In Week 4, a loss to the Buccaneers coupled with a Seahawks win over the Cardinals left the Rams without at least a share of first place for the first time in the Sean McVay era. In the two weeks since, the 49ers moved to 4-0 and in first place in the division for the first time since 2012.
It is the consistent success of the former that San Francisco aspires to, which makes Sunday's game against the usual leader of the NFC West arguably that much more meaningful compared to others they've played so far this season.
"I look forward to playing the Rams every time we get a chance to," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. "I know they are a good team and it's always a challenge for us. I've been in the NFL for a while and we've played against a lot of teams. I know the Rams have been at the top of our division these two years and had two great years. We are trying to get to where they've been."
Under McVay, the Rams are 3-1 against the 49ers and have won the NFC West in each of his first two seasons. They've scored at least 39 points in each of their three wins over the Niners, with a 16-point and 29-point margin of victory in the last two meetings.
San Francisco's lone victory in the McVay era came in Week 17 of the 2017 season, a contest in which Los Angeles elected to rest many of its starters.
"(It's a) divisional game) and they've whooped us the last couple of times we've played them," 49ers tight end George Kittle said. "The time that we did win, they were sitting a bunch of their starters. This will be a fun one. We might not be full-go, we're missing some tackles and our fullback. I think that we're ready for this more mentally as a tea than we have (been) in the past."
The 49ers' start reinforces Kittle's attitude.
Not only is San Francisco atop the NFC West for the first time in six years, it is also off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1990.
Statistically, the Niners are fourth in the NFL in total offense after finishing 16th and 12th in each of the last two years, averaging 427.2 yards. The team that sits behind them, in fifth? The Rams, at 413.6.
Historic as the beginning to the 2019 season may be, 49ers CB Richard Sherman isn't treating Sunday's game any differently. At the same time, he understands why a lot is being made of the matchup.
"It's business as usual," Sherman said. "It's a division game so obviously you win your division, you get into the playoffs automatically. I guess there's heightened expectations in that respect. At the end of the day, it's just another opportunity for us to go out there and compete and to have a good time."
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the 49ers have started 4-0 only two other times in the Super Bowl era. In both instances, they reached the NFC Championship – which the Rams coincidentally won last season.
Thus, it appears multiple things seem be aligning in San Francisco's favor when it comes to meeting Shanahan's goals. However, the key to achieve them ultimately comes down to sharing the same mindset as Sherman.
"It would be good. It would be a good step in the right direction," said 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo, when asked what a win over the Rams on Sunday would mean. "Like I said, this game is the most important game for us and we have treated every game like that. So, I think if we keep that up, we will be in a good spot."