DON’T LOOK NOW, BUT...

Sunday’s game was proof that the Saints’ invincibility in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is over. The team lacked the intensity needed from the start to re-energize its fan base. If fans weren’t booing, they were silent, which is never good for a home team. The team’s killer home schedule is coming to roost, because the teams that have come into the Dome the past few games have been mentally tougher than the Saints. And by the way, the NFC South could be there for the taking if the Atlanta Falcons have a sudden jolt of competence in the next few weeks.

THE LEGITIMACY METER

This game was just another reason why the Saints’ value is always half full on the legitimacy meter. Again, not terrible, but clearly not great. Cincinnati was reeling. The Bengals had lost two of their past four coming into the game. But at times, they looked like the Super Bowl contenders many expected them to be during their game against New Orleans’ finest.

BAD TIMING

This was the second straight game the Saints faced a talented team coming off of a disappointing loss. And as expected, the Saints got the Bengals’ best effort early. The Bengals, who were embarrassed in a 24-3 loss to Cleveland in their previous game, came out with lots of focus and effort and were able to survive the early boost the Saints usually get from their home crowd.

WHAT GIVES?

The Saints had first-and-goal from the Cincinnati 3-yard line in the second quarter and gained only 1 yard on four plays. The team didn’t try to get the ball to tight end Jimmy Graham during the series. The offensive line couldn’t power the ball into the end zone on two straight runs.

WHAT GIVES No. 2?

The Saints fans in the Superdome were right to boo the team after Bengals kicker Mike Nugent hit a 42-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give Cincinnati a 13-3 lead. Nugent’s kick came one play after former LSU running back Jeremy Hill ripped off a 62-yard run when the Bengals were trying to run out the clock before half. It was the second straight week the team was booed going into halftime.

UP NEXT: The Saints host the Baltimore Ravens in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday Night Football on Nov. 24.

-- Pierce W. Huff