There are reasons why my knowledge of NFL history is ridiculous. During my childhood, watching football was always a comfort for me. Nothing made me more excited than Week 1 of a new NFL season. This brings me to a conversation about my dad. My father was a simple man and took great pride in just a few things in life: food, music, and sports. He was his own walking encyclopedia especially involving any sports history from the early 1950s into the present day. Sports (And to a certain extent, music) was a great comfort to him also and it was something that we bonded over. Even though we shared a few favorite teams: the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL, the Anaheim Angels (Even though the San Francisco Giants was the main focus of his dedication, and I became a huge San Diego Padres fan in the early 1980s. The Angels were always our number two), and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA. But the NFL is where our greatest divergence occurred. Growing up in the suburban town of Torrance about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, I became a huge Los Angeles/St. Louis (From 1995-2016) and again Los Angeles Rams fan. This was in direct opposition to my father’s lifelong love of the San Francisco 49ers.
Starting in 1979, the Rams upset both the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to make their first Super Bowl. Despite putting up a good effort, they faded in the 4th quarter and lost Super Bowl XIV 31-19. This began my personal journey of becoming a huge Rams fan. A few short years later, the San Francisco 49ers had their own dream season ending with a victory in Super Bowl XVI over the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21. For my dad, this began an unbelievable 13 year run where the 49ers won five Super Bowls after the 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994 seasons. Since 1981 into the present day, the 49ers beat my team 17 times in a row in the 1990s during the regular season and are on another 6-game winning streak against them at present. The 49ers since 1981 have 56 wins, the Rams have 26, and there has been one tie between these rivals. My father’s team has been a consistent thorn in my side throughout my entire life. The Rams would need to win 30 straight games to tie the all-time series which would happen after I turn 63 years old. This is just not going to happen.
My fortunes turned in 1999 when a player delivered to the Rams straight from heaven led us to our first Super Bowl title in Super Bowl XXXIV and another appearance in Super Bowl XXXVI in 2001. Now, I was only four Super Bowls behind my dad, but the monkey got off my back. The 49ers returned to the Super Bowl two more times and lost both their appearances, in 2012 to the Baltimore Ravens (No, that was not a holding call in the end zone) and 2019 to the Kansas City Chiefs (Eliminating the 5-0 Super Bowl record that my father took such pride in). The Rams got back in 2018 and lost to the New England Patriots…again. Fast forward to today and my father’s San Francisco 49ers are now facing my Los Angeles Rams for a trip to the Super Bowl. If he was alive, there is nothing that would have brought him greater joy than the chance to snatch his son’s happiness away one more time for a chance at another championship.
Here is where the ‘nerd’ part of me takes over. I love statistics. Here is the comparison between these two teams. Lots of statistics coming your way!
San Francisco 49ers own a record 20 NFC West titles. The Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams have a total of 16 including the most recent one in 2021.
The Rams lead in playoff appearances with 30. The 49ers have 27. The Rams also won two championships before the Super Bowl era giving them two less championships than the 49ers (1945 in Cleveland and 1951 in Los Angeles making them only one of two professional sports teams (The Braves are the other) to win three championships in three different towns.
With playoff wins, the 49ers currently sit at 35 tying them for 4th place all-time with the Cowboys. If they go onto winning the Super Bowl, they will tie the New England Patriots for first place all-time with 37 playoff wins while also tying the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for most Super Bowls (6). The Rams are not slouches in this category either. Despite having a losing record (25-27) in the playoffs, the Rams have passed four teams this postseason to tie for 7th place all-time in playoff wins with the New York Giants. For the record, only the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders sit in front of them. If they win the Super Bowl, they will end up 6th place all-time in playoff wins with 27 and even their record to .500 while also passing the Raiders and breaking the tie with the Giants in victories.
The Rams have a successful playoff record against their division. The Rams never played the Atlanta Falcons or Carolina Panthers while they were part of the NFC West in the playoffs. They later lost to both teams when they were part of the NFC South (Atlanta is 2-0 against the Rams knocking them out in 2004 and 2017, the Panthers beat them in double overtime in 2003). The Saints beat the Rams as part of the NFC West in 2000 in a wild card game but later lost to them in the 2018 NFC Championship when they were part of the NFC South. The Rams are 2-0 against the Cardinals in the playoffs (1975 when they were in St. Louis and the NFC East and 2021) and 2-0 against the Seahawks (2004 and 2020). The 49ers are the only team that the Rams have not beaten as a legacy NFC West rival.
The only time these teams faced in the playoffs was during the 1990 playoffs after the 1989 season was complete. The Rams split with the 14-2 49ers during the season and other than one quarter of play when they blew a 17-point lead in the 4th quarter to lose to San Francisco 30-27, they outplayed the 49ers during the two regular season matchups. The Rams reached the NFC Championship by squeaking into the playoffs by stopping a last-minute New England Patriots drive and getting in as the last seed at 11-5. The 49ers were the top seed. Due to NFL playoff rules at the time, two teams from the same division could not play until the NFC Championship game (The exception was the Wild Card if both teams qualified from the same division). The Rams beat Philadelphia 21-7 in the NFC Wild Card and then the New York Giants 19-13 in OT in the Divisional Round. The 49ers destroyed the Minnesota Vikings 41-13 in their divisional matchup. This set up the first ever meeting between these rivals in the playoffs with the Super Bowl on the line. The game started well with the Rams taking a 3-0 lead after the 1st quarter and hanging tough with the defending champions. Then, the 49ers woke up. 45 minutes later, the Rams had only 156 yards total in a complete and total 30-3 humiliation. In Super Bowl XXIV, the 49ers would later do the same thing to the Broncos in winning their 4th title by dismembering them 55-10. The 1989 49ers may have been the best team they have ever fielded during their long existence and my Rams were a small road bump on their path to greatness.
One last tiny note: my Rams have only won two playoff games in a postseason six times in my lifetime: (1979, 1989, 1999, 2001, 2018 and now 2021). The only year they did not make the Super Bowl after winning two playoff games was 1989, the year the 49ers destroyed them in the NFC Championship Game. The other four years resulted in Super Bowl losses after two wins (1979, 2001, and 2018). The Super Bowl win in 1999 is the only time they had three wins in a postseason. So after the 49ers and Rams have now won both their playoff games this postseason, they now face each other in the NFC Championship for a trip to Super Bowl LVI on the line and that elusive third playoff victory. If either team wants to win the Super Bowl, they will have to win four playoff games in one postseason for the first time in either team’s histories. For the Rams, they will not have to travel the rest of the season. They play the 49ers at home for this NFC Championship and if they win, the Super Bowl happens to be in their home stadium in Los Angeles. After 32 years of having to live with the horrifying memory of what the 49ers did to my team the last time they played each other in the playoffs, the Rams get their chance for revenge. Or my father’s team will continue its dominance and haunt me again for an undisclosed number of years.
Thanks for reading this deeply personal rant. As you can see, this game on Sunday means a lot to me personally. Feel free to comment and leave me your thoughts and predictions.
FINAL NOTES: Rams are the first team since the 1981 Chargers to blow a 24-point lead in a game and still win. That was the famous 41-38 OT classic versus the Dolphins. Rams led 27-3 before Tampa tied it through the Rams own incompetence only to be rescued with a last second field goal.
Rams became the first team since the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers to win a playoff game after committing four fumbles.
Rams become only the 2nd team in history to host an NFC Championship game as a #4 seed. The 2008 Arizona Cardinals were the first and beat the #6 seed Philadelphia Eagles to earn their first and only trip to the Super Bowl. The Rams may also become the first to play at home in both the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl.
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