KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Bengals had been written off just two weeks ago, when they were slogging their way through four straight losses that had cynics everywhere saying same 'ol Cincy.
How things can change after just a couple of victories.
The first came against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the kind of win that causes people to start paying attention. The second came Sunday, a 28-6 rout of the woefully inept Kansas City Chiefs that has thrust Cincinnati right back into the playoff hunt.
Especially with four straight upcoming games against marginal competition.
"We felt like we gave a couple of games away," said Andy Dalton, who threw four TD passes against the Giants and accounted for three more against the Chiefs.
"We had a four-game losing streak. We should have played better during that stretch. But now we've got momentum, and we've got to keep it going. We've had two great wins, full-team wins with everybody doing their part, and we've got to keep that going throughout these last six games."
Dalton threw for 230 yards, with touchdown tosses to A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu, and also ran for a score. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 101 yards rushing and another touchdown as the Bengals (5-5) handed the struggling Chiefs (1-9) their seventh straight defeat.
"There have been a lot of games — a four-game stretch — where I was not even playing in the fourth quarter," Green-Ellis said. "We were trying to come back and were not running the ball. It feels good to go out there and get some of those things under wraps."
The Chiefs sure wish they knew how that felt.
Jamaal Charles had 87 yards rushing, but that was the only highlight for a team whose only win this season required a franchise-record 18-point comeback to beat New Orleans.
Arrowhead Stadium was only about half-full most of the game, and a good portion of those who showed up were dressed in black — a grass-roots effort organized by fans who have been trying to pressure team ownership to clean out the front office.
"I focus on the game. I don't get into the crowd," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said.
Perhaps he should have let his eyes wander.
What happened on the field didn't put him in a very good mood.
Dalton and Green shredded Crennel's porous pass defense, Green-Ellis pounded away at a front line that had played better of late, and a middle-of-the-road Cincinnati defense looked like an iron curtain against a Kansas City offense that has been an utter failure.
The result: The Bengals are back to .500, and eying back-to-back postseason appearances for only the second time in franchise history, while the Chiefs have dropped seven straight games in a single season for the first time since Oct. 5-Nov. 23, 2008.
"We aren't babies. We know that when we aren't winning fans are going to get mad," Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "We've got to find a way to turn this thing around."
The Chiefs struck first for the second straight week Sunday, turning several nice runs by Charles into a 34-yard field goal by Ryan Succop, before reality set in.
The Bengals converted two fourth downs, one on an audacious faked punt, and Dalton capped the drive with a 5-yard fade pass to Green, who managed to stab the ball with one hand and then slap both feet into the end zone before falling out of bounds.
Peyton Hillis fumbled on the Chiefs' ensuing possession, their league-leading 31st turnover, and Cincinnati made it 14-3 later in the second quarter on Dalton's short TD run.
The Bengals' most impressive drive of the game came after they forced the Chiefs to punt for the third straight time, an 11-play, 78-yard masterpiece in which they faced third down once.
Ellis capped that one off with a short touchdown plunge for a 21-3 lead.
Matt Cassel deftly led the Chiefs to a field goal in the closing seconds of the half, but Crennel elected to put backup Brady Quinn into the game at quarterback to start the third quarter.
Cassel sustained a concussion earlier this season, and then lost his job to Quinn, who was active for the first time since sustaining his own concussion Oct. 28 against Oakland.
Quinn didn't fare much better leading the Kansas City offense, and the Bengals tacked on Sanu's touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"Everyone in this building is frustrated," Cassel said. "We don't want to go out and perform like that. We don't want to lose like that. We want to go out and compete and win games."
NOTES: Bengals CB Terence Newman left with a concussion. Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (neck) and left tackle Branden Albert (back) also were hurt. ... The Bengals were 3 for 3 on fourth down. ... DT Geno Atkins forced two fumbles, had a sack and led Cincinnati with six tackles. ... Cassel and Quinn combined to go 17 of 30 for 188 yards.