Cincy in trouble in AFC North

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Playing for a first-round bye and at least one
playoff game at home, where they've won a franchise-record 14 in a
row, was more than enough incentive for the St. Louis Rams.

Marshall Faulk scored two touchdowns, Torry Holt had his 10th
100-yard receiving game and Grant Wistrom tied his career best with
2˝ sacks as the Rams avoided a letdown a week after clinching the
NFC West. In the process, they knocked the Bengals from a
first-place tie in the AFC North with a 27-10 win.

Question on the Bengals: Regardless of whether they make the playoffs, what are some areas of need for '04?
The Bengals need to secure a stud defensive lineman, particularly one who'll be a stalwart for more than a few years. That's why as tempting as it may be for them to get a veteran in free agency, it might be a better idea for them to get one in the draft. That way they'd have a player who'd contribute for the next 10 to 15 years as opposed to five or six.

Question on the Rams: How much of an impact will the Isaac Bruce injury (ankle sprain) have on the Rams?
The impact this injury has on the Rams will depend on how well the rest of the offense steps up. This injury won't affect WR Torry Holt too much because he's going to get double-teamed no matter who's playing opposite him. That means the play of QB Marc Bulger and especially RB Marshall Faulk is extremely important. If those two guys can continue their high level of play, the Rams will be in good shape.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"We had probably the best week of practice we've had all
year," Wistrom said. "We went out focused every day and that's
the way this team has played all year long.

"We've always had a very business-like attitude."

Baltimore shut out Cleveland and leads the Bengals (8-7) by a
game heading into the final weekend, with the Bengals finishing at
home against the Browns and Baltimore home for the Steelers. The
Bengals hold all the relevant tiebreakers if the teams end with the
same record.

"The mind-set is that things are not in your hands any longer,
but take care of what is in your hands, and that is the football
that you have next to play," quarterback Jon Kitna said.
"Regardless of what happens with Baltimore, you want to go out and
win your last game."

Kitna was intercepted a season-high three times and the Bengals
were shut out in the second half.

Chad Johnson had seven catches for 115 yards, setting a
franchise single-season record with 1,326. He also might have
invited another fine from the NFL because he wore orange shoes in
violation of the uniform code.

Johnson was fined $10,000 for a preprinted sign after he scored
the first touchdown in a victory over the 49ers last week, the
third time he's been fined this season for touchdown celebrations.
During the buildup to the Rams game he said he had two more games
this season, apparently meaning two more fines.

"It hurts to practice hard all week and come out with a loss,"
Johnson said. "They're the greatest show on turf, we're the
greatest improvement on grass."

The Rams, who broke a 7-7 second-quarter tie and were never
caught, finished 8-0 at home. Their winning streak in the Edward
Jones Dome broke a record they set from 1998-2000.

"I know people understand how difficult that is to do in this
league, but we have an advantage here," coach Mike Martz said.
"And we are very proud of that advantage, the 12th man, and the
St. Louis fans."

The Bengals were held to 99 yards rushing by a team that had
been allowing 160.5 yards the last five games, ending a run of six
straight 100-plus games.

"The first quarter they ran a little bit," defensive end
Leonard Little said. "We adjusted and they didn't get anything

Marc Bulger was 24-for-38 for 229 yards, with touchdown passes
of 28 yards to Holt in the second quarter and 9 yards to Faulk
early in the fourth. That score put the Rams ahead 27-10.

Holt caught 10 passes for 124 yards to help the Rams compensate
for the absence of Isaac Bruce, out with a mild high ankle sprain
sustained last week.

Faulk had 121 yards on 22 carries, his fifth 100-yard game in
six weeks. His touchdown catch was his first in his last 11 games,
dating to Oct. 20, 2002, against the Seahawks.

"I don't worry about the numbers and how they stack up," Faulk
said. "As long as I move the chains and score the touchdowns and
do the things that make this offense go, I'm satisfied."

Both teams were missing a receiver, with the Bengals' Peter
Warrick out following arthroscopic knee surgery on Friday.

Tommy Polley picked off Kitna's pass in the first quarter. Adam
Archuleta got his first of the season in the third quarter.
Jerametrius Butler ended the Ravens' best chance to score in the
second half with an end zone interception midway through the fourth

Kelley Washington, the replacement for Warrick, caught a 2-yard
TD pass from Kitna in the second quarter.

Game notes
WBA Welterweight boxing champion Cory Spinks of St. Louis,
wearing an Archuleta jersey, was introduced on the field before the
game. ... Holt has 10 100-yard receiving games, breaking the
franchise record set by Bruce in 1995. He's tied with Charley
Hennigan, Herman Moore and Marvin Harrison for the second-most
100-yard games in NFL history, and one off the record set by
Michael Irvin in 1995. ... Eddie Brown held the Bengals'
single-season receiving record with 1,273 yards in 1988.


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