Bengals bounce back to top of AFC North

11/17/2014 01:00 PM

What a difference 10 days makes. After last Thursday’s embarrassing loss to the Browns, Andy Dalton and the Bengals were criticized by seemingly everyone. They turned it around and handed the Saints their second straight home loss by beating them 27-10 in a dominant fashion.

Dalton had the worst performance of his career against the Browns, finishing with a 2.0 QBR. Ten days later, he not only played better, but went from his worst career day to his best. Dalton finished 16 of 22 for 220 yards, three touchdowns and a QBR of 143.9.

Jeremy Hill had an impressive homecoming in his return to NOLA. He ran for his second 100-yard game in three starts. Hill finished with 27 rushes for 152 yards. A.J. Green also had a big game and finally looked like A.J. for the first time since his injury. The star receiver put on a clinic on a series in the fourth quarter. A catch down the sideline for a 38-yard gain brought the Bengals into Saints territory. Then on 3rd and 2, he caught a pass for an 18-yard gain setting up an Andy to A.J. touchdown where Green barely tapped his feet in time for the score. That touchdown buried any hope Saints fans had of a comeback.

Sunday also marked a much-needed turnaround for the Bengals defense. Cincinnati was ranked 31st in the NFL coming into the game against the Saints. A defense that struggled to stop the run and defend tight ends had no such problems in New Orleans. Finding a way to limit Jimmy Graham, arguably the best TE in the league, was one of the biggest concerns heading into this match-up but the Bengals held him to just three receptions for 29 yards.

The defense was ignited by a fourth-down stop by Rey Maualuga when he tackled Saints’ fullback Erik Lorig for a loss of a yard on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 yard line. Maualuga missed the previous four games and his presence made a clear difference on Sunday. The defense held the Saints to 10 points, the first time they’ve held an opponent under 23 since Week 3.

The win over the Saints puts the Bengals back in first place in the division. They head to Houston this week for the second of their three game road stretch.


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