Every Sunday night during football season at 5:13 pm, Carrie Underwood sings about how she’s been waiting all day for Sunday night.
This Sunday night, however, the NBC football anthem will have a little more oomph to it as Underwood won’t just be getting America ready for a football game; she’ll be getting America ready for THE football game.
The San Francisco 49ers host the Dallas Cowboys in the latest chapter of the most iconic rivalry in NFL history. From Bill Walsh and Tom Landry to George Seifert and Jimmy Johnson to now with Kyle Shanahan and Mike McCarthy, the red of the 49ers and the blue of the Cowboys has stayed the same.
As the 49ers look to win a third consecutive game against Dallas for the first time since 1995, here are the numbers to know for Sunday night:
Snaps. Cowboys’ WR CeeDee Lamb has taken 150 of his 220 snaps this season out of the slot.
Lamb was primarily a slot receiver in his rookie season, playing 86 percent of his snaps out of the slot. But over the last two years, Lamb has been used more out wide, taking 61.2 percent of his snaps in 2021 and 46.3 percent in 2022 on the boundaries.
It’s even different from what the 49ers have seen in its two playoff wins over Dallas the last two seasons, where Lamb only played 33 of his 115 snaps out of the slot. 29 of those 33 slot snaps came in last season’s Divisional Round, where he finished with ten receptions for 117 yards with Jimmie Ward in the slot - although 46 of those yards came on one play against Deommodore Lenoir out wide.
Lamb will be Isaiah Oliver’s toughest test of the early season. Oliver has been targeted 16 times on the season, allowing 13 receptions for 77 yards - 5.9 yards per reception - with an interception and no touchdowns allowed out of the slot. His 60.7 passer rating against in the slot is second in the league (minimum 60 slot snaps), trailing only Kenny Moore, who leads the league with a passer rating against of 59.4.
Oliver and Lamb have only faced each other once in 2020, where Lamb finished with one reception on one target for 12 yards when lined up against Oliver.
Explosive plays allowed. The Cowboys’ defense has allowed 15 explosive plays (runs of 10 or more yards and receptions of 20 or more yards), tied with the Lions for the third-fewest allowed.
Explosive plays allowed on defense through 4 weeks of the season. pic.twitter.com/wdxThxJFHt— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) October 5, 2023
Christian McCaffrey’s explosive runs alone - 14 - almost tops what Dallas has allowed through four weeks this season, with the entirety of the 49ers offense responsible for 33 such plays. The 49ers offense ranks in the top-three in yards, points, and yards per play and has scored at least 30 points in each of its first four games.
The 49ers will face a test in the Cowboys’ defense that it hasn’t faced all season. The best defense the 49ers have faced this season - at least in terms of yards - has been the Rams, who rank ninth in yards allowed per game. The 49ers other three opponents - Pittsburgh, Arizona, and the Giants - rank in the league’s bottom half in terms of yards allowed.
Not only does Dallas prevent big plays and yards in general - second-best - but it’s only allowed a league-low 41 points, a full two touchdowns less than the second-place Buffalo Bills.
However, just like the 49ers offense hasn’t faced a defense like Dallas, the Cowboys haven’t faced an offense with as many weapons as the 49ers offense has. Deebo Samuel has seven explosive plays - five receptions and two rushes - with Brandon Aiyuk not far behind with six receptions going for 20 yards or more.
Something will have to give on Sunday night.
Record. The 49ers are 19-19-1 all-time against the Cowboys (including playoffs).
Sunday night will be the rubber match - barring a tie - between the two franchises that carried the NFL through the 80s and 90s. From 1980 to 1997, 13 of the 18 NFC Championship Games featured either the 49ers or Cowboys, with four featuring both teams, including three consecutive Championship Games from 1992-1994. The 49ers hold the longest winning streak in the matchup, winning six in a row from 1981 until 1990, right after Dallas won five consecutively from 1972 to 1980.
Under Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers are 2-2 against Dallas. The Cowboys beat the 49ers in 2017 and 2020, both seasons where San Francisco finished 6-10. However, Shanahan’s wins came when it counted, with the 49ers ending the Cowboys season in the playoffs in the last two seasons. It’s the first time in the history of the rivalry the 49ers have won consecutive playoff games against Dallas.