Tom Brady was 4 years old when he watched one of the greatest plays in NFL history. Brady, the Patriots‘ future Hall of Fame quarterback, was part of the Candlestick Park crowd that cheered as 49ers quarterback Joe Montana delivered the game-winning touchdown pass to Dwight Clark — a play that lives in infamy as “The Catch” — that propelled San Francisco to victory over the Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. The 49ers would win their first of five Super Bowl titles two weeks later, while the Cowboys would go another 11 years without a Super Bowl win.
Brady, a West Coast native who will face the Cowboys this Sunday in a matchup between two division leaders, alluded to his previous life as a 49ers fan this week when asked about Sunday’s showdown with Dallas.
“I’ve really not liked the Cowboys since coming out of the womb,” a smiling Brady told reporters, via ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss.
Brady was a teenager when the 49ers-Cowboys rivalry dominated the NFL landscape in the early to mid-1990s. Arguably the best two teams in football during that span, they faced off in the NFC Championship Game each year from 1992-94, with the Cowboys winning the first two matchups before the 49ers dethroned them before winning their fifth and most recent Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys,” Brady said of the Cowboys. “They’ve had a great winning organization, and a lot of great players in their history,” he said. “As a Niners fan, you play the Cowboys, and every time they’d hand off to Emmitt Smith it would be a five-yard gain and you’d pull your hair out. Throw it up to Michael Irvin, and Troy [Aikman] was such a great player. The defense — Ken Norton and ‘Prime Time’ [Deion Sanders]. So the history of great players, the tradition.”
Brady has made his own history against the Cowboys. He owns a 4-0 record against Dallas, with the Patriots outscoring the Cowboys in those games, 110-49. The only close game against the Cowboys took place in Week 6 of the 2011 season, when Brady threw a last-minute touchdown pass to give New England a 20-16 victory.
Brady’s most memorable win against Dallas took place four years earlier. With Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo on the opposite sideline, Brady stole the show at old Texas Stadium, throwing for 388 yards and five touchdown passes in the Patriots’ 48-27 victory. The win was the sixth in what would be a perfect regular season for Brady and the Patriots, who were denied a rematch with the Cowboys after the eventual champion Giants upset Dallas in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
A dozen years later, Brady is now in pursuit of his seventh Super Bowl victory as New England’s signal caller. The Cowboys, 6-4 through 10 games, are still in pursuit of their first Super Bowl win since their epic battles against the 49ers that Brady watched decades earlier.
While Brady (based on Wednesday’s comment) would surely love to cap off his career with a Super Bowl win over his childhood nemesis, a win against the Cowboys this Sunday will have to do for now.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us,” Brady said of facing the Cowboys. “I love the opportunity to compete against great teams this time of year as Thanksgiving approaches. It means a lot for both teams.”