San Francisco 49ers: Ranking Their Five Biggest Rivals


Photo: Walter Iooss.

The San Francisco 49ers have a long history of memorable games against different teams, some of which can be considered to be bitter rivals.

One of the newest rivalries has taken its place among the best in the NFL. The 2012 season, along with this past offseason, has intensified the 49ers’ rivalry with the Seattle Seahawks.

This inspired me to rank the top five rivals for the 49ers:

1. Dallas Cowboys

Recent memory may not support the selection of the Cowboys as the top rivalry for the 49ers, but any longtime fan knows otherwise. Their most recent game was in 2011, when the Cowboys won a thriller in overtime thanks to a 77-yard catch and run by Jesse Holley. This resulted in the game-winning field goal.

There have been some very memorable games between the two teams, some of which resulted in a Super Bowl berth and eventual Super Bowl winner. The 49ers have faced the Cowboys 21 times since the 1980 season. Over this span, the 49ers have a 12-9 record.

Four of the 21 games were for the NFC Championship. The 49ers won 38-28 in 1994, as they went on to win the Super Bowl that year. They also won the 1981 NFC Championship game thanks to a play that many refer to as “The Catch.”

The Cowboys won two games as well. The first was after the 1992 season while the second was the following year, after the 1993 season. This rivalry gets the #1 vote because it has resulted in four Super Bowl championships.

2. Green Bay Packers

The 1990s saw a number of battles between the 49ers and Packers. This is one rivalry that has been dominated by the opposition, as the Packers have won 13 out of the 17 matchups in the 90s.

The most memorable game would have to be the Wild Card game following the 1998 season. A quiet receiver named Terrell Owens made a tough catch in traffic to seal the win for the 49ers. Many called this play “The Catch Part II,” and this play spawned the transformation of Terrell Owens into TO.

Colin Kaepernick set a record for yards rushing in a playoff game by a quarterback, as he ran for 181 yards last year against the Packers.

Those are the good memories.

The Packers won a divisional playoff match between the two teams after the 1996 season, and they went on to win the Super Bowl that year. The following year, Antonio Freeman played a big factor in the Packers winning the only NFC Championship game between the two teams.

This rivalry will get back underway when the 2013 season opens as the Packers will travel to San Francisco for the final season opener at Candlestick Park. This is a rivalry that will continue to have an impact on the NFC thanks to the proven play of Aaron Rodgers and the upstart play of Kaepernick.

3. Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams

The 49ers have dominated this rivalry, which is one that has been a divisional one for years now. One of their games was in the 1989 NFC Championship game. The 49ers won 30-3 and went on to win the second of their back-to-back Super Bowl championships.

The rivalry was fueled by inter-state bragging rights and some thought that it would weaken once the Rams moved to St. Louis.

One of the 49ers prominent players in the 1980s stated just the opposite in a book called Tales From the 49ers Sideline.

Roger Craig said, “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.”

4. Seattle Seahawks

This is the best rivalry in the NFL right now. Both of these teams have risen to the top in many statistical categories, and both are winning games. These teams are expected to go far in the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if either of them won the Super Bowl this year.

Believe it or not, none of these face-offs involved a playoff game. Both teams are 14 – 14 in their series. Kaeprnick and Russell Wilson will surely continue to make this matchup one the best the league has to offer.

5. Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders

The Raiders make this list just based off of their proximity to the 49ers. The result from this rivalry is city bragging rights. The last game, a preseason matchup resulted in fights in the stadiums, as well as on the field.

It got so bad that the annual preseason games were done away with due to the fan violence.

Honorable Mention:

The New York Giants are certainly worthy of being mentioned as a top rival for the 49ers. There have been some great games between these teams. Three games standout in their history. The 1990 NFC Championship game was won by the Giants when Roger Craig fumbled and the Giants were able to kick the game winning field goal. That play put an end to the 49ers’ legitimate shot at winning an unprecedented three straight Super Bowls.

Another game was the Wild Card game that followed the 2002 season. The 49ers were able to come back from a 24 point deficit and win the game 39 – 38.

Who can forget the NFC Championsip game following the 2011 season. The Giants pulled off the upset thanks to a couple of fumbles by the 49ers on special teams along with their inability to convert third downs. They were 1-for-13 on third down conversion opportunities. These two teams have played 26 times since 1980 and the 49ers have won 16 of them.