The San Francisco 49ers are seeking their seventh straight regular-season victory over the Los Angeles Rams, but they lost the game that mattered most last winter.
The teams will square off Monday night in Santa Clara, Calif., for the first time since Los Angeles defeated San Francisco in last season's NFC Championship game. The Rams went on to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
Los Angeles (2-1) also hasn't beaten the 49ers (1-2) at Levi's Stadium since 2018.
"It's two physical teams that have gone at it," Rams coach Sean McVay said on Wednesday. "Obviously, you guys ask about the history but I believe every game is a new entity.
"What it boils down to is they played well, they've made the plays in crunch time."
However, it was the Rams who made those plays in the NFC title game. Star wideout Cooper Kupp caught 11 passes for 142 yards and two scores in the 20-17 victory.
The 49ers haven't forgotten that pain.
San Francisco offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey noted that games against Los Angeles are typically full of significance.
"A lot of these games over the last couple of years have been deciding factors for playoff seeding, home-field advantage, obviously an NFC championship thrown into the mix. So they've always had a huge level of importance," McGlinchey said. "We know each other very well. It's been a lot of the same core guys down there, it's been a lot of the same core guys up here. So it's always a fun battle."
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan isn't interested in making too much of the latest matchup.
"I feel like a win is important," Shanahan said. "I'd love to get a win and then see how we play the next week."
The fierce rivals haven't found their grooves yet this season.
Typically high-powered Los Angeles is 15th in scoring offense (20.3 points per game) and 25th in total offense (306.3 yards per game).
The 49ers are tied for 28th in scoring offense (15.7) and 24th in total offense (323.7).
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will make his second start of the season since Trey Lance was lost for the campaign with a broken ankle.
Lance was handed the starting job in the offseason and Garoppolo rode to the rescue after Lance's injury in Week 2, helping the 49ers to a 27-7 win over Seattle. He even quipped afterward that it was "just like riding a bike."
Those wheels were plenty wobbly last Sunday night when San Francisco lost 11-10 to the Denver Broncos. The Garoppolo-guided offense was 1-for-10 on third-down conversions, and he threw one interception and lost a fumble.
Veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner is in his first season with the Rams but has seen plenty of Garoppolo while playing for the Seahawks. He said he wasn't surprised that Garoppolo is still with San Francisco despite the offseason drama.
"When you look at his situation, you do appreciate how he handled that because a lot of people wouldn't have handled it the way he handled it," Wagner said. "Everybody thought he was gone but he stayed ready, he stayed prepared and he's got an opportunity and he'll start winning again like he's always done."
The Rams defeated the host Arizona Cardinals 20-12 last Sunday. Los Angeles kept Arizona out of the end zone despite Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completing 37 of 58 passes for 314 yards.
Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald recorded his 100th career sack for Los Angeles. He has two sacks this season.
San Francisco star defensive end Nick Bosa is tied for second in the NFL with four sacks.
The 49ers will be without left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (knee) on Monday. They were injured against Denver and will be sidelined for at least a month.
Defensive tackle Arik Armstead (foot) was among the San Francisco players who sat out Thursday's practice. The 49ers are hopeful he will be ready to play Monday.
Center Brian Allen (knee) was among the players who sat out for the Rams. Derion Kendrick (concussion) was limited and McVay said he expects him to play.
--Field Level Media