Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get much worse for the Cincinnati Bengals defense, they did.
The New Orleans Saints scored on nine straight drives, racked up 509 yards of offense and handed the Bengals a 51-14 loss Sunday in front of 52,492 fans at Paul Brown Stadium in what was one of Cincinnati’s most lopsided defeats in franchise history.
Cincinnati (5-4), which has only twice before lost by 37 points, also became the first team in NFL history to give up 500 yards of offense in three straight games. New Orleans (8-1) has won eight in a row.
Drew Brees and the Saints’ dynamic offense seemed to move with ease against a depleted Bengals defense, which was without several key players and then lost cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to a concussion late in the second quarter. Brees completed 22 of 25 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, and Mark Ingram rushed for 104 yards on 13 carries.
It became clear early on the only solution was going to be for the offense to try to keep pace, and after Cincinnati tied the game at 7 with 1:56 left in the first quarter, that possibility didn’t seem so far-fetched even without star wide receiver A.J. Green.
The Bengals answered a 75-yard scoring drive with one of their own as Joe Mixon ran the ball four times for 35 yards, backup quarterback Jeff Driskel came in for an 8-yard scramble and Andy Dalton completed all three of his passes for 32 yards, including the 2-yard touchdown to John Ross.
An unfazed New Orleans offense just went right back down the field for another score, which perfectly encapsulated Cincinnati’s defensive performance this season. Ingram took a short pass 28 yards for a touchdown, utilizing a big block on Jordan Evans and then spinning around two defensive backs, as Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates both whiffed, to get into the end zone.
The idea the offense could just keep pace changed the next series after a Matt Lengel false start on fourth-and-1 killed a drive Marvin Lewis was attempting to extend with the Bengals trailing 14-7. Cincinnati ended up punting two straight drives, and then Dalton was intercepted deep in New Orleans territory just before halftime, which just added to the hole. Marcus Williams returned the pick 78 yards to set up one last score to make it 35-7 with two seconds on the clock.
Cincinnati saw slight improvement in the second half when the Bengals held the Saints to field goals on three drives, but the offense wasn’t much better. Dalton threw another interception in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Driskel, who ran in Cincinnati’s only second-half score from 27 yards out to make it 51-14 with 4:42 left.
Dalton completed 12 of 20 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown and Mixon finished with 61 yards on 11 carries as the Bengals totaled 284 yards of offense with a season-low 13 first downs.
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