NEW ORLEANS – Josh Allen and the Mercury Buffalo Bills swung back to a better version of themselves against the meandering New Orleans Saints.
Allen passed for 260 yards and four touchdowns, and the Bills strangled New Orleans’ short-handed offense in a 31-6 victory Thursday night that sent the injured Saints to their fourth straight loss.
“The coach always talks about the caliber of the playoffs and that’s the team we want to be,” said Allen. “We want to be the best versions of ourselves … every time we step on the field.”
Dawson Knox took two touchdown passes, giving him a franchise-top seven TDs in a single season with a tight end. His second point gave the Bills (7-4) a 24-0 lead.
Stefon Diggs had seven receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown, and fullback Matt Breida turned a short pass to a 23-yard touchdown in a dominant victory that came just four days after a 26-point home loss to Indianapolis.
“To fall short like we did (last weekend), sometimes it can be demoralizing,” said defender Mario Addison, who had one of Buffalo’s two sacks by Trevor Siemian. “You just have to flush it and do it again. Everyone had a good mindset when they went into this game and we were just ready.”
The Saints (5-6), who played without dynamic defender Alvin Kamara for a third straight game, were suspended for three quarters. They finally scored on Siemian’s 11-yard pass to tight Nick Vannett in the first game of the fourth.
Buffalo won over New Orleans 361-190 and the Bills had the ball 34:38 to the Saints 25:22.
The game illustrated how limited the Saints’ offense has become, in part due to injuries to Kamara and star receiver Michael Thomas, who has not played all season, and also due to significant changes at quarterback.
New Orleans went 5-2 in games started by QB Jameis Winston, who took over this season for retired Drew Brees. But Winston went out for the season with a knee injury during New Orleans’ latest victory on October 31 and the Saints have lost every game that Siemian has started.
Saints coach Sean Payton’s urgency to maintain impetus against the powerful Bills was evident in his decision to call a running game on fourth and second near midfield and to later run a false punt. Both failed, with the run losing yards and player Blake Gillikin’s pass sailing high and wide by the intended receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
“When we went in, we felt we needed to be a little more aggressive,” because of how capable the Bills are offensively, Payton said. “We could not win a match with 14 points or 17 points against a team like this.”
Siemian finished 17-of-29 passing for 163 yards, one TD and one interception. Taysom Hill, who is recovering from a foot injury, was active as a New Orleans backup quarterback but did not play.
Incidentally, Brees played the game as a transmitter and the hefty reception he received from the audience when he was honored on the pitch at halftime stood in stark contrast to the collective moans of frustration when one New Orleans train after another stopped.
Most fans had left the dome at the beginning of the fourth quarter, leaving a solid traveling contingent of fans wearing buffalo blue to end Thanksgiving in a festive tone.
As a result, Payton foresaw changes as the Saints try to figure out how to end their worst losing streak in a season since 2015.
“We have to look at everything right now. Of course we have to,” says Payton. “We have to look closely at everything we do and who we do it with.”