- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: The Saints (4-6) somehow managed to discover a new low in this disappointing season. This was their ugliest loss yet, considering they were at home and playing against an opponent that was struggling on the way into the game.
The Saints' season is still far from over since they are actually still tied for first in the woeful NFC South. (Atlanta holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.) But the bigger question is whether they are good enough to take advantage.
Somehow New Orleans lost big even though it didn't turn the ball over until the final minutes, when the game was well out of reach. This time the problem was that the Saints couldn't finish off any of their drives. The offense kept stalling in the red zone and the defense couldn't get off the field on third down.
Stock watch: The Saints' defense regressed Sunday after showing signs of life over the past month or so. They allowed Cincinnati to convert nine of its first 11 third-down attempts -- including an 18-yarder, an 11-yarder and three third-and-8s (all on the opening touchdown drive).
A week after Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a passer rating of 2.0, he had a 143.9 against the Saints (16-of-22, 220 yards, three TDs, no interceptions).
But the ugliest play of all was Bengals running back Jeremy Hill's 62-yard run that set up a field goal before halftime -- when Cincinnati appeared to be running out the clock.
Too conservative? This game won't add much ammo to the insistence that the Saints should work harder to establish the run with Mark Ingram. He ran the ball 23 times for 67 yards. Drew Brees completed 80 percent of his passes. And the Saints didn't turn the ball over until the final minutes on a fumble by Travaris Cadet. But their usually potent offense lacked firepower, scoring only 10 points and gaining only 330 yards.
The Saints' NFL-record streak of 28 straight home games with 20-plus points was snapped.
Game ball: Since I can't abstain, I'll give it to receiver Kenny Stills, who caught the Saints' only touchdown pass (a 9-yarder in the fourth quarter) and caught two other passes on third down. Stills finished with four catches for 32 yards.
Up next: The Saints will host the Baltimore Ravens (6-4) on "Monday Night Football." Although the Saints have suddenly lost their magic touch at home, the one thing they have continued to do consistently well this season is dominate in prime-time games at home. They have won 14 straight, including the playoffs, by nearly 20 points per game.