As fans ready for the Los Angeles Rams hosting of the San Francisco 49ers in the season’s final regular season game, it seems that the prevailing fan forum narrative is that Kyle Shanahan and the Niners OWN Sean McVay and the Rams.
Does beating the Los Angeles Rams in each of the last five meetings really mean the 49ers, and more to the point, Shanahan, have McVay’s number? Is it a case of the teacher dominating his student or just a statistical blip on the road to regression towards the mean.
Nobody is trying to give the 49ers wins the short-shrift, but the numbers just don’t bear out the narrative that Shanahan OWNS McVay. Yes, the Niners have taken five games a row, but the teams have met nine times since 2017.
During this time frame, SF has six wins and LA has three. A 66% win rate would certainly support the “own” narrative, but two of the Rams losses were on last second field goals and one was versus the Los Angeles second team when McVay rested his starters for the playoffs.
Let’s take look at each game individually:
November 2021- 49ers win 31-10. An ass-whoopin’. SF turned two first quarter Matt Stafford interceptions into touchdowns, never looked back and dominated the game.
Nov. 2020- 49ers win 23-20. A tight game decided by a last-second field goal. Relatively even on stats and both teams returned a turnover for a TD.
October 2020- 49ers win 24-16. In the third quarter, Cooper Kupp dropped a short pass in the end zone and on the next play Jared Goff throws an INT. SF moved the ball all game on with short passes over the middle and timely screen passes.
December 2019- 49ers win 34-31. Another evenly played game that ended with a last second FG. This game was particularly tough on Rams fans because they allowed TWO third and 16 yards to go conversions on the winning drive.
Oct. 2019- 49ers win 20-7. Although George Kittle ran wild with short passes, this game was closer than the score indicates. LA was 0-4 on fourth down tries and on the opening play of the third quarter, Rams RB Darrell Henderson fumbled inside his own 20 and SF capitalized with a TD.
Dec. 2018- Rams win 48-32. LA forces four turnovers in a rout. Score was no this close, ‘Niners scored 14 points in last seven minutes of fourth quarter.
Oct. 2018- Rams win 39-10. Four 49er turnovers, Todd Gurley’s three TD’s and three FG’s by Greg Zuerlein led this win. SF could only muster 228 total yards.
Dec. 2017- 49ers win 34-13. Of course it still counts, but LA rested its starters for playoffs. The only thing this game proved is that SF’s first team was better than the Rams second.
September 2017- Rams win 41-39. A Thursday night thriller. LA took their foot off the gas and a late fumble by Pharoh Cooper almost let the ‘Niners steal it.
The only thing to take away from from these nine games is that Los Angeles dominated a couple, San Francisco dominated a couple and like most NFL games, turnovers were the key to victory. Not one team or coach owning the other.
Regression towards the mean and are five straight wins unprecedented?
According to Football Outsiders, “Regression towards the mean implies that a data point is unlikely to happen again, and that the next instance of whatever that data point is representing is likely to exhibit a level of performance closer (regress) to average (the mean)”. It’s the old flipping a coin scenario, if you flip it enough times it will eventually land on heads as many times it does tails.
Of course, winning and losing is not that simple in the NFL, but given long enough, teams do eventually ebb and flow. The Rams/49ers series is the excellent example of this. San Francisco leads the overall series 74-67-3, lo and behold, the difference after all these years is the past five games.
According to records in The Football Database, going back to 1950, there have been been six win streaks, three each by both teams that match the Niners current streak.
- Five game streak by the 49ers from Nov. 2008 through Nov. 2014
- Six game streak by the Rams from Oct. 1999 until Dec. 2001
- 17 game streak by the 49ers from Dec. 1990 up to Dec. 1998
- Nine game steak by the Rams from Nov. 1976 through Oct. 1980
- 10 game streak by the Rams from Nov. 1970 until Sep. 1975
- Five game streak from Oct. 1959 up to Oct. 1961
No matter what happens in today’s game, the only ownership that will come in to play is which team and its players steps up and makes plays, creates or avoids turnovers and capitalizes on breaks.