At 4-8, Cleveland wants to show the nation some pride, while the Rams seek a playoff berth.
By Associated Press
Published December 8, 2003
CLEVELAND - In anticipation of their first regular-season Monday Night Football appearance since returning to the league in 1999, many Cleveland players spent last week reminiscing about watching classic games.
Tonight, they hope to play in one.
The Browns (4-8), trying to salvage some pride in a season gone wrong, host the St. Louis Rams (9-3). It is Cleveland's first MNF appearance since Nov. 13, 1995, and its 25th since hosting the inaugural Monday night game on Sept. 21, 1970, when the Browns beat the New York Jets 31-21.
"We don't get much national exposure, but we've got a lot of great players on this team," said safety Earl Little, who leads the Browns with four interceptions. "This season hasn't gone like we expected. But we'll be on the big stage, so we're going to go out and put on a good show because we know the whole world will be watching."
At least for a half.
After the way the Browns folded Nov. 30 in a 34-7 drubbing at Seattle, it would be hard to imagine them giving the powerful Rams, led by quarterback Marc Bulger, running back Marshall Faulk and wide receiver Torry Holt, much of a tussle. Cleveland, however, has played well when it was least expected.
Holt leads the league with 92 catches and 1,387 receiving yards. He's on pace to break Jerry Rice's league mark of 1,848 yards in a season (1995).
Last week, coach Butch Davis raised some eyebrows when he proclaimed the Browns were ahead of schedule "in some respects" in his third season rebuilding Cleveland.
Davis clarified those remarks a few days later, possibly to soothe the agitated Browns fans who flooded radio call-in shows.
"Let me make this completely clear," Davis said. "By no stretch of the imagination are we satisfied being 4-8. There were a lot of higher expectations of this team going into training camp. We don't want the wheels to come off in the last four weeks. We want to finish these last four games as positively as possible, and what better place to do it than on Monday Night Football."
The Rams, meanwhile, would lock up a playoff berth with a win.
"We're fortunate enough to be in a position where we don't have to worry about what other people do," lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "Winning puts you where you want to be.
"Just win and everything else will take care of itself."
Rams (9-3) at Browns (4-8)
This is Cleveland's first Monday Night Football appearance since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. What a pity. Rams spoil the festivities.