Cincinnati – The New Orleans Saints passed on the cheese.
That may not happen every week, because the accolades and compliments continue piling up at a speed-of-light rate. But on Sunday, we know for sure that the Saints (8-1) did not fall prey to hero consumption.
The evidence? Their eighth straight win, a 51-14 victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium that was the team's most complete win of the season.
On the road, against a team that was 5-3 and was coming off its bye week, the Saints imposed their will early and dominated from start to finish. They behaved like the best team in the league, and objections summarily are being dismissed.
OFFENSE: True, the Bengals defense is on a historic pace for inadequacy. But the Saints never punted, scored on every possession except the end-of-game kneel, and were able to check every single box. The passing game was hospital-level clean; Drew Brees completed 22 of 25 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. The running game was punishing; Mark Ingram ran for 104 yards on 13 carries, and Alvin Kamara ran for two touchdowns and 56 yards on 12 carries. The offensive line submitted another marvelous showing; Brees wasn't sacked and the running game totaled 244 yards on 47 carries. All in all, hard to find any fault. Left tackle Terron Armstead left with a shoulder injury in the second quarter, and that will bear watching because he was playing like the best in the league at his position. But when Jermon Bushrod replaced him, the line didn't slow one bit and the offense continued to dominate.
DEFENSE: Two interceptions, by safety Marcus Williams and cornerback Eli Apple. Four sacks, by defensive end Cam Jordan, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, linebacker Alex Anzalone, defensive end Alex Okafor and defensive tackle David Onyemata (shared). Just 284 yards allowed and a somewhat cosmetic touchdown at the end. No third-down conversions on six attempts. Only 13 first downs surrendered. That's grown-man work by a defense that has had a struggle or two this season. Granted, the Bengals were without receiver A.J. Green and the Saints allowed more than 100 yards on the ground (110, on 16 carries). But they did the job time and again against the Bengals, and they did it well.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Saints got some work on kickoff coverage Sunday. The Bengals had six returns for 107 yards, including a long of 32 yards. But other than that, it was an extremely clean game, from three more successful field goals by Wil Lutz (he's up to 19 of 20 for the season), to a few nice tackles on special teams, to punter Thomas Morstead not having to attempt a punt in the game – the second time that has happened this season. Any time the punter doesn't have to punt, it's a great day.