ST. LOUIS — There is a homey feeling surrounding the St. Louis Rams recently, and it has little to do with the approaching holiday.
The Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals 27-10 on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome to secure a first-round bye for St. Louis (12-3) in the playoffs.
The victory also capped a perfect 8-0 home record this season and extended the Rams overall win streak to seven. Overall, the Rams are riding a franchise record 14-game win streak at home dating back to October 2002.
“A lot of people said we had nothing to play for but we actually had a lot to play for,” defensive end Leonard Little said. “We get a first-round bye and at least we get a home game in the playoffs so it is a great thing for this team to have a bye and heal up a little bit and get to have that first game at home.”
The Rams continued to play well on both offense and defense.
Despite not having wide receiver Isaac Bruce in the lineup because of a left ankle sprain, the Rams offense managed to produce impressive numbers.
St. Louis gained 371 yards of total offense and Tory Holt finished with 10 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. Marshall Faulk added 121 rushing yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns.
St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger said the Rams did not change their game plan with Bruce out of the lineup, but he stressed the team missed Bruce’s presence.
“We didn’t make a huge adjustment,” Bulger said. “We certainly missed him but it was a point where we weren’t going to play him this week and then lose him possibly for the playoffs.”
St. Louis led 10-7 late in the first half before both teams scored in the last minute of the half.
With 0:54 left in the first, Bulger connected with Holt for a 28-yard touchdown pass that gave the Rams a 17-7 lead. Cincinnati (8-7) countered with a 50-yard drive, cutting the Rams lead to a touchdown with Shayne Graham’s 48-yard field goal as time expired.
The St. Louis defense regrouped to hold Cincinnati scoreless in the second half. Jeff Wilkins’ 50-yard field goal in the third quarter and Bulger’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Faulk early in the fourth was all St. Louis needed to put the game out of reach.
The Rams defense intercepted Cincinnati quarterback Jon Kitna three times and held the Bengals to 115 yards in the second half. Cincinnati’s only significant drive of the second half came in the fourth quarter with the Rams ahead by 17.
On that drive, the Bengals drove deep into St. Louis territory and had a first-and-goal from the Rams 2, but Cincinnati couldn’t get the ball in the end zone on first and second down. On third down, Jerametrius Butler intercepted a Kitna pass intended for Kelley Washington with 8:34 remaining, and the Bengals never got the ball back.
“(That stop) was real big and showed the resiliency of this defense,” Little said. “They got a couple plays on us and drove right down the field, but we decided not to let them score and get back in the game.
“We basically challenged ourselves in saying they couldn’t score on us and we just shut them down at the goal line right there.”
Grant Wistrom anchored the Rams defensive line with seven tackles and 2.5 sacks. After the game, Wistrom credited the Rams’ fans for their part in helping the St. Louis defense.
“It has as much to do with the people in this locker room as it does with our fans,” Wistrom said. “It is a huge advantage out there for us and I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t.
“I have to give part of the credit for my sacks to the fans today because they help you get a great jump off the football because the offensive linemen can’t hear the snap count.”
The Rams travel to Detroit next Sunday to finish the regular season and have an opportunity to clinch home field advantage with a win or a Philadelphia loss to Washington on Saturday.