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Rams aim to keep rolling in Cleveland on Monday night

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(Sports Network) - The St. Louis will take aim at their fifth straight victory Monday night, when they head East to battle the Cleveland at Cleveland Stadium. St. Louis has won four in a row and eight of its last nine contests to climb into a tie with Philadelphia for the top spot in the NFC. The , who lead the Seattle by a game in the West standings, need only a win and a New Orleans loss or tie to secure a playoff slot. St. Louis can also nail down a postseason trip with a tie and a Green Bay loss or tie and a New Orleans loss. Despite their good playoff positioning, head coach Mike Martz is ready to get comfortable.

"I think everybody is excited, as we all are, about where we are at this point record-wise, and what can be," Martz said. "But you start looking at what can be, and pretty soon you get hit right on the side of the head."

Cleveland has had its playoff hopes dashed after dropping an ugly 34-7 decision in Seattle last week. The , who have lost two straight and five of their last six, are still having troubles with the quarterback position, as 's play has been disappointing and can't stay healthy. Couch actually replaced an ineffective Holcomb in last week's game before suffering a sprained knee on his second series. Although Couch's injury isn't quite as serious as originally thought, Holcomb is expected to start.

"I think you have to give him the opportunity to maybe make some mistakes," Davis said of Holcomb. "It's his first time ever being a starter. If everybody stays healthy, you maybe get a different performance and a different opinion."

SERIES HISTORY: These teams have split 16 all-time meetings with the winning 5-of-8 in Cleveland. The last meeting between these clubs happened on October 24, 1999, as the recorded a dominating 34-3 win in St. Louis. threw for 203 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, while rushed 16 times for 133 yards and a score.

Davis has never faced the , while Martz is 1-0 against the .

MONDAY NIGHT SPOTLIGHT: St. Louis is 23-24 on Monday Night Football, including a 9-13 road record. The have won four of their last five Monday night affairs, including a 36-0 thrashing of the Atlanta in Week 6.

Cleveland is making its first appearance on Monday Night Football since 1995 (lost 20-3 at Pittsburgh on Nov. 13, 1995). Since rejoining the NFL in 1999, the have played just three prime time games (all on Sunday night). The were the first team in NFL history to host and win a Monday Night Football game as they defeated the New York , 31-21, on Sept. 21, 1970. Cleveland owns a 13-11 (.542) overall record on MNF, but has lost four of their last five games on Monday Night.

RAMS OFFENSE VS. BROWNS DEFENSE

has once again become the focus of the St. Louis offense in recent weeks. Faulk, who was sidelined for a large portion of the season due to knee and hand injuries, has registered three consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Last week, Faulk tallied 108 yards and three touchdowns on just 17 carries (6.4 ypc) in the ' 48-17 thumping of the Minnesota .

"He's not done," said Martz of Faulk. "I know a lot of people have written him off. He's too heavy, he's too slow, too old. So am I. But he's not done. He has a lot of mileage left on him. Trust me when I tell you that.

"He's just now getting into game shape and getting going. He's hitting his stride right now and we couldn't be more happy about that."

Faulk, 30, has posted 127 career touchdowns -- four short of Cris Carter for fourth-most all-time. The veteran has also recorded 36 career 100-yard rushing games, including 22 with the . St. Louis is 22-0 all-time when Faulk reaches the 100-yard plateau.

Knowing the ' domination when Faulk gets going, the must find a way to slow him down. Cleveland, which allowed to rack up 127 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries (4.7 ypc) last week, has surrendered 4.5 yards per carry (13th-AFC) this season.

Stopping Faulk will be on the shoulders of the young Cleveland linebackers (Andra Davis, , ). Taylor, who is still second on the team with 73 tackles despite missing the last three games due to a staph infection, is questionable for this contest. Fortunately, Taylor's top replacement -- -- will be back after sitting out last week's tilt because of a calf/knee injury. Look for Boyer and Taylor to split time at the weakside linebacker slot.

picked up Taylor and Boyer's slack last week with 11 tackles, while safety led the way with 12 stops. Look for the to load the box and blitz on a regular basis to slow down Faulk.

Cleveland can't afford to focus completely on Faulk though, as the are multi-dimensional on the offensive side of the ball. St. Louis signal caller got back in the groove last week, completing 15-of-20 passes for 222 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while running for a score. Bulger amassed a 106.7 quarterback rating in the win. For the year, Bulger has thrown for 2,987 yards, 16 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

has been Bulger's favorite target, registering league highs in catches (92), receiving yardage (1,387) and touchdowns (10). Holt has posted eight 100-yard receiving games, including reeling in eight balls for 102 yards against the . The North Carolina State product has recorded 25 career 100-yard receiving days, tying for 4th-most in his 1st five seasons all-time.

Holt is by no means the only receiving threat for the , as veteran is extremely dangerous. Bruce has taken a back seat to Holt this season, but he still has 64 catches for 907 yards and three touchdowns.

The ' secondary will have its hands full with Holt and Bruce in this contest. Corners and must have their best games, while getting plenty of help from safeties and Griffith. Look for the to use plenty nickel and dime packages in an attempt to limit the ' passing yardage.

is the son of Director of Player Personnel Lawrence McCutcheon. Lawrence was a running back (1973-77) and helped the team reach Super Bowl XIV.

A consistent pass rush must be a staple for the if they expect to have a chance to stop Bulger. Cleveland sacked three times last week, but has just 23 (13th-AFC) for the year. Defensive end , who is currently slowed with an ankle injury, leads the team with six sacks. Keep an eye on the matchup between Brown and tackle in this contest.

Despite an impressive group of offensive linemen, the have still surrendered 34 sacks (12th-NFC). Last week, St. Louis allowed one sack to the .

BROWNS OFFENSE VS. RAMS DEFENSE

Holcomb completed 22-of-31 passes for 186 yards last week, while being intercepted once. The 30-year-old has not been successful in his last two starts, throwing for 420 yards, no scores and three interceptions en route to an average quarterback rating of 62.7. Butch Davis hasn't been happy with Holcomb nor Couch's decision-making as of late.

"I've talked to Kelly and I've talked to Tim and both of these guys have been victim of the frustration a quarterback feels at times," Davis said. "When things are not going the way we would like them to go -- you're struggling moving the ball and you're struggling on third downs -- you have a tendency to try to press. They feel that `I have to make a play or I have to make a great throw,' and maybe they try to force balls in.

"If we were leading by three or leading by 10, then maybe you don't try to make that throw and you dump it off or throw it into the bleachers. I think having the confidence to know that you can live to fight another day [is important]."

Backup running back was on the other end of seven passes from the quarterbacks last week, gaining 41 yards. Meanwhile, caught five balls for 61 yards while made three catches for 30 yards. Cleveland is ninth in the league in pass offense (206.6 ypg) for the year with Northcutt catching a team-high 48 balls for 502 yards and two scores.

St. Louis has been solid overall in pass defense, holding foes to just 208.3 yards per contest (5th-NFC). The surrendered 276 passing yards last week, but kept the out of the end zone quite a few times thanks to an interception and a season-high eight sacks.

All-Pro defensive end recorded a single-game, career-high four sacks in the win. Little, who is fourth in the NFC with 11 sacks despite playing in just eight games because of a torn pectoral muscle, became the first Ram since in 1993 to post four sacks in a contest.

right tackle must be at his best to limit Little's rush in this game. Look for Cleveland to sick Tucker and tight end on Little this week.

The have a variety of playmakers on their defense with five different players with at least two interceptions. Linebacker , and corners and have recorded three picks apiece this season.

Cleveland is lacking a consistent running game with top back William Green still suffering legal problems. Green had his suspension for substance abuse extended this week, leaving and White as the only rushing options down the stretch.

"We will continue to work in conjunction with the National Football League on this matter and support all league guidelines," president Carmen Policy of Green. "Our primary goal, as it has always been, is for William to take the necessary steps to resolving his personal matters. He continues to have our support."

Jackson had little to no success against the last week, rushing 13 times for 32 yards (2.7 ypc). For the year, Jackson has posted just 352 yards and three touchdowns on 98 carries.

The are 30th in the league in rushing offense (88.7 ypg), while the are 23rd against the run (122.7 ypg). In fact, St. Louis has surrendered a meaty 4.8 yards per carry (30th-NFL) this season.

Linebackers and , and safety are the best run defenders for the . Thomas has tallied team-highs in tackles (70) and stops for a loss (6 1/2).

St. Louis is not the same team on the road which should allow Cleveland to stay close in this contest. Look for the to escape with a narrow road victory.

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