FRISCO, Texas — Late in the second quarter of January's playoff loss to San Francisco, the Cowboys were driving into the red zone looking to take the lead before heading to halftime of one of the biggest games the franchise had experienced for the better part of the last two decades.
On a first down, Tony Pollard took a quick pass over the middle from Dak Prescott that pushed the Cowboys into the red zone before being wrapped up for what looked like a routine tackle after a gain of eight yards. However, the tackle was far from routine. Pollard's left leg wrapped around and under the body of the defender, fracturing his fibula and spraining his ankle and ending his season prematurely.
On the very next play, Dak Prescott threw an interception and the Cowboys never saw a lead the rest of the way in what ended up being another crushing playoff defeat at the hands of the Niners.
"It was frustrating," Pollard said on Wednesday about the injury. "Especially when I got hurt, we were in the red zone about to score on a drive. We had a good drive going and then that killed the momentum. I kinda felt like I let my team down. It hurt."
With so much effort put into getting to that moment, Pollard's emotions heightened after the injury as he watched the rest of the loss unfold from the sideline.
"It hurt, you're so invested," he said. "You have so much invested into the season, you know you've got goals and who you want to be, but it hurts once you get cut short like that. Mostly I was just frustrated because I couldn't help the team and be out there to get a win."
The emotions from that game for Pollard not only stem from the injury but also from the loss itself that immediately put the offseason in motion for everyone involved.
"We definitely have it in the back of our minds just that disappointment, that feeling," he said. "At this point we're using that as motivation and leaving the past in the past and we're ready for this year."
The opportunity to avenge the demons of years past comes earlier than usual in 2023 as the Cowboys will get an early chance to see where they stack up with their playoff rival.
"I'm always excited," Pollard said. "It's another opportunity to go out there and show what we can do. Last game, I was hurt and couldn't finish it off so this is a big one for me."