<49ers Beat Vikings For 3rd Straight Win>
It’s another All-NFC West showdown in the NFC Championship Game for the 49ers, who this time will travel south to face the Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
It’ll be the third matchup of the 2021 season between the two longtime division rivals, who have played each other twice a year ever since the 49ers left the All-America Football Conference to join the NFL in 1950. But even with 144 regular-season showdowns between two teams who have combined for 38 division titles and 14 (soon to be 15) conference championships, they’ve only faced off once in the playoffs before this week.
Ahead of this year’s NFC-deciding matchup, we’ll look back at 1989, when the 49ers and Rams played their one other playoff game against each other and the three — yes, three — matchups in that season that preceded the NFC Championship game.
Leading up to 1989 …
The Rams had ruled the NFC West in the 1970s, winning the division for seven straight years from 1973-79 and destroying their neighbors to the north in the process. Los Angeles went 17-3 against the 49ers in the decade, including winning every game played in San Francisco. But the Rams never could finish the season with the ultimate prize, losing four NFC title games before finally breaking through to the Super Bowl in 1979, only to fall 31-19 to the Steelers.
But after losing the division by one game to the Falcons in 1980, the 49ers finally broke through against the Rams in 1981, sweeping the two games against Los Angeles for the first time since 1965 en route to their first Super Bowl. The 49ers’ ascension made the Rams play second fiddle frequently in the rest of the 1980s.
With the exception of the strike-shortened 1982 season (both teams missed the playoffs), 1985 (the Rams won the West by a game over the wild-card 49ers) and 1987 (Rams missed playoffs entirely), Los Angeles spent years as a wild-card playoff team, the second-place finisher behind NFC West champion San Francisco, and was forced to win two road games just to even make the NFC Championship game.
1988 added a painful chapter to Rams fans’ misery, as even though they crushed the 49ers 38-16 at Candlestick, they lost 24-21 at home to the 49ers, and when the NFC West ended in a three-way tie between the 49ers, Rams and Saints, the 49ers got the division crown because they swept the Saints and the Rams split with New Orleans. The Rams got a wild-card spot again but lost in Minnesota, then saw the 49ers beat the Vikings and beat the Bears in a frozen wind-whipped game to go back to the Super Bowl.
And after decades of playoff appearances without a Super Bowl crown, Rams fans watched Joe Montana lead a 49ers fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Bengals 20-16 and win their third Super Bowl in eight years. And that brings us to the 1989 preseason — and a trip outside of California for both teams.
Aug. 6, 1989: Rams 16, 49ers 13 in the American Bowl in Tokyo, Japan
The NFL had dabbled in international games throughout its history, sending exhibition games overseas periodically up until 1983 — including a 1976 game in Tokyo. But in 1986, the league formally started a series titled the American Bowl, sending its first preseason game of the year off. After three years of a single NFL game in London, which saw both the Rams (1987 against Denver) and the 49ers (1988 versus Miami) play once, the league played two in 1989 and sent the two NFC West rivals to the Far East.
On-the-ground reports at the time highlighted that even Japanese media focused on the game being George Seifert’s first in charge of the 49ers, taking over after Bill Walsh retired as a Super Bowl champion. Several starters on each team sat the game out because of either injury concerns or contract disputes, though Joe Montana played and received the lion’s share of cheers, even if he only was 8-for-13 for 81 yards.
In the game, the 49ers scored their only touchdown on a scoop-and-score and led 13-6 at halftime. But the Rams tied it with a second-half touchdown and forced the game to overtime. There, Los Angeles drove down the field and lined up for a field goal, much to the chagrin of the Japanese crowd wanting touchdowns. The 49ers blocked two kicks in a row but were penalized each time, and the Rams finally hit a 29-yard field goal as overtime expired to win 16-13.
Oct. 1, 1989: Rams 13, 49ers 12 at Candlestick Park
As they had done for years, the 49ers opened with a road trip to avoid field issues with the Giants, their fellow tenants at Candlestick. This year, they started with three straight road games and won all of them, including two wins in comeback fashion at Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
But as the city was getting fired up for those Giants, who had just clinched the NL West for the second time in three years and were preparing to face the Cubs the next week, the 3-0 49ers hosted the 3-0 Rams in what turned out to be a defensive slugfest. Save for one 65-yard strike from Rams quarterback Jim Everett to wide receiver Flipper Anderson, the defenses (even a 49ers defense without star safety Ronnie Lott) had kept the offenses out of the end zone and forced field goals all day.
Despite the lack of touchdowns, the 49ers had the ball and were driving deep into Rams territory late in the fourth. But sure-handed back Tom Rathman fumbled the ball in the red zone with less than three minutes left, and Los Angeles sprinted down the field in nine plays to set up their kicker, Mike Lansford, for a game-winning 26-yard field goal with two seconds left. The win put the Rams at the top of the division, and had the 49ers praising them after the game.
“They’re the same guys, but they’re more confident,” Roger Craig said, per >The New York Times. “With Everett back there, they’ll fight for the top passing game of the 90s.”
Dec. 11, 1989: 49ers 30, Rams 27 at Anaheim Stadium
The 49ers’ season got chaotic from there, as they flipped the host sites of their two divisional games against the Saints to accommodate the Giants, then had to move their next home game against the Patriots to Stanford Stadium after the Loma Prieta earthquake. But it didn’t seem to bother the 49ers, who won eight of their next nine, including seven double-digit wins, to get to 11-2 heading into their rematch with the Rams.
Meanwhile, the Rams stumbled in the middle of the season, losing four straight at one point — including an overtime loss to the Vikings that ended on a blocked punt out of the end zone for a safety. But Los Angeles recovered with four wins in a row to get to 9-4 as the 49ers came to town for a showdown on Monday Night Football.
And the Rams opened this one red hot, blitzing out to a 17-0 lead after one. The 49ers kicked a field goal and the Rams drove down to the Niners’ 4-yard line before getting stalled with 3:30 left in the half. But instead of kicking the field goal, Los Angeles attempted a fake and was stopped just short of the goal line. After two 49ers set up third down at the eight, 49ers receiver John Taylor beat the cornerback trying to jam him, got Montana’s quick pass at the 19-yard line and didn’t stop, avoiding a tackler and getting downfield blocks from Jerry Rice to score a 92-yard touchdown. After an opportunity to go up by three scores, it was only 17-10 Rams at half.
But the Rams defense stood firm in the third quarter and their offense added another touchdown, then tacked on a field goal early in the fourth to make it 27-10. The 49ers answered quickly with a six-play, 66-yard drive for a touchdown, but Los Angeles drove right back into the 49ers’ red zone and looked set to put the game away. h2 data-curated-ids="" data-relation-type="automatic-primary-section"">
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But set up four yards from the end zone, Everett fumbled a snap that never reached his hands and 49ers linebacker Matt Millen recovered. The 49ers immediately made the lifeline count, as Taylor ran a simple slant from the left, Montana hit him at the 15-yard line and Taylor dodged tacklers before taking off up the right sideline. With Rice once again lead blocking, Taylor went all the way to paydirt for a 96-yard touchdown and leading ABC commentator Dan Dierdorf to proclaim on the broadcast, “This is a very weird game.”
There were still weird twists to come. 49ers kicker Mike Cofer missed the extra point, so the 49ers were down 27-23 and now needed a touchdown. But on the kickoff, Rams returner Ron Brown had the ball punched out by Steve Hendrickson, a Napa High and Cal alum, and the 49ers recovered at the Rams’ 27. Six plays later, Roger Craig ran it in to give the 49ers the lead. The defense forced a three-and-out and capped it off with a sack, and then Montana hit Taylor for a key first down to ice the game for the 49ers and give Taylor 11 catches for 286 yards on the night.
Jan. 14, 1990 – NFC Championship Game: 49ers 30, Rams 3 at Candlestick Park
After the intense Monday Night game, neither team lost over the next four weeks, as the Rams won three straight on the East Coast to get to the NFC title game, capped off by a 19-13 overtime win over the New York Giants in the divisional round. The cozy 49ers, meanwhile, won all three games at Candlestick to get to the NFC Championship, crushing the Vikings 41-13 in the divisional round. It set up a game that many billed as the real Super Bowl for that year.
The Rams moved the ball early, kicking a field goal to take the lead and driving back into San Francisco territory after a 49ers fumble by tight end Brent Jones. But when Everett floated a pass toward a wide-open Anderson a few yards short of the end zone, Lott came flying in and swatted the ball away just in time to break up the easy score. The Rams punted and the 49ers immediately went 89 yards in 13 plays, with Montana finding Jones for a 20-yard touchdown.
San Francisco then picked off Everett and needed five plays to score again, this time a 1-yard run from Craig. After another Los Angeles punt, the 49ers methodically drove again, capping off a 14-play, 89-yard drive with a Montana 18-yard touchdown pass to — who else? — Taylor.
The 49ers defense continued to shine in the second half, battering Everett and causing him to take what became known as the “phantom sack,” when Everett felt a defender on top of him and fell down despite no defender being there. He finished the day 16-for-36 and threw three interceptions as the 49ers cruised to their second Super Bowl in a row, where they destroyed the Broncos, 55-10.
“These are the bullies on the block and we got bullied again,” Everett said after the game, per >The New York Times.
Might we hear any Rams say something similar next week, if the 49ers beat them for a seventh straight time?
Source : https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/01/25/jump-back-to-1989-what-set-up-the-49ers-only-prior-playoff-meeting-with-rams2379