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Buffalo Bills 31, New Orleans Saints 6: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills crushed another opponent with injury issues

The Buffalo Bills didn’t let their loss to the Indianapolis Colts bring them down, flying into The Big Easy and delivering a smackdown of the New Orleans Saints in a 31-6 win. The Saints, dealing with an injury list as long as the ones sent to the North Pole, weren’t able to match up against the Bills when their starters included Trevor Siemian and Tony Jones Jr.

Buffalo’s game started exactly on script—the defense forced an easy three-and-out, and their new-look offense (featuring Matt Breida in place of Zack Moss) strode down the field for a ten-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that ended with Dawson Knox in the end zone. Buffalo only faced a single third down, balancing multiple outside run concepts and quick passes on their way to their score.

The Saints started their next drive with two passes for 22 yards, but self-inflicted mistakes ended any threat of scoring. A false start, a dropped pass, and a sack forced another punt. But the Saints’ defense stepped up in kind, with a tackle for a loss and a sack forcing the first Bills punt of the night.

Set up with good field position after the punt, it only took the Saints two plays and 13 yards to cross midfield. But the Bills’ defense stood firm, and even when the Saints tried out a 4th & 2 run, Ed Oliver and Mario Addison blew up the play in the backfield. Josh Allen hit on four passes, including a 26-yard floater to Gabriel Davis, to bring the Bills to the red zone. But on 3rd & 2, Allen took a coverage sack, and the Bills kicked a field goal to take a 10-0 lead.

Buffalo forced a punt on the next Saints possession, but lost Tre’Davious White to a knee injury in the process. On the next drive, Allen wasn’t in sync with Stefon Diggs, throwing an interception to Bradley Roby at midfield. New Orleans went three and out, thanks to a sack by Ed Oliver, but they tried a trick play on fourth down. The punter’s pass was way off target, though, and Buffalo took over with two minutes left in the half. Allen’s passes brought the Bills back to the red zone, but it was there the drive ended, when Allen threw an interception as Cameron Jordan hit his arm. The play before, it looked like Allen had thrown a touchdown pass to Dawson Knox, but it was a busted call where a lineman was too far downfield on the play. What could’ve been a major halftime lead was only ten points.

Coming out of halftime, the Bills found their footing again in an 11-play, 75-yard drive. Devin Singletary set up the scoring with two carries for 26 yards, and Stefon Diggs finished things off with a whip route that sent his defender into the next yard, before catching a four-yard TD pass.

After a Saints three and out, it only took five plays for the Bills to score another touchdown. Gabriel Davis started the drive with a 21-yard gain, but the next series stalled at a 4th & 2. The Bills opted to go for the gain—Allen rolled right and hit a wide open Knox, who rumbled downfield for the remainder of the 24-yard score.

With the Bills leading 24-0, the Saints’ offense finally came to life at the end of the third quarter. A Trevor Siemian pass, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty, converted a 3rd & 9 with a 32-yard gain. Siemian had gains of nine and 24 before finding Nick Vannett in the back of the end zone. The Saints’ two-point conversion attempt was no good, keeping the score 24-6 at the start of the fourth quarter.

With back-to-back punts by the Bills and the Saints, Buffalo took over with 11 minutes left in the game. They only needed four plays to score a touchdown—the highlights being a 28-yard Diggs catch, and a screen pass that Matt Breida took 23 yards to paydirt. The Saints’ next drive ended in five plays when Siemian sailed a pass right into the hands of Jordan Poyer. At that point, the Bills put in their backups, and the rout was official.

Buffalo, now 7-4, moves back into first place in the AFC East, based on their division wins. This sets up a critical showdown on Monday Night Football ten days from now, with the winner taking the pole position for the division title.

Injury report

  • Tre’Davious White seemed like he sprained his knee in the second quarter. He was able to walk around on the sidelines, but headed to the locker room and wasn’t able to return to the game. There are fears it could be a torn knee ligament.
  • Cody Ford came off the field with an arm injury and was replaced with Ryan Bates late in the second quarter. He returned to the lineup just before halftime, but had a big wrap on his right arm through the rest of the game.
  • Ryan Bates was on the field for only a couple plays before getting shaken up and walking to the sideline. Jamil Douglas replaced him until the next drive, when Ford returned to the field.

Quick hits

  • The narrative leading up to this game was accountability on the team’s roster, and the Bills sent a message with multiple benchings—Isaiah McKenzie, Zack Moss, and Vernon Butler among them.
  • In benching McKenzie, the Bills also set up the career debut for sixth-round rookie Marquez Stevenson, who had been on injured reserve up until this point. Stevenson was the starting returner for the team tonight.
  • Unfortunately, Stevenson muffed his own punt return in the third quarter. He did recover it, though, averting disaster. Overall, Stevenson had five punt returns for an average of 9.8 yards and a long of 18 yards.
  • Playing Breida also paid off for the team. He had 11 touches for 55 yards and a touchdown tonight, although he did seem to mess up a screen play, leading to a penalty.
  • Josh Allen threw the first red zone interception of his career tonight when his arm was hit on a pass. He’d thrown 58 touchdowns without a pick on 242 attempts up until that point.
  • Weird stat: Allen had more interceptions (2) than incompletions (1) in his 13-of-16 first-half performance.
  • Dawson Knox’s great season is back on track after recovering from his broken hand. He caught his sixth and seventh touchdown passes tonight, which gives him the new single-season record for Bills tight ends.
  • Speaking of great seasons, Ed Oliver has been tremendous (even if his best plays were negated by penalties) and that impact continued tonight. He was listed with only a half sack, but he added two QB hits, a pass defense, and three solo tackles.
  • Workmanlike day for Stefon Diggs: seven catches, 74 yards and a touchdown. Even if he isn’t leading the league this year, he’ll break a thousand yards in a couple weeks.
  • Jordan Poyer snagged his fifth interception late in the game tonight. That ranks third behind Trevon Diggs and J.C. Jackson in the current season.
  • A stat you like to see: The Saints’ leading rusher, Tony Jones Jr, had 16 carries for 27 yards.
  • What a strange season this is for Bills fans to witness. After being crushed by the Indianapolis Colts a few days ago, this team was right back to winning by 25 points against an overmatched opponent. If there’s one thing they do well, it’s punching down.

Next week

A huge matchup with the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. The 7-4 Patriots are set to play the 8-3 Titans this weekend in a game you’d hope both teams lose.