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Memory of playoff loss to 49ers still fuels Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, Micah Parsons

The playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers has fueled Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott for the past eight months.

He thought about it during off-season workouts. And during mini-camps when the Cowboys implemented a new offense.

Still, he seethes.

The loss also consumed star defensive end Micah Parsons. For Prescott and Parsons to erase the sting of last year’s 19-12 playoff loss and the 23-17 postseason loss in 2021, each needs to be a difference-maker Sunday against the 49ers.

“I mean, we’re so far past that, to be honest with you, that’s obvious,” said Prescott when asked if the losses motivate him after the Cowboys blew out New England 38-3. “You just want to piss me off going into this week, and I appreciate that. I do, actually. I do. I appreciate that.”

So, the loss is a motivator?

“Every day,” Prescott said. “Every day.”

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dallas cowboys dak prescott against the san francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Prescott passed for 206 yards on 37 attempts with a touchdown and two interceptions. San Francisco sacked him once and hit him four times.

Parsons, second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season behind the 49ers Nick Bosa, didn’t control the game like he did so many others during 2022.

Parsons, who had 13.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss, had four tackles in the playoff loss. He did not record a sack or a tackle for loss.

He has four sacks, six tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery this season. He disrupts plays and destroys game plans. Parsons knows he must play at the highest level to beat the 49ers and their multi-faceted run game.

The 49ers gained only 113 yards rushing last year, but they ran it 32 times. Dallas never made the 49ers give up on its running game.

“This is a playoff game. This is something you look forward to. It’s going to be a test. It’s going to be back and forth,” Micah Parsons told reporters. “It’s going to go down to the wire. It’s almost a rivalry at this point. It is going to be super exciting.”

Prescott and Parsons know the road to the Super Bowl means the Cowboys must deal with San Francisco or Philadelphia. They play them a total of three times this season.

Whatever happens Sunday, the Cowboys still have 12 games to play.  But they would already be two games behind San Francisco, and the 49ers would own the tie-breaker, if the ‘Boys lose. 

Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott trying to erase negative narrative

And they would potentially be two games behind Philadelphia if they beat the Rams on the road.

“It’s an important game,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “You understand the history, and there is obviously a lot of tradition with this game. That’s all part of it. 

“You live to play in these kinds of games. You dream to play in these types of games. You don’t want to make it bigger than it is, but the reality is it’s not just another game.”

For Prescott, it’s about stopping the narrative that he’s not an upper-echelon quarterback or can’t win big games.

He already has same number of playoff wins as Tony Romo, but Cowboys’ quarterbacks are judged by the standard established by Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach: Championships.

Aikman won three, and Staubach won two.

“We’ve played them in the playoffs,” said Prescott, “and we understand it’s a team that if we get to where we want to get, we have to play them again, come playoffs. I look forward to the matchup.” 

Jean-Jacques Taylor is an NFL Insider for Sportsnaut and the author of the upcoming book “Coach Prime“, with Deion Sanders. Follow him on Twitter.

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