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Published Oct. 2, 2005

WHO: Dallas (4-4) at San Francisco (7-1).

WHEN/WHERE: 4 p.m. Sunday; 3Com Park, San Francisco.

TV: Ch.


THE RUB: This is a game of chance. It's the first chance to see if San Francisco is real after easily winning seven straight against the weak NFC West. It may be the last chance for Dallas to salvage a season spiraling out of control. The Cowboys have lost three of four, and after this week they have Washington, Green Bay, Carolina and the New York Giants on their schedule. The 49ers' victories are against teams with a combined 9-24 record, so though Dallas is not what it used to be, the game still is a stern test.

WHAT DALLAS NEEDS: To drive the ball inside the opponents' 20-yard line and continue on to a TD. Dallas had four trips inside the Philadelphia 20 on Sunday and came up with only 12 points. Philadelphia won on a last-minute TD. Backup QB Wade Wilson was at the helm after Troy Aikman was knocked out with a mild concussion. Aikman expects to play Sunday. Dallas' solid defensive effort, particularly against the run, must continue.

WHAT SAN FRANCISCO NEEDS: A good rushing attack. If it can keep the defense honest with Garrison Hearst and Terry Kirby, Steve Young can be more effective. Young is the league's top-rated passer with a 113.7 rating, and the rushing attack is the best in the conference. The defense simply needs to maintain. Opponents are averaging 218.3 yards, nearly 100 below the league average.