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Bengals grind down Rams 20-13
By R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer Monday, Dec 19, 2011

ST. LOUIS (AP)—The Cincinnati Bengals got another big day from rookie A.J. Green. They made enough big stops on defense, too, to stay in the AFC playoff race.

Green had six catches for 115 yards to top 1,000 yards receiving and the St. Louis Rams, led by a quarterback still learning the personnel, were just 2 for 13 on third down in Cincinnati’s 20-13 victory Sunday. The Bengals (8-6), who had lost four of five, are tied with the Jets for the final wild-card spot and finish with home games against Arizona and Baltimore.

“The only thing we can control is us,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “That’s all we’ve got to keep worried about it. It’s good to win.”

Green’s 55-yard catch to the 2 set up a chip-shot field goal for the game’s first score. He had been questionable for the second half with a sprained right shoulder after getting tripped up on a pass-interference play, but had a pair of first-down grabs the rest of the way.

The fourth pick of the draft has established quite a connection with fellow rookie Andy Dalton and has 1,006 yards receiving, 3 yards shy of Cris Collinsworth’s franchise rookie record set in 1981.

“I’m not worried about that, just trying to get the win,” Green said. “As the wins come, the success and the individual goals follow.”

Brandon Tate’s 56-yard punt return set up Bernard Scott’s go-ahead touchdown run late in the third quarter and Cedric Benson added a short scoring run in the fourth.

Cincinnati won despite an otherwise so-so game from Dalton, who was 15 for 26 for 179 yards with an interception and no touchdowns to end a pair of lengthy streaks. He had gone 107 passes before Josh Gordy’s interception in the third quarter, and had thrown at least one TD pass in 10 consecutive games.

The Bengals failed to take full advantage of the NFL’s worst run defense, too, with Benson held to 75 yards and a 3.5-yard average.

They closed it out when Tate fielded Josh Brown’s onside kick with 1:08 to play after Kellen Clemens’ 25-yard touchdown pass to Danario Alexander cut the gap to one score.

“It was kind of an awkward finish,” Lewis said. “Some of the guys were a little deflated about it and dejected a bit. They just wanted to finish it out.”

The Rams finished strong with 140 yards in the fourth quarter after mustering just 165 yards the first three.

Clemens was 25 for 36 for 229 yards in his first start in two years, and with only seven practices to prepare after signing last week. Starter Sam Bradford (ankle) missed his fourth start after not practicing all week and backup A.J. Feeley (broken thumb) was out for the second straight week.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo is 10-36 winding down his third season. He had only positives for Clemens, who has had only seven practices.

“I tell you what, extremely impressed, and I think all of us should be,” Spagnuolo said. “Ten days, I think he’s been here.”

The Rams totaled 6 yards on third down, and didn’t convert until late in the fourth quarter. Plus, they were whistled for 109 yards on 10 penalties, including a handful of critical calls in the second half. The teams combined for 21 penalties for 210 yards.

Tackle Harvey Dahl was whistled for consecutive penalties in the fourth quarter, one for holding and another for unsportsmanlike conduct for complaining after barging in during referee Jerome Boger’s call on a live microphone.

“I made a bad situation worse,” Dahl said. “Obviously, you’ve got to stay composed there. I didn’t know the microphone was on.”

About a dozen former teammates from the Rams’ 2000 Super Bowl championship team attended a halftime ceremony in which Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk was added to the ring of fame in the Edward Jones Dome. Several others, including Kurt Warner, Dick Vermeil and Isaac Bruce, weighed in with video tributes.

“I know you watched the guys with the ball,” Faulk said to fans, “but I watched the guys without the ball. The guys without the ball, they made the guy with the ball look very good.”

The Rams wore throwback uniforms honoring that era, hoping to recapture the form from their best game of the year, an out-of-nowhere upset of the Saints in Week 7 for their first victory. Though technically a sellout, attendance of 56,431 was about 9,000 shy of capacity and the stadium looked to be little more than half-full.

Tate’s punt return, plus a personal foul on James Butler for pushing him while out of bounds, put the Bengals at the 12 and set up Scott’s 1-yard run for a 13-6 lead in the final minute of the third quarter. Two unnecessary roughness calls on linebacker Chris Chamberlain put the Bengals on the doorstep for Benson’s 4-yard scoring run with 9:14 to go.

Tate set a single-season franchise record with 481 punt return yards.

“I just try and go out there and do my job,” Tate said. “Whatever the coaches ask me to do.”

The teams were a combined 0 for 10 on third down in the first half, with the Rams failing six times, and each totaled just 132 yards. St. Louis led at halftime for the fifth time, but just 6-3.

Green got behind two safeties on what might have been busted coverage on a 55-yard reception to the 2 to set up a field goal for the game’s first score, not long after Eugene Sims was called for roughing the passer call and keeping a drive alive.

Brown missed a 45-yard attempt, but connected from 26 and 43 yards late in the first half to give the Rams a 6-3 lead. The first field goal was set up on rookie Robert Quinn partially blocked punt, which resulted in a 21-yarder to the Bengals 39.

Quinn, the Rams’ first-round pick, has three blocked punts—one shy of the franchise record for a single season. He also has five sacks.

Notes: Rams DE Chris Long had his 13th sack, which matches Hall of Fame father Howie’s top season total in 1983. … Tate has five punt returns of 20 or more yards. … Steven Jackson had 71 yards on 18 carries, leaving him 34 yards shy of a seventh consecutive 1,000-yard season. Benson needs 41 yards for his third career 1,000-yard season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
C. Benson Cedric Benson RB
22 Rush, 76 yds
1 TD
 St. Louis
K. Clemens Kellen Clemens QB
25-36, 229 yds
1 TD

Team Stat Leaders

Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Receiving Yards