The San Francisco 49ers, one of the most storied franchises in NFL history, have been involved in numerous intense rivalries over the years. These battles have not only shaped the history of the 49ers but have also left an indelible mark on the league itself. From their early days to more recent skirmishes, the 49ers have faced off against some of the NFL‘s finest. Here, we rank the top five rivals in the 49ers’ history.
The rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders was fueled by the geographical proximity of these two teams. The relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas might have taken away some of the luster from this rivalry, but the memories remain. While there isn’t one defining moment that ignited this rivalry, it seems that whenever these two teams clashed, fireworks were guaranteed. One notable instance involved a preseason brawl that saw benches clearing and emotions running high.
4. St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams
The rivalry between the 49ers and the Rams has seen its ups and downs, mirroring the Rams’ relocations from Los Angeles to St. Louis and back again. In 1989, the 49ers delivered a crushing defeat, dominating both offensively and defensively in a 30-3 victory. The teams meet at least twice a year, ensuring that there are plenty of opportunities for intense showdowns. With 141 matchups in their history (including one postseason game), the 49ers lead the series by four wins, having secured victory 71 times.
3. Green Bay Packers
The rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers was particularly intense during the 1990s. However, it was largely one-sided in favor of the Packers. One unforgettable moment from this rivalry occurred in 1998 when Terrell Owens made a game-winning touchdown catch, forever etching his name in NFL lore as “TO.” In 69 meetings, the Packers have come out victorious 36 times, while the 49ers have won 32 times, with one game ending in a tie.
2. Seattle Seahawks
A more recent but no less intense rivalry for the 49ers is with the Seattle Seahawks. This rivalry ignited when Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson were at the helm of their respective teams. The regular season and playoff clashes between these two squads were filled with excitement and drama. A defining moment in this rivalry came in the 2014 NFC Championship game, characterized by back-and-forth action and heated exchanges. Richard Sherman famously sealed the game for the Seahawks with an interception and then unleashed a fiery post-game interview, targeting Michael Crabtree. The Seahawks have won 26 out of their 43 meetings, with their only postseason encounter occurring in 2014.
1. Dallas Cowboys
At the top of the list sits the San Francisco 49ers’ long-standing rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys. While the intensity of this rivalry has somewhat waned in recent years, it’s the stuff of NFL legends. It traces its roots back to the 1970s when the Cowboys knocked the 49ers out of the playoffs. The most iconic moment in this rivalry occurred in 1982 when Dwight Clark’s “The Catch” in the back of the end zone propelled the 49ers into the Super Bowl. The Cowboys, too, found success against the 49ers on their way to Super Bowl victories. In 36 meetings, Dallas holds a narrow lead of 18-17-1, and in the postseason, they lead 5-2. One of the most significant victories in this rivalry was a dominant 59-14 victory by the Cowboys in 1980.
While the dynamics of these rivalries have evolved over the years, they have left an indelible mark on the San Francisco 49ers’ storied history. The memories of these intense matchups will continue to be cherished by fans and serve as a testament to the enduring passion of NFL football.