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Red-hot Saints present serious challenge for Bills

And that, my friends, is today's winner for "DUH" headline of the day.

The New Orleans Saints are 2-0.  They are averaging over 46 points per game.  Drew Brees, quarterback extraordinaire, has thrown nine touchdowns and has by far the NFL's highest quarterback rating.  New Orleans' offense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL overall, No. 2 in passing, and No. 8 in rushing.  They've forced opponents into seven turnovers, and are winning games by an average of 22 points.  Their ridiculous production has turned them into one of the big stories early in the 2009 season.

Saints fans craved respect, and now they've got it.  They're tossing the word "dominance" around with alarming frequency, and talking about Brees as the best quarterback in Saints history - which he probably already is.

Even if some of the talk is a bit premature - and let's face it, they haven't been impressive to the point where they're a shoo-in for anything other than being a serious early contender - they're a formidable challenge for any team, and in particular our young Buffalo Bills.  Can they be beaten? Time will tell, but for now, we're going to pull some insight from the two teams the Saints have beaten thus far this season.

Chatting with the defeated
Last weekend, the Saints traveled to Philadelphia and beat the Eagles - playing without Donovan McNabb - by a final score of 48-22. I asked Jason Brewer, lead blogger at Bleeding Green Nation, if he had any insight on how one might try to slow the Saints down.  His response:

If I had an answer, I'd be happy to give it to you... but I don't. If anything, it's just the basic football stuff - bring pressure and control the ball. When the Eagles' pressure was actually able to get to Brees, they forced a fumble and a pick, but if you blitz and don't get there, then he'll tear you up.

Yeah - that's not particularly helpful, but it does underscore an important point: strong, solid, fundamental football can beat anyone in this league.  Jason did, however, offer up words of wisdom to his BGN community after that loss that can be applied to those of us trying to convince ourselves that the Saints are overrated because of the teams they've played - and in this case, the player's they haven't had to play:

One thing I can say without a shadow of a doubt is that the loss of McNabb isn't what lost this game for the Eagles. If you blame that or blame (Kevin) Kolb, I have to wonder whether you're trying to convince yourself that the defense can't be this bad...

New Orleans went to Detroit in Week 1 and picked up a 45-27 win there.  Sean Yuille, lead blogger at Pride of Detroit, put together a drive-by-drive analysis of the game, and the below blurb makes an important point:

The Lions quickly went three and out, and the Saints hit the end zone just as fast.  Already having good field position, the Saints moved into Lions territory with a couple of plays that went for 7 yards, and on the next play Brees found a wide open Meachem for a 39-yard touchdown.  Just like that, the Saints led 14-0.

Those two drives were the second and third drives of the game.  New Orleans had a 14-0 lead within moments.  Taking an early lead is critical to in-game success in the vast majority of NFL games, and it's something the Saints have employed in both of their victories.  They put up 14 points on Detroit before the Lions scored, and they drew first blood in Philadelphia as well.  But there is room for error with these Saints...

The Lions faced 3rd and 8 as the second quarter began, and (Matt) Stafford found (Kevin) Smith on a dump off for a gain of 7.  Jim Schwartz called a timeout to talk things over and ultimately decided to go for it.  With (Jerome) Felton in the backfield, the Saints were definitely keying in on the big man in this situation.  With that in mind, Stafford faked a handoff to him and pitched it outside to Smith, who was able to walk into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown.  This was a great play call and cut the Saints' lead down to 4 points.

They let the Lions back into it - after taking that 14-0 lead, the Lions scored ten unanswered to make it 14-10.  Then, in Philly, New Orleans took an early 7-0 lead, but gave up a long scoring play to DeSean Jackson to even the score.  The Saints let the Eagles back into it, too - even without McNabb - and held only a 17-13 lead at halftime in that game.

Beating good teams doesn't take rocket science
On the surface, the Saints have been dominant - and, in reality, they've still been dominant, but they're far from perfect.  The Lions and Eagles have made their lives easy early in the season, turning the ball over regularly and giving Brees short fields.  In short, they've played bad football - and I doubt any Lions or Eagles fan out there would disagree with that.

The Saints are a good, possibly great football team.  They've beaten two teams that have made a lot of mistakes, and there were ebbs and flows in the game, just as there are in most NFL games.  They kept the Lions and the Eagles alive with some mistakes of their own.  They are not perfect.  It will take good, solid football to compete with them.  Before we even get into game plans and strategies to try to slow down this attack, this most important, fundamental aspect of the game must be re-iterated: all the scheming in the world won't mean a thing if the Bills don't first give themselves a chance to win by playing smart, mistake-free football.  Mistakes have been prevalent early in the season for Buffalo.

We talk about the Bills here on a daily basis, and for the most part, there's a degree of optimism about this Bills team from our fan base.  Possibly even moreso than our season opener in New England, these Saints present a tremendous challenge for this team.  But it won't take previously unseen creativity and trickery to beat this team.  It will take good, solid, fundamental football - tackle, play fast, start fast, don't make mistakes.  Whether or not the Bills will be able to do that is the big question, but let's get this notion that the Saints are an indomitable force out of our minds.  This Bills team is a challenge for them as well.  We're a few days out, but for now, this has the makings of an excellent Week 3 game.