ATLANTA, OCT. 28 -- The final score was Atlanta 38, Cincinnati 17.

But for those keeping score between Jerry Glanville and Sam Wyche, they have now embarrassed each other once apiece.

The Falcons, behind a strong running game that has been absent for most of the season, beat the Bengals tonight in front of 53,214 at Fulton County Stadium. Atlanta is 3-4 and in second place behind the San Francisco 49ers (7-0) in the NFC West. The Bengals fell to 5-3, ending a five-game road trip that took them to every region in the country except the Northeast.

It is no secret that coaches Wyche and Glanville can't stand one another, and their hatred has extended into the bloodstreams of the players, though no one will admit it. Last December, Wyche's Bengals beat the Houston Oilers, then coached by Glanville, 61-7. After the game, Wyche called Glanville "probably the biggest phony in football."

Tonight was an extension of that game. The coaches didn't shake hands as they walked off the field, even though Wyche shook hands with seven Falcons and an official. During the game there were two fights and seven scuffles.

Afterward, neither coach would mention his counterpart by name. Wyche said Glanville team's are all the same: They hit after the whistle is blown. The Falcons had three penalties for 15 yards, none of which were personal fouls.

"I still maintain, and the officials concur with me, that there are some marginal hits," Wyche said. "But I think that somebody has to lay on the field and be paralyzed. . . . Basically nothing has changed from the days of Houston."

When asked did it feel to beat Wyche, Glanville said, "I'm not going to comment on their players or their coach."

When pressed Glanville smiled and said, "A little bit."

"Sam definitely has something against Jerry," said Falcons wide receiver Floyd Dixon, who had two touchdown catches. "Jerry would definitely like to beat Sam anytime he can."

Glanville won with a ground-based attack.

The Falcons and Bengals were 27th and 28th, respectively, in pass defenses, so runs were unusual. But Atlanta rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Broussard and Mike Rozier, picked up this season off waivers from Houston, combined for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Atlanta also won the battle of the quarterbacks. The Falcons' Chris Miller played a nearly flawless game, completing 12 of 18 attempts and throwing for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Boomer Esiason's two interceptions led to 10 Falcons points. He was erratic, completing 19 of 35 for 199 yards and one touchdown.

The Falcons were the more physical team, especially in the defensive backfield.

"The key to the game was the hard hitting," Glanville said. "There was no doubt about who had the intensity, who had the hitting, who had the fire in their eye. {The coaching staff} said to the team afterwards: 'That's us. That's where we want to be.' "

Atlanta took a 17-7 halftime lead and were never threatened again. Especially after the impressive punt return by Deion Sanders.

Sanders, the Bo Jackson wanna-be who hit in the .100s this summer with the New York Yankees, fielded the punt at his 21, hesitated, then took off up the middle. He dodged three defenders at midfield, and began his sassy high-stepping dance at about the 35.

Sanders's 79-yard return set a team record and gave the Falcons a 24-7 cushion with 11:45 left in the third quarter. "It felt good to finally get one and take it all the way," he said.

Cincinnati made the score 24-10 with Jim Breech's 35-yard field goal. But the Falcons came right back, with Dixon catching an 11-yard touchdown pass to cap an 80-yard drive.

"I was getting man-to-man down there near the goal so I just got by my guy and Chris threw the ball right where it needed to be," Dixon said.

Cincinnati now gets to play at home for the first time in five weeks, but it's against their arch rivals, the Cleveland Browns. So there is no time to pout, just time to try and forget.

"We got our butts kicked," said Bengals offensive lineman Anthony Munoz. "You can't look at anything positive out of this game. But as hard as it may be we have to forget about it."