Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy expresses confidence ahead of divisional round game: ‘I really like being the underdog’

The Dallas Cowboys‘ 2021 season came to a disappointing end when the team lost 23-17 In the wild-card round of the playoffs.

This weekend, the Cowboys travel to California for a matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Dallas will be looking to even the score after being knocked out of last year’s playoffs by San Francisco.

“Most definitely, I [wanted the rematch],” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said, via the team’s website. “I think this whole team did. Obviously, using that loss last year as a motivation and just kind of the focal point of the resiliency that we carried into the offseason, [that we] carried into this year.”

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Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy watches play against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a game in Arlington, Texas, Nov. 25, 2021.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy watches play against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of a game in Arlington, Texas, Nov. 25, 2021.
(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Last postseason, the 49ers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead the Cowboys could not recover from despite a fourth-quarter rally.

Prescott added that he welcomes the challenge of playing at Levi’s Stadium Sunday instead of the friendly confines of AT&T Stadium. “Yeah, we get a chance to go back and, at their place, do something that we want to do,” Prescott noted.

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On Friday, Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy described last year’s playoff defeat as a “sacred wound.”

Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons said some of the issues that came about during the game were self-inflicted.

“I really think we beat ourselves last year with the penalties, the offsides, things like that,” Parsons said. “If you just play your game — the biggest misconception is that you have to go out there and be different, that you have to go out there and try to out-physical a team, that you want to play their game.

“Why play their game? Play your game. Let’s play Dallas football. That’s all we got to do.”

Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, left, looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFC wild-card playoff game at AT and T Stadium Jan. 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas.

Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, left, looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFC wild-card playoff game at AT and T Stadium Jan. 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas.
(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Cowboys had a second consecutive 12-win regular season, but the franchise has not experienced a great deal of postseason success over the last two decades.

The Cowboys have made the playoffs three out of the last five seasons but have not advanced to the NFC championship game since the 1995 season, the last time the franchise captured a Super Bowl title.

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The Cowboys enter Sunday’s contest in Santa Clara as underdogs against the No. 2 seed 49ers. 

But McCarthy said he has an unwavering confidence despite his team not being favored.

“We’re very comfortable in this position,” McCarthy said of being underdogs. “We’re clearly going there expecting to win. Make no bones about that.”

Dallas Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse (27) runs in the end zone after his interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL wild-card football game, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. 

Dallas Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse (27) runs in the end zone after his interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL wild-card football game, Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. 
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The Niners are riding an 11-game winning streak with a strong defense and rookie quarterback Brock Purdy’s veteran-like play.

Purdy was selected with the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft and stepped in after veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a foot injury.

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Parsons said he enjoys being an underdog.

“When you’re already at the bottom, you can only go up. I really like being the underdog,” he said. 

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