'Boys - 49ers Preview & Prediction

The 49ers are 3-26 since 2003 when playing a road game that starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

GAMEDATE: 11/23/08

SURFACE: Sportfield Realgrass

TV: FOX (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver)

SERIES: 25th regular-season meeting. The 49ers lead 14-9-1. The clubs have also met seven times in the playoffs, with the Cowboys winning five of those matchups. They last met in 2005 with the Cowboys pulling out a 34-31 victory at Candlestick Park.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The 49ers are tied for the league lead with 47 plays of at least 20 yards. They'll need those types of explosive plays just to keep pace Sunday. San Francisco will give RB Frank Gore plenty of touches early on in an attempt to take the teeth out of Dallas' pass rush. QB Shaun Hill gets rid of the ball quickly and is accurate, but he does work better in the short passing game - 15 of his 20 passes last Sunday went less than 10 yards in the air. ... Cowboys QB Tony Romo should be sharper in his second start back from his broken right pinky, although he will again wear the small splint that prevented him from getting a good grip on the ball a few times last Sunday. Dallas needs to continue to lean on RB Marion Barber and the ground game because the pass protection leaves much to be desired. Also look for Romo to incorporate WR Roy Williams more in the downfield passing game as the two develop better timing.

INJURIES: 49ers: WR Arnaz Battle (foot) is questionable; WR Josh Morgan (groin) is likely out. Cowboys: Austin (knee) is out; Jones (hamstring) appears unlikely to play.

NEED TO KNOW: The 49ers are 3-26 since 2003 when playing a road game that starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time. ... Cowboys WR Terrell Owens is second in 49ers franchise history with 592 receptions for 8,572 yards and 81 touchdowns from 1996-2003.

49ERS PERSONNEL NEWS: LB Patrick Willis missed his second consecutive day of practice Thursday with the flu. He was held out of Wednesday's work with a hip strain. But coach Mike Singletary said Willis will be in the starting lineup Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Willis is the 49ers' leading tackler, and he ranks second in the league with 90 tackles, according to statistics taken from the gamebooks.

--CB Walt Harris will likely get matched up on Dallas WR Roy Williams on Sunday. When Williams was with the Detroit Lions earlier in the season, Harris held Williams to two catches for 18 yards. Harris is coming off his best game of the season. After the review of the coaches' film, Harris was credited with five tackles, a sack, three passes broken up and one interception against the St. Louis Rams.

--RS Allen Rossum ranks fourth in the NFL with a 27.9-yard average on 38 kickoff returns. His 1,061 yards on returns is the most in the league. He also has done a strong job on punt returns with a 16.9 average, but with only eight returns, he does not have enough to qualify for the league's lead.

--RG Tony Wragge might lose his starting job, but 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz said it has nothing to do with Wragge's performance. He said the feeling is that rookie Chilo Rachal has a chance to be "special." Wragge started the 49ers' first 10 games of the season.

--WR Josh Morgan is expected to miss several more weeks with a badly strained groin. He sustained the injury Nov. 10 against the Arizona Cardinals, and missed last week's game. "Before he got hurt, he was really starting to be what we hoped and thought he might be," 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz said.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: WR Terrell Owens returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday with the flu.

--TE Jason Witten is still playing with a broken rib. He said, "It's getting better. It's just like a broken bone, it takes time, but I felt a lot better in the Washington game than I did obviously in the Giants. I just got to keep pressing forward with it and hopefully I won't take too many direct shots at it. But don't really have an option with two games in five days."

--WR Roy Williams was not with the team when Pacman Jones was around before his suspension. But now that Jones is coming back, Williams said he hopes he doesn't become a distraction.

"Hopefully he isn't a distraction," Williams said. "I don't know him. We're going to keep on truckin'. We can't let him pull us back. We're going to keep going, and he's going to have to catch up with us."

--QB Tony Romo passed for just 198 yards and threw two interceptions against the Redskins in his first game back from a broken finger. Owner Jerry Jones said Romo might have been rusty but he got the job done just like he always does.

"I particularly liked his ability to figure out a way to do it and adjust," Jones said. "He doesn't have the little finger to grab the ball. He figures out a way to do it with four fingers. That's him."

INSIDE THE 49ERS CAMP: The appearance of the San Francisco 49ers offense is different since Mike Singletary took over as interim head coach. But offensive coordinator Mike Martz said nothing has changed.

"I think we're on the same page with everything," Martz said. "It's really easy for me. He's treated me outstanding and we see things the same."

The 49ers have appeared to take more of a run-oriented, physical approach since Singletary's promotion. Right guard David Baas, a mauler, became a starter, and another physical player, rookie Chilo Rachal, appears ready to take over at right guard on a full-time basis.

The offense has showcased a steady diet of running back Frank Gore to go along with Shaun Hill's efficiency in the short-passing game.

"We don't approach it any differently," Martz said. "Mike made it very clear when he got the job that he really likes what we do offensively. We were both really concerned with the turnovers at the quarterback position, and that makes you want to hand the ball off a lot."

Hill has picked up the intricacies of Martz's offense quickly after getting promoted to the starting job when J.T. O'Sullivan experienced problems with 17 turnovers in 7 1/2 games.

Hill does not always look good in practice, but he has performed well in games. Hill was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

"Shaun Hill also has Mike Martz on his tail constantly -- everywhere he looks, everywhere he moves," Singletary said. "Mike Martz is demanding, very demanding of him, which is a great thing. I think sometimes Shaun Hill is just really, really excited for game day, so that he can play with a little distance (from Martz)."

Martz does not disagree with Singletary's assessment. He said he tries to place as much pressure on his quarterback during the week, so that he can handle himself on game days.

"You've really got to get them in a game environment," Martz said. "You're cheating them if you don't. You have to put the pressure on them to make impeccable decisions and to get the ball out quick. You have to work hard to try to create that environment. That's only fair to him and the rest of the team, and so he's handled that very well."

INSIDE THE COWBOYS CAMP: Cowboys running back Felix Jones will go on season-ending injured reserve because of torn ligaments in his left great toe.

Jones will undergo surgery and be placed on IR.

It's a setback for the Cowboys as the team was hoping to get Jones back after missing the past four games with a torn left hamstring.

But while in the process of rehabbing his hamstring, Jones developed an injury to his toe. As the hamstring injury has improved and progressed, the toe injury did not improve and has required additional medical attention and evaluation.

The Cowboys tried to evaluate Jones' ability to play with the toe injury in practice on Wednesday. He also underwent an MRI. His test results and practice results were sent to Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist who is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Anderson determined that the best option for Jones' long-term future as an NFL player will be for him to undergo a surgical procedure that will repair a torn ligament that is located beneath his left great toe.

The date for the surgery has yet to be determined.

PREDICTION: Cowboys 27-19


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