Two teams seeking to recapture the magic that led to recent Super Bowl appearances go head to head Sunday night when the Los Angeles Rams visit the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC West matchup.
The Rams (4-1) will be looking for their third road win of the season while the 49ers (2-3) attempt to pick up their first home victory in a duel of the NFC's past two Super Bowl representatives.
Los Angeles used a two-game sweep over its California rival as a springboard to a 13-3 season and the second seed in the 2018 NFC playoffs, during which they eliminated the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints before a Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
San Francisco turned the tables in 2019, capturing both of the home-and-home games in a 13-3 campaign that led to playoff wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers before a defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
The Rams endured a three-game losing streak early in the 2019 season and wound up missing the playoffs at 9-7. A 20-7 home loss to San Francisco capped that skid.
The Rams could send the 49ers to the same fate a year later when they take on a team that has lost two in a row, both at home.
San Francisco's most recent loss was its most disappointing. Despite getting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Raheem Mostert back from injuries, the 49ers fell behind the Miami Dolphins 30-7 at halftime en route to a 43-17 embarrassment last week.
Fearing for his Garoppolo's health, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan pulled the quarterback at halftime. Garoppolo had missed the previous two games due to a high ankle sprain.
Garoppolo was a full participant at practice this week, which gives him a head-start compared to his part-time status leading up to the Miami debacle.
"As far as the ankle, it's feeling great this week, it really is," Garoppolo said Friday. "Made a lot of improvements, just that couple extra days I think consistently get (the ankle) better."
One 49ers concern this week is that they have allowed 18 sacks in five games, the fourth most in the NFL, while the Rams are tied with the Steelers for the league lead with 20 sacks.
Garoppolo hasn't been the only 49er in and out of the lineup. The team lost defensive star Nick Bosa for the season with a knee injury and announced this week that standout cornerback Richard Sherman had a setback while rehabbing a hamstring injury.
The Rams will take the field in far better shape physically, although they sustained a key loss when rookie safety Jordan Fuller reinjured his shoulder last week in a 30-10 win at Washington and had to be placed on injured reserve.
"Wanted to give him a few weeks," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "That was something that we felt like was going to be the best decision for him, and for us to be able to get him as healthy as possible."
Los Angeles has held four of its first five opponents under 20 points, but defenses have rested the last two times the Rams and 49ers met in prime time at Levi's Stadium.
The scoring spree began on a Thursday night in Week 3 of the 2017 season, when Jared Goff threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-39 Rams win.
The 49ers made the most of an under-the-lights rematch in Week 16 last season, getting a 34-31 win.
Goff, who grew up about 30 miles north of San Francisco in Novato, Calif., has thrown for eight touchdowns and plunged in for two of the Rams' nine rushing TDs this season, tied for tops in the NFL. He turned 26 on Wednesday.
--Field Level Media