What it means: Sunday's 17-point win still doesn't tell us much about who the Bengals are. Remember, this is the same team that has confounded its fans the last six weeks by losing games in blowout fashion and eking by teams they ought to have destroyed. The only real conclusion we can draw is this: Inconsistency might very well be the Bengals' identity this season. But even in their inconsistency, the team has showed that it has the talent and overall makeup it takes to be a playoff-caliber club. They just have to have performances like this one a lot more often. For the first time since Week 3, the Bengals got a complete team win. All three phases didn't only perform well, but they dominated their opponents. The defense didn't allow Jimmy Graham to hurt it, the offense rode the running game and the special teams had timely plays as well. All of that, along with zero turnovers, equals a win.
Solid effort vs. rush: At long last, the Bengals finally had a strong performance against the run. Their defense held the Saints to 75 yards. Running back Mark Ingram, who entered with three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, had just 67 yards on 23 carries. Linebacker Rey Maualuga might have played the biggest role in the Bengals' strong rush defense. A noted run-stopper, he returned this week for the first time since suffering a serious hamstring injury in Week 6. His presence had an impact early. He had only three tackles, but even when he didn't have a stop, Maualuga's presence alone helped redirect rushers to others, such as defensive tackle Domata Peko and linebackers Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur. Peko was one of the biggest factors in the Bengals' run defense, clogging the middle of the line often.
Dalton-to-Gresham in red zone: Among the problems the Bengals had offensively earlier this season was getting the football into their tight ends' hands in red zone situations. With Tyler Eifert out since the season opener with a dislocated elbow, that namely has meant getting the ball into Jermaine Gresham's hands inside the 20. The fifth-year tight end didn't cut off routes near the goal line, as he had at other times this season, and ended up scoring two touchdowns, both from inside the red zone. The first touchdown came after he caught a 12-yard pass and fumbled reaching for the end zone. As the ball got kicked around, he somehow landed on it in the end zone for the fumble recovery for the score. He also had a 1-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter that helped put the game out of reach.
Game ball: Rookie running back Jeremy Hill gets this week's game ball after his 27-carry, 152-yard rushing performance. It's his second 150-yard rushing performance of the season, following his 154-yard day against the Jaguars two weeks ago. In that game, he had a 60-yard touchdown run that put the game out of reach. In this one, he had a 62-yard carry with seconds remaining in the second quarter. He went down with one second left, just in time for the Bengals to make a field goal as time expired for a 13-3 lead.
What's next? The Bengals (6-3-1) are back in action next Sunday when they travel to Houston to play the Texans.