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Rams Hand Bengals Big Loss


The NFL's worst team of the 1990s? Kurt Warner and Az-zahir Hakim proved that it's not the St. Louis Rams. Not even close.

Hakim tied the franchise record with four touchdowns three on passes from Warner, another on a punt return and the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 38-10 Sunday to shed their distinction as the league's worst team of the '90s.

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Game Summary

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  • As the decade winds down, the Rams (3-0) are anything but bad.

    "Everything's going so well right now," said Warner, the first quarterback in the last 50 years to throw three touchdown passes in each of his first three starts. "We just want to continue to roll with the confidence we've got now."

    The Bengals (0-4) have no confidence, no wins and no argument when it comes to bestowing the title of most forlorn team of the '90s. Heading into the game, they were tied with the Rams at 99 losses for the decade.

    They became the first to lose 100 and they did it decisively.

    "You saw it. We're struggling," said Doug Pelfrey, who had his fourth missed field goal attempt in two games. "We're dropping passes and missing kicks. We're doing stupid things."

    A crowd of only 45,481 booed and waved profane banners as the Bengals were blown out for the third consecutive week by a last-place finisher from '98.

    The Bengals have sold only 93,141 tickets for their first two home games their poorest two-game gate at the start of a season since 1984, excluding the 1987 strike replacement games.

    Another sloppy loss drew the fans' wrath and nudged coach Bruce Coslet one step closer to losing his job. Asked if Pelfrey is in jeopardy because of his two bad games, Coslet responded, "I think everybody's damn job is in jeopardy."

    While Cincinnati remains in its decade-long piral, the Rams have opened 3-0 for only the second time in the '90s with a defense that has given up just 27 points and a quick-strike offense buoyed by Warner's amazing debut.

    Warner, a former Arena Football passer who got his big chance when Trent Green was lost for the season with a knee injury, completed 17 of 21 passes for 310 yards without an interception. His passer rating is a superb 125.

    "We were hoping he wouldn't be as accurate as he was, but he's hot," Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins said. "For a guy who played Arena Football, he's a full-fledged NFL quarterback."

    Once Warner figured out a few new wrinkles the Bengals threw at him early, he completed seven consecutive passes to get the Rams rolling.

    "There's no way I could have done what I've done by myself," Warner said of his three-TD spree. "We have so many guys who are special, and a different one comes to the forefront each week."

    This week, it was Hakim's turn. The second-year receiver had touchdown catches of 9 and 51 yards in the first half and an 18-yarder in the third quarter. He essentially decided the game with his 84-yard punt return three minutes into the second half, pushing the score to 28-3.

    Hakim, a fourth-round draft pick out of San Diego State last year, hadn't scored four touchdowns in a game since high school.

    "I kept the ball from the punt return," Hakim said. "Hopefully, the touchdowns keep rolling."

    Hakim wasn't alone in tearing apart the Bengals' confused zone and soft man-to-man coverages. Isaac Bruce had six catches for 152 yards and rookie Torry Holt had four catches for 58 yards.

    Afterward, the Rams' locker room was filled with cheering, singing and talk of a home game next week against San Francisco.

    "It's a huge game," Bruce said. "It's a team we haven't had a lot of success with. One thing I can tell you: There won't be a letdown. If there was going to be a letdown, it would have been this week."

    The Bengals fell to 0-4 for the fourth time in the decade and the first time under Coslet. The Bengals finished 3-13 the last three times they got off to such a poor start.

    Blake completed 12 of 23 passes for 114 yards and was miffed when he was replaced by Akili Smith early in the third quarter once the game was out of hand. Blake flung a cup after getting a drink and gestured with his arm as he talked to an assistant coach and Pelfrey on the sideline.

    "You can't point the finger at one person," Blake said. "You can't single out one guy. I feel like I got singled out. I feel like I got benched because of my performnce."

    Notes

  • Three other Rams have scored four touchdowns in a game: Bob Shaw in 1949, Elroy Hirsch in 1951 and Harold Jackson in 1973.
  • The last time the Rams opened 3-0 was 1995, when they won their first four games and finished 7-9.
  • There's added pressure on Coslet now: The Bengals play next Sunday in Cleveland, a game that GM Mike Brown desperately wants to win. The "Mike Brown Step Down" banners reappeared Sunday.
  • The Bengals have given up 135 points, or nearly 34 per game.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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