Saints' offense erupts with five first-half TDs in win vs. Bengals

CINCINNATI -- Bold prediction: The New Orleans Saints will keep their spot as the No. 1 team in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings this week.

The Saints (8-1) scored on each of their first nine possessions Sunday in a 51-14 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals -- – making them just the third team to do so since 2001, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The only thing that stopped them was the clock. Backup QB Teddy Bridgewater started taking a knee after the two-minute warning.

Apparently the Saints' offense was just getting warmed up during the first half of the 2018 season.

They scored touchdowns in each of their first five possessions Sunday to take a 35-7 halftime lead. And they have now scored a total of 96 points over the past two weeks to leapfrog the Kansas City Chiefs as the top-scoring team in the NFL this season (36.7 points per game).

"We just found our swag, we found our stride," said Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who scored two more touchdowns to bring his season total to 14. "This team is persistent, consistent, we take advantage of opportunity. The schemes that Sean [Payton] and those guys upstairs, the offensive coordinator [Pete Carmichael Jr.] put in place, we execute. We execute and we make sure we handle our business, from top to bottom, no matter who's in.

"Everybody knows their role and plays their role. Nobody's trying to one-up each other."

The Saints have now won eight straight games as they head toward a showdown with the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans next week.

But they took it up a few notches on Sunday.

Drew Brees was 22 of 25 passing for 265 yards and three touchdowns -- including two to receiver Michael Thomas. Mark Ingram had 162 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. And Kamara had 102 yards from scrimmage, along with his two TDs.

Ingram, Kamara and Thomas were all throwing up "Xs" in the end zone during the first half as an homage to receiver Dez Bryant, who tore his Achilles tendon Friday just two days after joining the team.

The funny thing is that Payton was concerned about his team getting off to a slow start since this was their first 1 p.m. ET kickoff since Week 3. He made it a big point of emphasis all week.

"Fortunately we were able to do that and kept the momentum going," Payton said.

Payton refused to call this the "perfect game" -- even though it included defensive contributions such as interceptions by safety Marcus Williams and Eli Apple and four sacks.

But when asked the same question, Brees said, "Well, we would take that every time, I think. Especially when you get touchdowns. But we have high expectations for ourselves."

"Obviously the first half really set the tone -- the first drive. It was a good way to establish our presence at the line of scrimmage," Brees said. "I think so far it's our most complete game from start to finish. Just both sides of the ball, really executing well and taking advantage of opportunities."

The only negative is that standout left tackle Terron Armstead left the game with a shoulder injury in the first half, which leaves his status in doubt going forward. But the team didn't miss a beat when veteran backup Jermon Bushrod entered the game.

The two NFL teams that had previously scored on their first nine possessions were the 2015 New England Patriots and the 2011 Saints -- during a 62-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts at home. That dynamic Saints team finished 13-3 and still holds the NFL record for offensive yards in a season (7,474).

This Saints offense is making a run at that one.

Ingram, who was a part of both teams, said the Saints feel like when they execute, no one can stop them.

"If we do our job, if everybody does their job, if everybody executes, nobody has to be superhuman, nobody has to be 'The Hulk.' You just have to be the best you," Ingram said. "And I think that's what we have on this team is guys doing their job, executing their job."

The 35 points was the most the Saints have scored in the first half of a road game since 2003, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But it was the second straight game where they reached 35 before halftime. (They did the same in last week's 45-35 home win against the Los Angeles Rams.)

The Saints are getting used to hot starts. They have now scored a touchdown on their opening possession in six of nine games this season.

Brees reached 21 TD passes on the season in the first half -- and 509 for his career, moving him ahead of Brett Favre for second place on the NFL's all-time list (Peyton Manning is first at 539).

Kamara now has nine multi-TD games in his two-year career. Only Todd Gurley has more since the start of the 2017 season.