They say that it’s difficult to beat the same team three times in the same season. However, that’s not necessarily the case. This Sunday in the NFC Championship game, the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers will be playing for the third time. The 49ers have won the first two meetings.
The team going for the sweep has won more than 66% of the time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Over the past 50 years, there have been a total of 22 games in the playoffs where a team was going for a three-game sweep and in those instances, the team going for the sweep has gone 14-8.
We all know the playoffs are a different beast. Last season, the Buccaneers were 0-2 against the Saints during the regular season, but came out on top 30-20 on the road in the NFC Divisional Round.
While the 14-8 record favors the 49ers, when broken down, this game is what everyone thinks it is – a coin flip. Most of the time, the team that went 2-0 was the better team and ended up hosting. However, when the 2-0 team hosts the third game, they are 12-6. Contrarily, when the 0-2 team hosts, it’s a much more even 2-2 split.
Additionally, of these games, only five of them have occurred in the conference championship games. The home team in these games are 4-1. Meanwhile, the 0-2 teams are 1-4. Again, however, this is slightly skewed because the 2-0 team is usually playing at home.
When the 0-2 team hosts, they are 1-1 in championship games.
Let’s take a look at the history of these games as the Los Angeles Rams look to win the third game.
1983 – Los Angeles Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks went into the 1983 seasons on a five-game losing streak to the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks led 38-22 early in the season and survived a late surge to hold on to win, 38-36. In Week 9, the Raiders were without Jim Plunkett and fell for the second straight time, 34-21.
Still, despite two losses to the Seahawks, the Raiders ended with a better record and hosted the third meeting in the AFC Championship Game. The Raiders came out to lead 20-0 at the half as Plunkett finished with 214 yards and a touchdown. Marcus Allen also rushed for over 150 yards in the victory after struggling in the first two games. The Raiders went on to the Super Bowl.
1999 – Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars were 15-0 against teams not named the Titans in 1999. Their best chance to get a win came in Week 3 after leading 17-7 going into the fourth quarter. Without Steve McNair the Titans still managed to battle back and took the lead 20-17. The Titans opted to take a late safety instead of punting to win 20-19.
The Titans dominated the second in Week 16 to win 41-14. The two teams however would meet for a third time, this time in Jacksonville for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Again, the Jaguars led in this one 14-10. Mark Brunell turned the ball over three times and was sacked for a second-half safety as the Titans won 33-14.
1992 – San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The third meeting between the Chargers and Chiefs took place in the AFC Wild Card round. However, the Chargers and 2021 Rams have something in common. They both lost two regular season meetings and hosted the third in the playoffs.
These two teams played in Week 1 and Week 10. The first game was played in Kansas City with the Chiefs dominating 24-10. Bob Gagliano started the game, but didn’t finish as Stan Humphries took over during the game. The Chiefs kicked a game-winning field goal in Week 10 to sweep the season series.
In the playoff game, the Chargers defense was dominant as they sacked Dave Krieg seven times and intercepted him twice. The defense pitched a shutout, winning 17-0. Chargers running back Marion Butts also rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown.
2020 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints
This is the most recent 0-2 team to win the third meeting to avoid the 3-0 sweep. Tom Brady‘s first game with the Buccaneers came in New Orleans. That game can maybe be credited to still building chemistry on offense. However, the Buccaneers lost their worst game of the season, 38-3 at home to the Saints in Week 9.
In those games, Drew Brees threw for six touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Buccaneers finally got in a groove late in the year and the divisional round playoff matchup was a different story. Tampa Bay intercepted Brees three times and shut him down for only 134 yards. Brady didn’t play his best game, but his two touchdowns were the difference.
2022 – Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
The Los Angeles Rams have lost six straight to the San Francisco 49ers. However, looking at just this season, the Rams are right there when it comes to getting over the 49ers hump. Week 10’s 31-10 loss can be attributed to losing Robert Woods earlier that week and that being Odell Beckham‘s first game. Von Miller also didn’t play.
In the second game, the Rams led 17-0. The Rams are arguably healthier than they’ve been all season. Cam Akers will be back in a full time role and Ernest Jones should also be back and play in some capacity. The Rams have been dominant over the last couple of weeks.
When looking at some of these other games, the difference in the third game was playing strong defense and forcing turnovers while also getting it together on the ground. There’s no better example than the 1983 Raiders. That will likely be the case for the Rams on Sunday. It will be up to Stafford. However, if they can alleviate some pressure with a strong run game and good defense like they have the last few weeks, they’ll be in good shape.
Under Sean McVay, the Los Angeles Rams have yet to lose a third meeting against a divisional opponent. They beat Seattle last year and Arizona this year in the wild card round after splitting the regular season meetings. This is the 49ers, but hopefully McVay can put together a game plan that ends in a win.