49ers worst moment ever? Try 1972 divisional game vs. Cowboys
By Peter Panacy
While the 49ers have had some storied moments over the Cowboys, one 1972 playoff matchup still stands as the worst in Niners history.
Newer generations of San Francisco 49ers fans may have a tough time agreeing with this. After all, the epic fourth-quarter meltdown versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV is fresh on Niners fans’ minds. And not long ago, that deflected fade pass in the end zone in the 2014 NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks made San Francisco fans cringe, too.
Let’s not talk about Super Bowl XLVII when running back Frank Gore should have gotten the handoff on the goal line.
But to identify the true No. 1 worst moment in 49ers history, one has to go back long before the franchise’s glory years of the 1980s.
At least according to FanSided, who just came out with each team’s worst moment in franchise history.
Their choice? The 1972 divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Yes, the rivalry between the Niners and Cowboys extends long before that one particular play we all remember in January of 1982.
49ers’ most heartbreaking fourth-quarter collapse
San Francisco, which finished 8-5-1 that season and first in the NFC West, got off to a hot start in that December game, leading 21-3 in the second quarter. Dallas made things interesting before halftime, cutting the deficit and making it 21-13 in favor of the 49ers. But the Niners answered back early in the third, tacking on another touchdown and taking a commanding 28-13 lead.
“They were laughing at us. Making fun of us during the game,” Cowboys safety Charlie Waters told ESPN. “They were really enjoying having the upper hand on us. They didn’t think there was any way (we’d come back) — because our offense was sputtering. We were doing absolutely nothing.”
Unfortunately, those would be the final points San Francisco would score.
Still holding that lead entering the fourth quarter, Cowboys Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry decided to make a key decision: benching his starting quarterback, Craig Morton, and sending in another future Hall of Famer, Roger Staubach, to replace him.
Well, the switch worked out perfectly for Dallas. Not so much for the 49ers.
Staubauch would helm a fourth-quarter comeback, which included a much-needed Dallas field goal, but was highlighted by him going 12 of 20 through the air for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
And the Cowboys would win 30-28.
Making things worse, the Niners had lost two consecutive playoff games to Dallas in 1970 and 1971 before the ultimate heartbreak in 1972, forever cementing the heated rivalry between these two squads.
At least the 49ers would get their vengeance against Landry and the Cowboys just over nine years later.