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 1/2 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.
The Rams (12-3) also took the inside track for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs whe Philadelphia lost in overtime to San Francisco. That left the Eagles, who had had the tiebreaker over the Rams, at 11-4, a game behind..
“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 else.”
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 quarter.
Kelley Washington, the replacement for Warrick, caught a 2-yard TD pass fromKitna in the second quarter.
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-seasonreceiving record with 1,273 yards in 1988.