The way that NFL scheduling works, Super Bowl opponents are always teams that don’t have a lot of regular season history. Still, Bengals-Rams feels particularly unfamiliar as a matchup, for a couple of reasons.
Both teams have had long stretches in their history of irrelevance, meaning that it’s rare that they’re good at the same time, plus the Rams’ long spell in St. Louis causes a bit more cognitive dissonance about putting the Bengals and Rams together.
Overall, the Bengals have an 8-6 advantage in the all-time series, although the Rams won the last meeting — a 24-10 thumping in 2019 at Wembley Stadium that was part of Cincinnati’s 0-11 start to that 2-14 season.
That game, in what was the Rams’ worst season under Sean McVay, was the first time that the Bengals had met the Los Angeles Rams since Week 16 of the 1993 season, in what has to be one of the most forgettable games in NFL history, with both teams already well out of contention, and only a solitary, 1-yard rushing touchdown between them.
That game did feature a young Jerome Bettis. But he didn’t score the touchdown.
It was when the Rams were in the Midwest that these teams had their last matchup when both had winning records, but even that wasn’t really memorable. In the next-to-last game of 2003, St. Louis rolled to a 27-10 home rout, moving to 12-3 while Cincinnati fell to 8-7, on the way to 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
The Bengals’ first game against the St. Louis Rams also was… not super memorable. It was Lawrence Phillips’ first game in the NFL, and Ki-Jana Carter’s too, and it was the opener of the 1996 season… in which neither team was any good, and you could tell from their encounter at the TWA Dome.
You’ve got to go all the way back to 1990 for the last time the Bengals and Rams squared off in California, and their matchup was a good one. Cincinnati got 490 passing yards from Boomer Esiason, but blew a two-touchdown lead in the second half as Jim Everett and Cleveland Gary led the Rams’ comeback.
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There were 1,059 yards of total offense in that game, and Jim Breech won it for the Bengals with an overtime field goal.
In 1990, the Rams were playing in Anaheim. The last Rams-Bengals game with a Los Angeles dateline was an upset on Monday Night Football in 1978, the 12-loss Bengals under interim coach Homer Rice knocking off a Rams team that would go to that year’s NFC title game.
Perhaps the Rams could have been a little more aggressive offensively in that game than having Frank Corral kick field goals from 20, 29, and 17 yards.
The other time that the Bengals met the Rams on their L.A. turf was the first meeting between the clubs, and that resulted in one of nine games in NFL history in which each team recorded a safety.
That initial encounter was not entirely a harbinger of what was to come. Only five of the 14 all-time meetings between the Bengals and Rams have been decided by one score, and only two in the last 40 years.