These two California powerhouses have been battling it out since the 1950s and have made ‘Battle of California’ a household name in the entire football world. No matter how good (or bad) their respective seasons are, both teams make sure to bring their A-game every time they see each other in the gridiron.
Let’s go through to the most savage moments between the 49ers and the Rams throughout the years.
5. Inaugural Game (1950)
Of course, we have to start at the very beginning. When the NFL merged with the All-America Football Conference, a Pacific Coast rivalry was born. The San Francisco 49ers became the second team in the West Coast as a result of that merger and gave the Los Angeles Rams a run for their money. As part of the National Conference, these two franchises were guaranteed to face each other twice during the regular season and it all started on October 1, 1950.
The Rams kicked off their rivalry with a dominant 35-14 win against the 49ers as they were led by Hall of Fame QB Bob Waterfield. One of the best highlights of the match was an impressive 97-yard kickoff return from halfback Vitamin Smith to put the Rams ahead after a tight opening half contest. The Rams didn’t look back and continued to keep the Niners at bay to seal their first victory over San Francisco in front of 27 thousand screaming fans in the Kezar Stadium.
4. The Rolling Rams (1979)
The 1970s was arguably the pinnacle of the rivalry between the 49ers and the Rams. It was a virtual tug-of-war between the two franchises as one of them won the division in each of the seasons between 1970-1979. Though it was San Francisco who was NFC West’s top team to start the decade, the Rams took control midway through the 1970s and went on an eight-game winning streak over the 49ers which stretched until early in the 1980s. It was Hall of Famers Jack Youngblood and Jackie Slater leading the way for the Rams as they dominated the 49ers on a 23-3-1 record from 1967-1980.
A crucial moment in the Rams’ run in that decade was a pivotal win in Candlestick Park, San Francisco in Week 13 of the 1979 NFL Season. The 49ers were having another lowly season and lost another division match-up against the Rams, 26-20. Both starting QB Vince Ferragamo and backup Bob Lee each tallied a passing TD which gave the Rams enough separation, resulting in Los Angeles’ 7th win that season. The win was part of a late-season surge from the Rams which brought them all the way to Super Bowl XIV where they lost a thriller against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
3. Knocking out the Defending Champions (1982)
Things started to change for the 49ers franchise in the early 1980s as they slowly transitioned from being one of the worst teams in the league to winning it all in Super Bowl XVI in 1981 under legendary coach Bill Walsh and 49ers iconic QB Joe Montana. But, the Rams would go on to spoil the 49ers quest for back-to-back titles when they met in the last game of the 1982 NFL season which was shortened due to a players’ strike. The Niners needed one last win to make it to the playoffs but the Rams had different plans when they met on January 2, 1983.
Los Angeles clawed their way back from being down 20-7 in the first half and grabbed the lead from the defending champions in the fourth quarter after Vince Ferragamo connected with WR George Farmer on a 42-yard TD. Montana tried to will his team back with a two-minute drive to put the 49ers in an ideal spot for a field goal to possibly steal the victory. Unfortunately for San Francisco, Rams’ Ivory Sully made a clutch block on Ray Wersching’s field goal attempt which resulted in the Rams’ 20-21 win and ultimately wrecked the Niners’ hopes to defend their Lombardi trophy.
2. Playoff Battle (1989)
At this point, it seemed as though the Rams were somehow pulling off crucial wins in their match-ups so far against the 49ers. But, as the Niners were successfully turning their franchise in the 1980s with a talented core led by Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, and Ronnie Lott, they slowly but surely took control of the rivalry. San Francisco went on to win 13 of their 21 games in that decade which were highlighted by their only post-season match-up in the 1989 NFL season.
As that year’s defending champions, their third Super Bowl win in just eight seasons, San Francisco was heavily-favored almost the entire season. The Red and Gold rode the momentum of their 14-win season all the way to the playoffs to book a Conference Finals match-up against their bitter rivals. 49ers’ Mike Cofer hosted his own kicking party as he converted on all of his three FG attempts and literally booted out the Rams, 30-3, and book a return ticket to the Super Bowl where they would win their fourth Super Bowl ring.
1. Historic TNF duel (2017)
A lot of people feared that the rivalry between the two would die down when the Rams moved their franchise to St. Louis in the mid-’90s. Though sparks would still fly every time the 49ers and the Rams butt heads, one can say that the energy was just different between the two franchises. This would all change when the Rams marched their way out of the Mississippi River all the way back to the City of Angels in 2016 which meant the ‘Battle of California’ was officially back. And, one of their first few meetings in the second era of their California rivalry was truly a memorable one as the 49ers hosted the Rams on Week 3 of the 2017 NFL Season.
The rebuilding 49ers tried to put their best foot forward against the up and coming Rams and the intense duel between the two would turn out to be a historic Thursday Night Football match-up. This would end up as the highest scoring TNF match ever as newly acquired head coach Sean McVay led second-year QB Jared Goff and the Rams to a hard-fought 41-39 win over the 49ers. Goff would end up throwing 292 passing yards including three passing TDs to lead the way for Los Angeles. RB Todd Gurley also had a big night, adding three TDs to his name.
49ers QB Brian Hoyer was impressive for his squad as he connected with two passing TDs and ran for another one but a late sack from Rams’ superstar DT Aaron Donald propelled the Rams to a record-breaking Thursday night win.