The 49ers–Rams rivalry is a rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League. The rivalry began in 1950 and became one of the most intense in the National Football League in the 1970s as the two California based teams regularly competed for the NFC West Division title. The intensity of the rivalry is also due to the fact that Northern California (where the 49ers are based) and Southern California (where the Rams are based) have long been competitors in the economic, cultural, and political arenas.
During the Rams' 21 years in St. Louis, the rivalry did not have the geographical lore it once had, but games were still intense regardless of the standings. With the Rams’ return to Los Angeles in 2016, the rivalry became geographic once again. Sports Illustrated considers their rivalry the 8th best of all time in the National Football League. The 49ers and Rams are also the only two teams who have been a part of the NFC West since it was formed in 1970.
The 49ers lead the overall series, 69–67–3. The Rams, who dominated much of the first 30 years of the rivalry, led the series by as many as 22 games in 1980, but the 49ers' strong play in the 1980s and 1990s, including a 17–game winning streak from 1990–1998 allowed them to take the lead. The teams have met once in the NFL playoffs, a 30–3 49ers victory in the 1989 NFC Championship Game.
In 1950, the National Football League merged with the All-America Football Conference thus gaining three new teams. One of these teams was the San Francisco 49ers making them the second NFL franchise located on the West Coast. The first one being the Los Angeles Rams who had re-located from Cleveland in 1946. The NFL placed both of them in the newly formed National Conference (1950–52) guaranteeing that they would play each other twice during the regular season. In 1953, the National Conference was renamed the Western Conference and the American Conference was renamed the Eastern Conference which remained in place until the AFL merger forced re-alignment in 1970. For the 1967, 1968 and 1969 seasons immediately preceding the 1970 re-alignment, now with 16 franchises, the NFL divided the Western and Eastern Conferences into two Divisions of four teams each. Ironically, very similar to the present day conferences resulting from the 2002 re-alignment. The 49ers and Rams remained together in the Coastal Division of the Western Conference (1967–1969) and then in the NFC West Division since 1970. Owing to the strength of their rivalry, the 49ers and Rams have remained in place as the only two teams in the NFC West Division continuously since 1970, despite the Rams re-location to Saint Louis in 1995 and further re-alignment in 2002. They have met twice every season beginning in 1950. Their lone postseason meeting was in the NFC Championship Game during the playoffs following the 1989 season at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. This resulted in a 30–3 victory by the 49ers on January 14, 1990, immediately preceding their fourth Super Bowl appearance. The next meeting between the two will be on Sunday October 21, 2018 on Sunday Night Football
In 1950, the National Football League merged with the All-America Football Conference thus gaining three new teams. One of these teams was the San Francisco 49ers making them the second NFL franchise located on the West Coast, joining the Los Angeles Rams. The first meeting between the teams took place on October 1, 1950, in San Francisco. The Rams were alternating starting quarterbacks between Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin during the 1950 season. Waterfield was the starter for the game, but during the second quarter San Francisco's Pete Wissman landed a hard tackle on the Los Angeles quarterback. Van Brocklin filled in for Waterfield, and the Rams went on to win the game 35–14. The two teams played each other again on November 5, 1950, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. After beating the Baltimore Colts 70–21 and the Detroit Lions 65–24, the Rams were favored to beat the 49ers by 20 points. Yet, the 49ers played a very physical game and only lost by a touchdown holding the Rams offensive powerhouse to only 28 points.
The 49ers got their first win against the Rams on October 28, 1951. The 49ers secondary was able to pick off Van Brocklin six times, more than half of the interceptions that he threw all season. The 49ers held the Rams to just 17 points, the lowest they put up all season and were able to capitalize on the turnovers en route to a 44–17 victory.
After the AFL-NFL merger, both teams were placed in the NFC West. The rivalry was at its pinnacle during the 1970s. From 1970–79 one of the two teams won the division each season. The decade also featured 10 and 8-game win streaks by the Rams (the 8-game streak stretched into the early 1980s). The 49ers were the NFC West's top team in the beginning of the decade winning the first three post merger division crowns. The Rams answered right back winning seven straight division crowns from 1973–79, culminating with Super Bowl XIV loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On January 2, 1983, a 1–7 Rams team met the 3–5 defending Super Bowl champion 49ers in San Francisco for the last game of the 1982 season (a players' strike shortened the season to 9 games), with the 49ers needing a win to make the playoffs. The Rams led late in the 4th quarter 21–20 until 49ers quarterback Joe Montana led a two-minute drive, putting the 49ers in position for a short field goal. But Ivory Sully blocked Ray Wersching's kick to preserve a 21–20 win and knock the 49ers out of the playoffs.
On January 14, 1990, the two teams met in the 1989 NFC Championship game. The Rams were heavy underdogs but had already pulled off two upsets on the road in the playoffs (over the Eagles and Giants). The Rams took an early 3–0 lead and were driving again, but Rams quarterback Jim Everett noticed a wide open Flipper Anderson a second too late and the pass was knocked away by 49ers safety Ronnie Lott. Instead of a 10–0 Rams lead, Montana led the 49ers on a touchdown drive and San Francisco took the lead 7–3. The 49ers would win the game, 30–3.
The 49ers dominated the rivalry during the 1990s, winning 17 straight games against the Rams. They also won their fifth Super Bowl in 1994. After nearly fifty years, it seemed like the rivalry was coming to an end when the Rams relocated to St. Louis in 1995. Yet, some players did not believe so. Roger Craig stated in Tales from the San Francisco 49ers Sideline that "the Rams will always be the 49ers' biggest rival. It doesn't matter if they no longer play in Los Angeles. If the Rams played their home games on Mars, it would still be a rivalry."
By the end of the 1998 season, San Francisco lead in the all-time series (49–48–2) for the first time ever. The Rams previously lead in the series by as many as 22 games in 1980. The 49ers lead in the series was short-lived, however, as St. Louis won both games against San Francisco during their championship season in 1999 to retake the lead.
The Rams and their Greatest Show on Turf offense had the upper hand in the early part of the decade, going 8–2 against the 49ers from 2000–2004. But both teams fell into decline and neither team was a playoff contender as the decade wore on. The 49ers had the upper hand during the latter part of the decade, going 8–2 against St. Louis from 2005–2009.
During the 2002 realignment, only the Rams and 49ers would remain in the NFC West, as their former division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and New Orleans Saints, would all move to the newly formed NFC South. The Rams and 49ers would be joined by the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks in the "new" NFC West.
In 2011, the 49ers took the all-time series lead for the first time in 13 years. The Rams tied it back up with a win at Edward Jones Dome in 2012, but then they lost both 2013 games to the 49ers.
The Rams were the only team to lose to the 49ers in 2016, as the 49ers swept the two-game series against the Rams but went 0–14 against the rest of the NFL. As of the end of the 2018 season, San Francisco leads the all-time series, 69–67–3