Bengals hand Rams fifth consecutive loss

Monday, December 19, 2011
St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (39) tries to keep control of the ball while running for a 1-yard loss as Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson (20) and defensive end Frostee Rucker defend during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, in St. Louis. The Bengals won 20-13. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

ST. LOUIS -- A.J. Green re-emerged and reached a nice rookie milestone after all but being counted out near halftime. He helped the Cincinnati Bengals get off the mat, too.

The rookie wide receiver had six catches for 115 yards to top 1,000 yards, and the Bengals held an offense led by a quarterback still learning his own team's personnel to 2 of 13 on third down in a 20-13 victory Sunday.

Green had been questionable to return with a sprained right shoulder that was incurred when he tripped on a pass interference play. He had only two catches after the break, but both were for first downs.

"Just a mild sprain," Green said. "It's nothing serious. I wouldn't miss these games for my life."

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 for the Bengals (8-6), who won for only the second time in six games.

Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins hits Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens as he throws a pass during the third quarter Sunday in St. Louis. The Bengals won 20-13.
Seth Perlman
Associated Press

The victory allowed Cincinnati to keep pace in the AFC playoff race.

Cincinnati was among three teams that entered a game behind the New York Jets, who were playing at Philadelphia, for the final AFC wild-card berth. The Bengals, who iced the game when Tate fielded Josh Brown's onside kick with 1 minute, 8 seconds left, are at home the rest of the way against the Cardinals and Ravens.

"If we finish strong, we'll give ourselves a chance," cornerback Nate Clements said. "Guys are going to be focused on the opponent at hand."

Green caught a 55-yarder from Andy Dalton to set up a field goal for the game's first score. He has 1,006 yards receiving, leaving him 3 shy of Cris Collinsworth's franchise rookie record in 1981.

Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens was 25 of 36 for 229 yards with a late touchdown pass to Danario Alexander, but St. Louis (2-12) was unable to avoid its fifth consecutive loss. Clemens made his first start in two years after joining the Rams last week. Starter Sam Bradford (ankle) missed his fourth start and backup A.J. Feeley (broken thumb) was out for the second consecutive week.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens, right, is sacked for a 6-yard loss by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene during the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

"Third down was obviously an issue," Clemens said. "Very unacceptable. So, I'll start there and I'll stop."

Coach Steve Spagnuolo is 10-36 in his three seasons with the Rams. He had only positives for Clemens, who has had only seven practices.

"I know all the offensive guys," Clemens said. "I literally have gone home at night and just looked at a roster, because I think that's important from a leadership standpoint."

The Rams totaled 6 yards on third down and didn't convert until late in the fourth quarter. 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 during 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.

St. Louis Rams' Josh Brown reacts after missing on a 45-yard field-goal attempt during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals pn Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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

Cincinnati won despite an off-game from Dalton, who was 15 of 26 for 179 yards with an interception to end a lengthy streak. He had gone 107 passes before Josh Gordy's interception in the third quarter.

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.

The teams were a combined 0 of 10 on third down in the first half, with the Rams failing six times.

Noteworthy

* About a dozen former teammates from the Rams' 2000 Super Bowl championship team attended a halftime ceremony in which 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.

* Robert Quinn, the Rams' first-round pick, blocked a punt and has three blocks -- one shy of the franchise record for a single season. He also has five sacks.

* Rams defensive end Chris Long got his 13th sack, which matches his hall-of-fame father Howie's top season total in 1983.

* Rams running back Steven Jackson had 71 yards on 18 carries, leaving him 34 yards shy of a seventh consecutive 1,000-yard season.

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