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Maiocco's Take: In a Season Short on Positives, Sunday vs. Cowboys Could Be Best Day of the Year for 49ers

Many of those in the 49ers traveling party – players, coaches and staff – will have a special treat waiting for them when they return to Arizona from their short business trip to Dallas.

There has been nothing normal about this season.

And the end is near.

But it's not the kind of end the 49ers envisioned when they set out on this unique football journey. Unless the 49ers run the table and get some help along the way, the season will end on Jan. 3 – the final day of the regular season.

And it will end in Arizona – the site of their games in Weeks 13, 14, 16 and 17.

The 49ers can keep their faint postseason hopes alive against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

And if they do, the return to Arizona will be that much sweeter.

Coach Kyle Shanahan made only one promise to his team when they moved to Arizona: You will not be forced to spend Christmas without your families.

And that promise has been kept.

"I know not everyone can do it," Shanahan said, "but anyone who can get it, we're getting our families down."

If all goes according to the plan, Shanahan will be reunited with his family on Sunday night. It will be the first time he has been with his family since the 49ers abruptly packed up and moved.

The 49ers wrapped up their third week in Arizona, after Santa Clara County banned contact sports as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The operational part of the move went as well as possible, thanks to the tireless work of the masterly logistics team of Steve Risser and Mike Slap.

But the football side has been bumpy.

In their two games in State Farm Stadium as tenants of the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers produced far-from-perfect performances in losses to the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team

The 49ers moved south for the winter with hopes of getting healthy -- and expectations of making a spirited postseason push. They had momentum with a strong showing against the Los Angeles Rams.

But the team failed to take care of business on their new home field.

"The way we played versus Buffalo and the way we played versus Washington last week were just, they were disappointing to me and our team," Shanahan admitted.

"Especially coming off how I thought we played as a team versus the Rams, (I) thought we had a chance to really start going, getting better each week. After that Rams game, since we've come here, I think we've taken two steps back."

Before the 49ers get reacquainted with their families, they will strive to reconnect with their style of play.

They face a Cowboys defense that has been the worst in the league at defending the run. That should set up well for Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. to have success.

That should set up well for quarterback Nick Mullens to use the threat of the run to capitalize with play-action passes. He must do a better job of taking care of the football.

Brandon Aiyuk should have some opportunities to close in on Jerry Rice's rookie franchise record of 927 receiving yards.

And Robert Saleh's defense should produce the kinds of results we've come to expect before and after the meltdown two weeks ago against Buffalo.

"I'm trying to get guys to only focus on their job, do better than what we've done, because we can't afford to keep taking steps back," Shanahan said.

In a season short on positives, this could be the best day of the season for many individuals in the organization.

Shanahan and his family are virtually assured of having a great Sunday night in Arizona.

And would be even that much better for everyone involved if things get off to a good start during their day in Dallas.

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