For a great many reasons, this week’s game against the 49ers is extremely meaningful for the Rams.
It’s a chance to play a division rival, a chance to thrust themselves into the playoff picture, a chance to continue an unbeaten streak within the NFC West Division, just to name a few.
But there is nothing that can bring the excitement and enthusiasm out of a football team like the top reason this week’s game matters: unfinished business.
By the time the Rams and Niners kickoff Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, 21 days will have passed since their equally frustrating and scintillating first matchup that ended in a 24-24 tie.
“We just took a couple weeks off,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “This is quarter number six. That’s our approach. There was two weeks in between and here we go again.”
In fact, Fisher is adamant enough about essentially picking up where he and his team left off on Nov. 11 that he passed that same message along to his team in team meetings on Wednesday and in conversations with individual players such as quarterback
It’s an idea that, to a man, the Rams have had no problem embracing right away. Even after last week’s win against the Cardinals, many Rams were already on to the next.
For many years, games against the Niners were always circled on the Rams’ collective calendar. It’s a rivalry game that goes back years and this week’s game will do more than just give some level of satisfaction for the Nov. 11 tie.
The Rams and Niners have met 125 times in the regular season and enter this weekend’s game tied at 61-61-3. San Francisco does hold a one-game edge in the all time series because of a playoff win in the late 80s.
Regardless, this week’s game provides both teams a coveted opportunity to at least find some satisfaction from the hanging chad that was the first encounter.
“Especially with a game you don’t technically win, I think the games we lose we always say ‘Man, I wish we could play them again,’” tight end
In fact, in that first meeting, players on both sides admitted after the contest that they didn’t know a game could end in a tie. Even now, it’s not a stretch to say that the majority on both sides wished that game could have continued.
“Anytime you line up against somebody, you want there to be a victor,” cornerback
That there was no winner in that game was especially frustrating because it was the type of contest that was a classic, divisional slugfest.
On many levels, the Rams outplayed the Niners, gaining 458 total yards on offense and narrowly missing on multiple opportunities to finish with a victory. It was a thrilling, exciting game with the most lackluster finish possible.
“It was a great football game, an awesome football game,” Long said. “All that was missing was the finish and I think both teams will tell you that. It really was a physical game, competitive game and it was a lot of fun. It was fun right up until the very end.”
Alas, there was no victor. But on the bright side, the fact that the tie happened against a division opponent allows the sides to find some resolution.
Sunday’s game will represent the sixth time in the past 38 years that two teams played to a tie in an early meeting and then played again later in the season. The most recent such occurrence came in 1997 when the Giants and Redskins played to a 7-7 tie and then 20 days later, the Giants blew Washington out of the building 30-10.
Coincidentally, were it not for that New York and Washington game taking place on a Saturday, it would tie the Rams and Niners for the shortest turnaround between games after a tie in league history.
Still, with only three weeks between meetings, information is fresh in the minds of both sides. That doesn’t necessarily mean another nail biter, though, according to Fisher.
“Experience kind of suggests when you play games two weeks to four weeks apart, the second game is usually completely different than the first one,” Fisher said. “They don’t mirror each other at all and that’s just the way it is. So we have got to take the same approach, the same physical approach as they would in the game and just make plays. We had a productive day against them on offense and they are very, very talented on defense and we expect it to be a little bit harder this time around.”
The sour taste of the tie has almost dissipated for the Rams but there are clearly still remnants of it.
On Wednesday, Fisher suggested (jokingly) that this week’s game should count for two wins for the victor and two losses for the team on the short end of the scoreboard.
“We’ll have to petition the league or something like that,” Fisher said, a sly grin creeping across his face.
Fisher said it jokingly but that’s a sentiment certainly shared by his players.
“I would absolutely be willing to lobby,” Long said. “I know it would never get done because that’s way too logical for the NFL to do but I would love it if it was worth two games.”
Given all that happened in that first meeting: the three costly penalties that killed the Rams’ chances for game winning scores, the case of the vanishing time in the first half, the awkward spot and waste of time on
But like anything where a golden chance gets away, there’s always the next opportunity right around the corner. It just so happens this one seems to be something of a continuation of the first.
“It’s kind of just starting the sixth quarter here,” Bradford said. “Obviously, we’re looking to finish this game with a win, not a tie. But, I think there’s definitely a sense of some unfinished business going into this game.”