Own Identity vs Ram Identity
May 3 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
The 49ers entire off-season this year has been dedicated to beating the Rams. Itís the one thing that everyone is talking about around 49ers head quarters. Even rookie cornerback Mike Rumph, who incidentally was drafted to help the 49ers match up against three receiver sets like the Rams feature, noticed the fascination with the teamís NFC West counterpart - and that was before he was ever drafted to the team.
All this focus and energy into one team. What about the other ten it plays in the season? All this attention is being paid to beating the Rams, but the Rams account for less than 20% of the opponents this coming season. What Gives? You may thinking. Well my friends ďthe answer is blowing in the windĒ (well not actually it just seemed to fit).
There is a pretty good answer for why the 49ers have dedicated this off-season to matching up with the Rams though, and it starts by looking at the recent history of the match-up. Both teams, the 49ers and Rams are part of the NFC West, a division that until recently was owned by the 49ers. Over the past three years or so, the Rams have absolutely dominated the 49ers, and while itís one thing to get beat up on by a Super Bowl caliber team when you are a rebuilding, itís a complete other thing to get hammered by them when you are playoff caliber team.
The 49ers learned last season, that despite having a 12-4 record, it wouldnít be enough to win the NFC West crown, nor would it be enough to have home field advantage or a bye in the playoffs, both of which are typically crucial aspects to the post-season. Having these two advantages would go a long ways to helping the 49ers go deeper into the playoffs. The only way they can secure the advantage is by being able to beat the Rams.
As for the rest of the league, the Rams have proved that most opponentís efforts are futile against them. While an Achilles heel was exposed in the Super Bowl, the Rams will continue to beat up on the opposition. Itís rather logical that if the Rams can beat team ďAĒ and the 49ers can beat the Rams, than the 49ers must be able to beat team ďAĒ. While the logic isnít fool proof it does for the most part work.
This really isnít a new tactic the 49ers are employing. In the 80ís and 90ís the team recognized opposition such as the Cowboys and Packers as key teams to beat during the season. They targeted these teams in the off-season too, and the process continued to bring the team victories. Players such as Ken Norton Jr, Lee Woodall, Garrison Hearst, Deion Sanders and others were brought to the 49ers for the soul purpose of pushing the team past opponents like the Cowboys and Packers.
A rather large argument is made that in building a team specifically to beat a certain opponent, the team loses its own identity. My opinion tends to differ here. As the 49ers build a team that can beat the Rams, they will become a better team than the Rams, and thus oppositions wont be able to approach games against the 49ers in the same manner as they do the Rams. The 49ers will have built their own identity just as they did in winning five Super Bowl titles.