The moment the NFL released its 2014 schedule and I saw that my beloved San Francisco 49ers were opening the season in Dallas against the team I hate most in all of sports, the Cowboys, I knew I was going to watch it at a sports book in Las Vegas. And so it came to pass that I spent Sunday afternoon sitting at the Umami Burger/sports book at the new SLS hotel, screaming at Dallas fans and watching the Niners deal the Cowboys the ass-whupping they so richly, eternally deserve. Let’s hand out some awards for that performance.
The Eric Davis Award (Player Who Breaks the Cowboys With an Early Return Touchdown): Chris Culliver
For those who don’t remember, the Niners played the Cowboys in three consecutive NFC Championship games from 1993 to 1995. The Cowboys won the first two of those games, and the Niners bounced back to win the third, in San Francisco, on the way to their last Super Bowl title. On the third play of that game, Niners cornerback Eric Davis intercepted a Troy Aikman pass and ran it back up the right sideline for a 44-yard touchdown that set the tone for a 21-point first quarter outburst that effectively buried the turnover-prone Cowboys. Yesterday, on the second play of the game, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray fumbled, and Niners cornerback Chris Culliver picked up the ball and ran it back up the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown that set the tone for a 21-point first quarter outburst that effectively buried the turnover-prone Cowboys. Sometimes it’s a good thing when history repeats itself.
The Joe Montana Award (Coolest Player on the Field): Colin Kapernick
As I wrote in my season preview, I think the Niners’ chances this season mostly boil down to whether Kaepernick can be an elite, MVP-level QB or not. Well, he looked pretty great on Sunday, assertively throwing the ball downfield to several different receivers, completing 16 of 23 attempts for 201 yards, and making a classic Kaepernick highlight play, evading a sack and throwing a dart of a 29-yard touchdown to Vernon Davis. Kaep took more hits than I’d like, and I think we have to be a little concerned about the offensive line, but for one week, all is well with the Niners QB.
The Justin Smith Award (Big Guy Who Breaks Things): Justin Smith
There are a lot of questions about the Niners defense coming into this season, due to the injury to NaVorro Bowman and the suspension of Aldon Smith. But the Niners still have Patrick Willis, who picked off a Romo pass in the end zone, and Justin Smith, who had two sacks, dominated the line of scrimmage, and generally looked like the Justin Smith we’ve gotten used to watching the last few years. If the 35-year-old defensive tackle still has something left in the tank, it’d go a long way toward making up for the absences of Bowman and Aldon Smith.
The Emmett Smith Award (Most Hated Opponent): Jerry Jones
The Cowboys looked truly pathetic in that game. Everyone knew their defense was going to be bad this year, but coming into the game, I was worried that the Niners were going to get sucked into a shootout, as San Francisco’s defense has serious depth issues thanks to injuries and suspensions. Well, Dallas’ defense was just as bad as we expected, but their offense looked wretched, too. Tony Romo made terrible decision after terrible decision, throwing three picks, and I thought he looked like a guy who was scared of getting hit (it’s pretty reasonable for someone who had back surgery recently to not really want to get hit by 300-pound defensive linemen). Frankly, it was comical, an aspect that Deadspin picked up on.
Do I have any sympathy for Romo? Absolutely not. He plays for the Cowboys, so as far as I’m concerned, there is no level of suffering and indignity great enough for him. But as much as I enjoyed watching the Cowboys get publicly degraded and humiliated on national TV (with Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth, no less), I’m mad at Jerry Jones, the nutball Dallas owner who assembled this pathetic roster, because I can’t tell if Sunday’s game should make me feel great about the Niners prospects this season (I’m one of the few people who is unreservedly on the Niners bandwagon this year), or if I have to chalk Sunday’s result up to the possibility that the Cowboys might be the worst team in the NFL. Screw you, Jerry Jones, you senile, hooker-mongering, inept douchebag.
The Double Down Trent Award (Grown Man Who Behaves Like a Complete Jackass in Public) : Justin Goldman
That’s right, I’m giving myself an award. Every time any group of guys goes to Vegas, the Swingers references inevitably start flying. Vegas, baby. Vegas. But the Swingers scene that’s relevant for this award isn’t the Vegas one. It’s this one.
Why? Because when I was in the sports book, surrounded by fat Cowboys fans, watching the Niners just tear their team a new asshole in the first half, I was pretty much behaving like this the entire time. Standing on my table, screaming at the top of my lungs, being the asshole in the bar. It was glorious. By the time it was over, I needed a post-coital cigarette.
Overall Rating For This Game (On a scale of Zero to Twelve Anchors, in honor of San Francisco’s favorite beverage): 8 Anchors
Normally only a playoff win would get an eight Anchor rating or higher. But I hate the Cowboys so much—more than every other sports franchise combined, and I hate a lot of sports franchises—and that was such a thorough dismantling that I don’t even care that it was a Week One rout of a team that’s probably going 4-12. That was everything I want out of a Niners-Cowboys game