB Dak Prescott is the only NFL player with at least one passing touchdown and rushing score in four consecutive playoff games. He accounted for five TDs against the Bucs, the first Dallas QB to do that in a playoff game. Prescott improved to 2-3 in the postseason by beating Tom Brady and the Bucs and had career playoff bests in completions (25), completion rate (76%), yards (305), TDs (four) and passer rating (143.3). He ended a seven-game interception streak, the longest of his career. ... TE Dalton Schultz had the first two postseason touchdown catches of his career against Tampa Bay. He was the first Dallas TE with multiple TDs in a playoff game. He has led the Cowboys in catches and yards receiving in each of the past two postseason games. ... LB Micah Parsons, who is the third player since sacks became an official stat in 1982 to have at least 13 in each of his first two seasons, had his first career playoff sack against the Bucs. His eight pressures of Brady were the most in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus. ... LB Leighton Vander Esch returned against the Bucs after missing three games with a neck injury and had a team-best nine tackles with two pass breakups. He had 13 tackles in the wild-card loss to the 49ers last season. ... San Francisco is in the divisional round for the third time in four seasons, going to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season and the NFC title game last season. ... The Niners have made it to the conference title game or beyond in their past five playoff appearances. ... The 49ers became the second team ever to gain at least 500 yards, score 40 or more points and commit no turnovers in a playoff win. ... San Francisco has won 11 straight games for the first time since the 1997 season. The 49ers’ most recent winning streak longer than 11 games was an 18-gamer in 1989-90. ... San Francisco went 9-1 at home for its best home record since going 8-0 in 1998. ... San Francisco has a plus-191 point differential, including the postseason. ... The 49ers have had a positive turnover margin in nine straight games, the longest streak in a season since the 2000 Ravens did it in their final 11 games on the way to the Super Bowl title. ... The Niners were the sixth team since the merger to lead the league in the regular season in turnover margin, points allowed and yards allowed. Three of the previous five won the Super Bowl. ... San Francisco has scored at least 37 points in four straight games for the first time in a season since 1953. Only three teams have done it five in a row in a season in the past 90 seasons. ... San Francisco RB Christian McCaffrey scored at least one TD in seven straight games, the fifth-longest streak for the 49ers since the merger. ... Niners WR Deebo Samuel had 165 yards from scrimmage last week and averages 97.9 in his seven career playoff games.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL