Dak

FRISCO, Texas – Five years ago, Packers kicker Mason Crosby drilled a 56-yard field goal at AT&T Stadium, sending Green Bay to the NFC Championship Game and dashing the hopes of the Cowboys, who had the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs and looked destined for a possible Super Bowl run.

Many remember that game for the play Aaron Rodgers made on the sideline to get his team in position to score. Others might remember the fact Rodgers didn't fumble on a sack by Jeff Heath that could've won the game for Dallas.

You might also recall the Cowboys, playing with rookie Dak Prescott, got down 21-3, only to rally back to tie the game 28-28 late in the fourth quarter.

What gets lost in all of that ... that was Mike McCarthy's last playoff win as a head coach.

Mike McCarthy: We've Earned This Opportunity

The Packers moved on to Seattle, where they lost in the final minutes. His next three years in Green Bay were without a playoff appearance, but now he's back in the postseason, which is rather familiar for him. So familiar that he couldn't believe when a reporter reminded him that it has been five years.

"It's been five years? Is that right? Wow." McCarthy said on Monday. "But I never had any doubts (returning to the playoffs). I feel like this is where I belong. I know this is where we belong."

And the Cowboys have looked like a playoff team basically all year, even in the first game of the season when they lost to Tom Brady and the defending champion Bucs. From that loss, the Cowboys reeled off six straight games and has remained one of the NFC's top teams in the playoff picture.

As the No. 3 seed, the Cowboys play their first playoff game under McCarthy on Sunday against the 49ers at 3:30 p.m. CT at AT&T Stadium.

This will be the 10th appearance for McCarthy in the playoffs as a head coach. He led the Packers into the postseason in 2007, and then back in 2009, beginning a run of eight straight trips to the playoffs. In that span, McCarthy and the Packers won Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season.

He's 10-8 in the playoffs, but 1-2 in three appearances in the NFC Championship Game.

But this year, McCarthy and the Cowboys are dealing with a different opponent, more than just the 49ers. In a year in which COVID-19 has run rampant throughout the league, once again the Cowboys must do their best to overcome such issues heading into the playoffs.

Last week, the Cowboys were without several more key players due to COVID, including Micah Parsons, Tyron Smith, Anthony Brown and Jayron Kearse.

"Right now we're really in good shape," McCarthy said regarding the team's overall health. He also pointed out that he reminded his players on Monday of the option to stay in the team hotel near the facility as precaution.

Without a doubt, things are different this time around for McCarthy as he returns to the sidelines for the playoffs.

The biggest of them all, is the actual sideline he'll be on this time around.

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