After beating the Seahawks in Game 1, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was a little bit miffed that his team didn’t get more national attention.
That won’t be a problem this Sunday.
Beat the Dallas Cowboys – America’s Team, Jerry Jones’ team, the NFL’s wealthiest franchise – at Candlestick Park and the Niners should get all the attention they can handle.
Yet while these aren’t the Cowboys of the past, beating the Cowboys of 2011 presents its own challenges.
The Cowboys, who lost to the Jets in their opener, 27-24, are three-point favorites for Sunday’s matchup.
After one game, Dallas ranks No. 10 overall in the NFL in offense and No. 6 in passing offense. Quarterback Tony Romo is inconsistent, yet dangerous. Against the Jets, he completed 23-of-36 throws for 342 yards, and presents a far more effective passing threat than the Seahawks’ Tarvaris Jackson did last week.
Romo, however, took the blame for the Game 1 loss after committing two costly turnovers, a fumble at New York’s 2-yard line and an interception in the final minute that set up the Jets’ winning field goal.
In a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week, Romo vowed to eliminate such mistakes, saying he needs to “make sure that what happened last week doesn’t happen again.”
Though the 49ers defense in Game 1 had good success in stunting Seattle’s passing game, the Cowboys are a different story. With Romo throwing and receivers such as Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, and tight end Jason Witten, Dallas can move the ball through the air. That trio of receivers combined for 14 catches, 271 yards and two TDs last week.
The 49ers may again be without safety Dashon Goldson, who has had limited participation in practice this week. He was replaced in the lineup by Madieu Williams against the Seahawks.
Offensively, the 49ers hope to get their running game on track. Against Seattle, Frank Gore carried 22 times for just 59 yards. But opening running lanes against Dallas’ quick, 3-4 defense – anchored by elite pass rusher DeMarcus Ware – may be difficult. In the passing game, the 49ers may again be without wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who had to come out of last Sunday’s game with a foot injury and has been limited this week.
Though Dallas and San Francisco have had some classic matchups in the past, including several playoff games in the 1980s and 1990s, the teams haven’t met since 2008, when Dallas won 35-22.
When Harbaugh was asked this week if Sunday’s game is a benchmark game for his team, he told reporters: “Definitely, definitely,” but added they’re all important. Harbaugh says teams have 16 “one-game seasons” in the NFL.
But a win in this one will get a few more eyes on his team.