Cowboys, 49ers ‘fired up’ for tough playoff meeting

The Dallas Cowboys have Super Bowl dreams but perhaps the toughest matchup of all the home teams in the NFL Wild Card round.That’s because the NFC’s third seed drew the sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers in the late-afternoon window on Sunday. San Francisco boasts a strong running game and a stronger run defense. It enters with momentum after finishing a 10-7 season with seven wins in their last nine games.”We know we have a chance to do something special,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “You don’t get that opportunity every year. I’ve been on a number of teams that went to the Super Bowl… there’s a feeling and you want to make them count as long as you have them.”Some believe the 49ers’ chances of making a deep postseason run hinge on what Garoppolo does. The version of him that led a rally from a 17-0 second quarter deficit in a 27-24 overtime win at the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday can help San Francisco win multiple playoff games.Garoppolo connected on 23 of 32 passes for 316 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, spearheading an 88-yard touchdown drive in the final 90 seconds that forced overtime. And he did that with a thumb injury suffered in a Dec. 23 loss at Tennessee that will require surgery when the season ends.When asked about the thumb on Wednesday, Garoppolo said, “It was a little sore after the (Rams) game, but it’s feeling great right now.”The 49ers are seventh in the league in rushing at 127.4 yards per-game despite losing Raheem Mostert after two carries in the season opener with a knee injury. Rookie Elijah Mitchell returned from a December injury to average 102 yards per-game over his last two outings.San Francisco also expanded Deebo Samuel’s role when necessary, using him like Atlanta used Cordarrelle Patterson. In addition to his 1,405 receiving yards, Samuel rushed for 365 yards this season — good enough for second on the team — and led the club with eight rushing scores.But the game’s most intriguing portion figures to occur when Dallas (12-5) owns the ball. That’s because its high-powered offense must cope with a defense ranked second in the league against the rush and fifth in the league in sacks with 48.The good news for the Cowboys is that left tackle Tyron Smith has been activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and is expected to start. That should ease the mind of quarterback Dak Prescott, who will lean on Smith to keep the likes of Nick Bosa from disrupting his pocket.Prescott is coming off a highly efficient, highly productive performance in Dallas’ final regular season game. In a 51-26 road rout of Philadelphia on Jan. 8, Prescott completed 21 of 27 attempts for 295 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters and 22 seconds of action.