Rams represent mental hurdle for Niners

We know that the St. Louis Rams are in the 49ers heads. Sometimes, it seemed the Rams were the only thing the Niners ever were thinking about. When a team has your number, it's a little difficult to get them of your mind.

The Niners have been pointing toward today's game against the Rams at Candlestick Point for a long, long time. But San Francisco says there is no mental edge for St. Louis just because the Rams bring a string of six consecutive wins over the Niners into the game.

"We're so young and new that rather than being an emotional hurdle, our guys don't have that type of mentality and it's because our head coach doesn't let them have that type of mentality," Niners defensive coordinator Jim Mora said. "Our guys, they're just excited to go out there and compete. They don't live in the past tense."

To be sure, there aren't a lot of 49ers still around that remember San Francisco's last victory over the Rams. That came on the last week of the 1998 season, stretching the 49ers' victory over the Rams to 17 consecutive games, one of the longest such streaks in NFL history.

The next year, on their way to a surprising Super Bowl run, the Rams pounded the 49ers twice. The Niners have gotten closer the past two seasons, but St. Louis has been able to stretch its hex over San Francisco to three seasons. Today, the Rams begin working on four.

"Those three years were their Super Bowl teams, their highly explosive teams," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said. "And they were our rebuilding teams and our transition teams, so they probably had the better team. Now, we're hoping that those things are evening out and now it's becoming more of an evenly-matched competition where you're going to have to play it out to figure out who the best team is."

Mental barrier or not, and 0-4 St. Louis record or not, Mariucci knows his team can't take the next step toward title contention without first overcoming the Rams.

"We have to take back this division," he said. "In doing that, you have to dethrone the St. Louis Rams. They've beaten us lately. We've beaten them before. It's a good rivalry. Throw out, really, all the records, all the past games, and start over. The team that plays the best on Sunday is going to win it, and that's all that matters."

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