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Cowboys get back to work, facing a must win vs. 49ers

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Elliott isn't the same player as last year (1:33)

Charles Woodson and Rex Ryan break down the differences they've spotted in RB Ezekiel Elliott's game compared to his rookie season. (1:33)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- So much has happened since the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 8.

Jerry Jones said any player who didn't stand for the national anthem would be benched. A labor union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the Cowboys. An opening-day starting cornerback, Nolan Carroll, was released. An opening-day starting defensive tackle, Stephen Paea, retired. And Ezekiel Elliott was suspended and then was granted a temporary restraining order that allows him to play.

The Cowboys finally get back to football Sunday at Levi’s Stadium against the winless San Francisco 49ers.

At 2-3, the Cowboys have to win Sunday, even if nobody will call it a must win. They can’t afford to continue to lose ground to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East or other teams in the conference. After the 49ers game, their next four games are against the Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons and Eagles.

This seems like a must win.

New look: San Francisco has turned to rookie C.J. Beathard at quarterback after starting veteran Brian Hoyer the first six games.

Beathard put the Niners in position to beat the Redskins a week ago off the bench, completing 19-of-36 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception. While there are more unknowns to think about with Beathard, the Cowboys are preparing for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.

“It doesn’t appear like they’re doing things drastically different with [Beathard] playing quarterback,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “I think they probably have similar strengths as players. They’re certainly capable of doing anything their coaches are asking them to do. You try to evaluate him in that scheme as best you can. We watch the other tape, too, when Brian was playing and we try to sort it out and prepare as best we can for this team.”

Neighborhood kid: Solomon Thomas grew up just a few miles from the Cowboys’ old practice facility, Valley Ranch, in Coppell, Texas, so the Cowboys are familiar with the Niners’ rookie defensive end. The Cowboys had an interest in Thomas but knew they would not be in position to draft him, picking No. 28 overall. San Francisco took Thomas with the No. 3 pick.

Thomas has started four of the first six games and has been credited with 23 tackles, including eight for loss. He is second on the team in sacks with two.

“I never saw him play in high school, but I heard he was a heck of a player, certainly had a great career at Stanford and certainly an impressive young man,” Garrett said. “We evaluated him like we do everybody, but we had a sense that he was going to get picked really high and he did. It’s easy to see why -- he’s a really good football player and he’s going to be for a long time.”

The ref: The Cowboys will have Ronald Torbert as the referee for just the third time when he works Sunday’s game against San Francisco, and they are looking for their first win with him calling the game. In the Cowboys’ losses to the New York Giants (2016) and Carolina Panthers (2015), Dallas was penalized 11 times for 90 yards while their foes were flagged 12 times for 93 yards. Here is a breakdown of the work Torbert’s crew did last week in the Vikings' win against the Packers.