The Saints flipped the script in Sunday's first half when quarterback Drew Brees killed them softly on 18 of 20 passing with his two longest passes to running back Mark Ingram and New Orleans hogged the ball for 40 of 60 plays and devastating 19:33 time of possession as they broke to a 35-7 half-time lead against a flummoxed Bengals defense that allowed 311 yards.
The Saints immediately went ahead, 21-7, with the help of two plays that are a microcosm of the Bengals defensive struggles: coverage of running backs and missed tackles. Both were big passes to Ingram. The first one when linebacker Jordan Evans, starting for the injured Vontaze Burfict, fell down when he tried to avoid a pick and Ingram was all by himself up the right sideline for a 27-yard route.
Moments later middle linebacker Preston Brown couldn't keep pace with Ingram on a pass out of the backfield and Ingram finished it off for a 28-yard touchdown play when he spun and safeties Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates missed the tackles at the goal line 1:27 into the second quarter.
It was 21-7 and the Saints were gone.
The Bengals turned to Mixon five times in their eight-play opening drive capped by Dalton's two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver John Ross running from the slot right to left along the back line of the end zone when he fried cornerback Eli Apple off the ball.
Mixon attacked the NFL's No. 1 rush defense with 35 yards on his first four carries that included a hellacous jump cut on a seven-yard seep following left tackle Cordy Glenn. He also added a seven-yard catch off Dalton's action. And backup quarterback Jeff Driskell got into the act with an eight-yard run off a zone read.
The Bengals used a diet of backup tackle Jake Fisher as the sixth lineman and was in on the touchdown pass that began on Dalton's play action.
But when they got down 21-7, Mixon came out, Giovani Bernard came in they went the dreaded three-and-out in less than a minute when Dalton got sacked on third down. Mixon finished the half with those 34 yards and on five carries.
The Bengals didn't have it very often, only long enough to go 0-for-2 on third down and for Dalton to go seven of 10 passing for 92 yards. Mixon had another catch after the first drive and had 24 yards catching.
Wide receiver Tyler Boyd had two catches for 29 yards, one on a 23-yarder over the middle.
Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was ruled out early in the second half with a concussion.