We haven’t been able to enjoy many football rivalries in St. Louis, so I love the way antagonism between the Rams and the 49ers is being ratcheted up in June.
This all started last season, when the Rams found out San Francisco was tipping its offensive plays. After careful film study, it was clear to the Rams by watching what San Francisco did before a play as to whether the Niners were going to run or pass.
During the offseason, San Francisco signed Rams safety Craig Dahl as a free agent, and he sang like a bird. Not only did he tell his new coaches about the Rams’ knowledge, but on Wednesday he told their media.
“We had a few tips off of film that we were able to differentiate between run and pass early,” Dahl told CSNBayArea.com’s Matt Maiocco. “So that kind of gave us an added benefit on defense.
“It was a few different things. Some different personnel and alignment stuff really were the big keys, as far as our giveaways.”
When Dahl squealed, and then admitted it, some Rams weren’t too happy. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan tweeted: “Craig Dahl we know how you play thanks for the tips we know who to attack early and often.”
Needless to say, 49er fans attacked Finnegan on Twitter, and Chris Long just had to chime in. “i see where some niners fans talked pretty bad 2 @cortfinnegan today. just remember ya’ll havent beaten us in 500 days or so.” Long was just getting warmed up. “oh my bad i believe its 528 days.” “and neither of us got any trophies my dear.” “what have some of yall done in the last 528 days, i’ll go first. climbed mt kilimanjaro, turned 27 and 28, restructured my contract, sat courtside at a heat game, ate over 2000 small meals you get the idea.”
San Francisco fans responded in kind, and so it’s on between the Rams and the 49ers.
The Cardinals have had their verbal sparring matches with Brandon Phillips and Jonny Gomes of the Reds, and that started what might be the nastiest rivalry in baseball at the moment. Tony La Russa had a tendency to get into those, with Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Chicago, among others.
The Blues haven’t had a verbal rivalry with the Red Wings since Scotty Bowman painted the Blues’ locker room at Joe Louis Arena, and Kelly Chase and Tony Twist responded.
Of course, the Rams had a great fracas with New Orleans when Jim Haslett was there. Wide receiver Joe Horn, when being asked about the Rams, replied, “Overrated. Isaac Bruce, Kurt Warner, Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk – that’s it. That’s all they have.” And when he was asked about the Rams-Saints rivalry, Horn said, “I don’t see it as a rivalry. In a rivalry you go back and forth. I win one, you win one. We’ve beaten them three of the last four. They’ve got to do better than that to be our rivals.”
It was also Haslett, after a 2001 Saints comeback win at the Edward Jones Dome, saying after New Orleans rallied from a 24-6 deficit, “I told them it was a 60-minute game. They were getting bull (crap) plays on us, a flea-flicker. If they were going to keep playing like that, I said we’d win in 60 minutes.”
Hopefully we’re headed toward something like that with the Rams and 49ers. Jeff Fisher has it in him. In 2000, after Tennessee won twice at Jacksonville’s Alltel Stadium in 1999, he called it the Titans’ “home away from home.”
Emotional investment is the best thing about sports, and players and coaches can help our emotions reach a fever pitch. Unwittingly, Dahl may have started something between the Rams and 49ers that hasn’t existed for fans in St. Louis and San Francisco.