The 49ers and Rams rivalry is back and better than ever!!!
It may be hard to believe that the same teams projected to finish at the top of the NFC West in the upcoming season could have somehow only combined for a mere six wins just two seasons ago. However, the 49ers and Rams are now both looking like contenders for the foreseeable future led by head coaches Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, who happen to be the two youngest coaches in the league. With their return to prosperity, a rivalry has been brought back from the dead.
The Rams and 49ers have been in the same division since 1950, when the 49ers became only the second NFL franchise to be located on the west coast, following the Rams who had come four years before. They had there first matchup on October 1st, 1950, with this being the first of many to come, as they have currently played each other a whopping 136 times. The peak of this rivalry though most certainly came during the 1970’s, when every year in this decade one of these two teams won the NFC West. The 49ers won the first three, but then the Rams bounced back from 1973-79 to win the next SIX division titles. In fact, over about the first thirty years of the rivalry, the Rams had beaten the 49ers thirty nine times out of their fifty five games, giving them a 70% winning percentage.
The Tables Have Turned
Even though it seemed like the 49ers were always inferior to their NFC West rival, they finally turned it around in the 80’s and 90’s. Not only during this time did they have a 17 game winning streak versus the Rams, but they were able to win five Super Bowls led by Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. As if it weren’t bad enough already, the 49ers beat the Rams 30 to 3 when they played in the 1989 NFC Championship. The Rams actually were leading at the beginning of this game, but after a touchdown saving play early in the game by stud safety Ronnie Lott, the 49ers would never look back scoring the next thirty points.
The Death of the Rivalry
The Rams, feeling they needed a fresh start after having several losing seasons, decided to move to St. Louis in 1995. The rivalry that had existed for almost fifty years would not survive the move, and the two suddenly were just regular division opponents, as the 49ers had no history with St. Louis. The Rams would actually win the Super Bowl in 1999 when Kurt Warner went from stocking shelves to running one of the greatest offenses ever with The Greatest Show on Turf. However, it was years before either of these teams started looking like real threats again. Worst of all, one of the NFL’s oldest and most intense rivalries had transgressed into just two random bad teams seemingly competing twice a year to try and not finish last in their division.
Back From the Dead
After the Rams left L.A. for St. Louis, the rivalry between the Rams and 49ers lost its geographical appeal. The backbone of this rivalry had always been based on the cities they were in, as Los Angeles and San Francisco have long been competitors in sports(such as Giants/Dodgers), but also overall lifestyle and culture of two of California’s most well known cities. As Sports Illustrated said back in 2005 when ranking the best rivalries of all time, “Both teams tend to measure their success by how they are playing against each other”, and the first step to recapturing the magic behind this historic rivalry was for the Rams to return home to Los Angeles. Despite some heavy criticism behind this decision, there is something to be said from a rivalry perspective for why this move made sense. The will to win breeds true intense competition, and luckily for both Rams and 49ers fans, they are about to have a lot of winning in the immediate future. But how exactly could two teams that had combined for no playoffs over the previous three years suddenly both be back on top?
Now that the Rams are back where they belong in Los Angeles, all that was left for this rivalry to get back to its glory days was some winning. As we head into the 2018 season, this is no longer a problem. With both the Seahawks and Cardinals taking major steps back, it seems pretty safe to say the door is open for the young 49ers and Rams, who are being led by young quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff, who seem ready to start terrorizing opposing defenses for years to come. Throw in major impact additions for both teams with the 49ers bringing shutdown cornerback Richard Sherman from division opponent the Seahawks, and the Rams acquiring of Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh, and wideout Brandin Cooks, and it seems like coaches Sean McVay, 32, and Kyle Shanahan, 38, have managed to assemble two squads not only oozing with potential, but with the veteran leadership suited to lead a team deep into the playoffs.
From A Fantasy Perspective
Not only do pickups such as Jerrick McKinnon and Brandin Cooks help these two teams get wins, but both seem ready to have career years and you should definitely look out for them on your fantasy team for the upcoming season. The Rams also had arguably the best running back in the 2017 season in Todd Gurley, and with the overall roster improvement around him, it’s impossible to really doubt in him. Both of these teams will be playing four games against the Seahawks and Cardinals this year, who both had significant losses in their defenses which certainly will boost offensive production. Also, with both these teams adding some explosive weapons in the offseason, as well as some potential picks in the upcoming draft, quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff seem ready to move into the elite group of QB’s, something that many teams around the NFL would give up a lot for. Just ask the Patriots, who are certainly regretting trading Brady’s heir to the throne to the 49ers for a mere single second round pick.
The Rivalry is in Good Hands
With the Rams winning 11 games and making the playoffs last year, not only do they have the team to start making some waves across the league, but with success the fans in Los Angeles will start backing the team once again. For the 49ers, it’s safe to say with their six game winning streak after their midseason acquisition in Garoppolo became the full time starter, as well as a strong offseason, they will be ready to take the next step into the playoffs next season. Looking towards next season, the 49ers and Rams are projected to be two of the better teams in the NFC, and to simply put it, this rivalry is about to be very exciting for years to come.