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Brees throws for 510 yards ... and loses to Bengals

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- If anyone doubted how seriously Chad Johnson
takes his role on the Cincinnati Bengals, consider this: He was too
hurt to perform his trademark end zone celebrations.

He retained the will to score game-breaking touchdowns.

For a second Sunday in a row, Johnson and quarterback Carson
Palmer terrorized an opposing defense, connecting for 190 yards and
three touchdowns. This time, however, it resulted in a 31-16
victory over the New Orleans Saints that halted a three-game losing
skid and renewed hope of a playoff run in the Bengals' locker room.

"I'm trying to be as consistent as possible, trying to make
sure I do all I can to make sure we come up out of this hole and
make this run," said Johnson, who limped into the end zone at the
end of a 60-yard touchdown reception that gave the Bengals a 17-10
lead in the fourth quarter. "It was a necessary victory. A must
win."

Johnson said his right hamstring was hurting, but returned on
the next series and caught a 48-yard pass, followed by a 4-yard TD
catch on a quick slant as the Bengals (5-5) pulled away.

"I knew Chad was going to come back in the game," Palmer said.
"He had been playing so well. He's a tough guy."

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees lost top receiver Marques
Colston, who left with an ankle injury in the first offensive
series. That didn't slow down Brees, who went on to throw for more
than 500 yards and two TDs.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Colston has a sprained left ankle,
and did not yet know his status for next week.

The Saints (6-4) couldn't overcome Brees' three interceptions.

"Our guys are playing with a tremendous amount of energy, but
they're making too many mistakes," Payton said.

Palmer and Johnson had combined for 260 yards and two touchdowns
last week against San Diego, but it was all for naught in a 49-41
loss. This week, they got some help from the defense, which
thwarted four Saints drives with turnovers.

Palmer was 14-of-22 passing for 275 yards and benefited from the
balance provided by Rudi Johnson's 111 yards rushing for the
Bengals (5-5).

Palmer was intercepted once, but made the Saints pay when they
blew coverages on play-action fakes. On the Bengals' first
touchdown, Johnson changed his route, sprinting past cornerback
Fred Thomas and raising his hand when he saw Saints safety Josh
Bullocks wasn't deep enough. Palmer saw it and lofted a 41-yarder
on target.

"That's nothing more than Chad and I just making eye contact
through a route and the defense not even being around him because
they're out of position," Palmer said. "Chad and I have worked
together a lot, not just during the season. ... We understand each
other. I understand how Chad runs certain routes and know he's
always looking for that big play if he can get behind the
defense."

New Orleans looked like the better team for much of the game,
but as it was in its two previous losses to Pittsburgh and
Baltimore, turnovers were costly.

"We can move the ball at will, any time, any place ... through
the air, on the ground, whatever it takes," Brees said. "But when
it really comes down to it, you have to take care of the football,
you have to convert on third down. We can be as good as we want to
be as long as we take care of the football."

Two promising drives ended with interceptions in the end zone.

Brees also had an interception returned 52 yards for a touchdown
by Ethan Kilmer that gave the Bengals a 31-10 lead with 6:14 to go.

Cincinnati's defense made an important stand early in the fourth
quarter, stopping Deuce McAllister on a third-and-1 at the Bengals'
5-yard line. A touchdown could have put New Orleans ahead and
changed the complexion of the game. Instead, John Carney's short
field goal tied the game at 10.

Brees was 37-of-52 for 510 yards passing, his fourth consecutive
game with more than 300 yards. But New Orleans has lost three of
those four games, including two in a row.

Reggie Bush and McAllister combined for 91 yards rushing, with
Bush accounting for 51.

Brees' touchdown passes went for 72 yards to Joe Horn in the
first quarter and 27 yards to Terrance Copper late in the game.

Game notes
Horn's touchdown in the first quarter was his 50th for the
Saints. He became one of only two players to ever reach 50 in New
Orleans. The other was Dalton Hilliard, who had 53 from 1986-93.
... Kevin Kaesviharn, inserted as a starter at safety for injured
Dexter Jackson (Achilles tendon) had 10 tackles, including two
sacks, and an interception. ... Brees' passing yardage total was
sixth-highest in NFL history. The most is 554 by Norm Van Brocklin
with the Los Angeles Rams in 1951.