The New Orleans Saints got back to their winning ways with a decisive 35-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Despite the rusty start, mostly due to the bye week, the Saints offense eventually rose to the level of the defense.
When inferior teams come into your house, you need to dispose of them in emphatic fashion. The Saints eventually did just that. It could have been a lot easier, but bye weeks can affect teams in a myriad of ways.
The defense played a great game by pressuring the quarterback organically, as well as through manufactured pressure. Numerous players had their hands in the pot in this win defensively.
Offensively, the slow start was brought to a halt with big plays through the air. Drew Brees and Co. ended with this possibly their finest outing of the season, just in time for the meat of the schedule.
The Saints will now move on to a similar opponent in the New York Jets, but this time on the road. The Saints are not only looking to distance themselves in the NFC South, but they must keep pace with the elite of the NFC in the playoff race.
Fans of the Black and Gold should be pleased thus far. After finishing 7-9 last season, the Saints are already 6-1.
Here are my takeaways from the game.
Bye weeks are strange. Off time is great for healing injuries, but it can be a bit of a detriment for teams who have momentum on their side.
This game marked the return of receiver Lance Moore, who missed the previous three games with an injured hand. He looked the best he's looked all season with a three-catch, 34-yard performance that culminated in a touchdown.
Tight end Jimmy Graham, injured in the game preceding the bye, also came up with a healthy contribution.
Conversely, the offense as a whole looked sluggish to start the game. Numerous amounts of penalties stalled out drives and generally kept the Bills in the game a lot longer than they should've been.
But like most championship teams do, the Saints rose to the occasion and began executing in an efficient manner as the game wore on.
Inactivity undoubtedly got the best of the Saints early on, but the bye-week woes went away rather quickly.
Chalk this one up in the rest category.
I don't know about you, but Halloween was quite scary for me as a kid. All those goons and goblins floating around the streets made it really hard for a kid like me. Likewise, you had to think Bills QB Thad Lewis felt the same way during this game.
The Saints got after him all game with organic and manufactured pressure. With nine QB hits and four sacks, the defense had Lewis seeing ghosts for the duration of the contest. To Lewis' credit, he continued to get up after being plastered all over the floor of the Superdome.
Ends Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan (the usual suspects), along with lineman Glenn Foster and linebacker David Hawthorne provided the spook for the Bills offense. When the Saints are firing on all cylinders on offense, and the defense is bloodying the nose of opposing offenses, nightmares are the reoccurring theme for any foe on the schedule.
Thanks, ladies and gentlemen, I'll be here all night! Or at least for a few more slides...
Prior to the bye, I pined for the return of the Saints' offensive attack that was once centered on superior receiver play. Well, my wish was most certainly granted in this one.
Although Brees seemingly hit every target on the roster, each receiver was able to come away with three receptions, most notably Kenny Stills, whose three-catch, 129-yard performance may be just be scratching the surface of what he can ultimately do.
With so much talent available, the Saints may be better off spreading the wealth, rather than relying on one or two targets predominantly. Depth is paramount for championship teams.
Better teams will take away the primary target; not having one will eradicate that type of game plan.
Saints fans all held their collective breath when it was reported that tight end Jimmy Graham was questionable to play. Graham was the best player in the NFL through the first quarter of the season and undoubtedly the go-to guy for Brees.
As a matter of fact, he was so dominant that most figured his absence would force the Saints to alter their offensive game plan to a more balanced attack. Fortunately, we won't have to find out how his absence would affect the offense as Graham played and held his own.
Coming away with a three catches for 37 yards is nothing to phone home about, but when you factor in two of them were for touchdowns, you might at least start dialing.
Graham's ability to stretch the field was compromised due to his foot injury, but his size and strength were certainly not. He muscled his way through defensive backs, showing he can affect the game in a multitude of ways, even in limited action.
Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for the league's biggest mismatch.
Saints fans are spoiled when it comes to elite quarterback play. Drew Brees has dominated defenses year in and year out for close to a decade now. Brees has to be the only QB who can throw for over 5,000 yards with 43 touchdowns—as he did last season—and have people wondering if he's on the decline!
He's getting a lot of the same questions despite being on pace for another 5,000-yard, 40-touchdown season. For fans looking for perfection, they almost got it (statistically) against the Bills.
Brees went 26-of-34 for 332 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. His command of the huddle, and overall leadership prowess, puts everyone at ease when things begin to look shaky.
Critics are like zombies: They don't die easily. Which means Brees' play will be met with the same skepticism week after week. And he will more than likely continue to be the best, week after week.
He may be the answer to that age-old adage of "Who Dat?"
The Saints had eight penalties for 59 yards, many of the pre-snap variety. I would chalk this up to rust, but coming into the game the Saints had 30 penalties for 233 yards.
Beating NFL teams is hard already, helping them out with mental mistakes just makes it that much more challenging. In professional sports, there's really no room for mental or effort-based mistakes.
Using poor technique is like a form of football suicide. Hidden yardage puts your entire football team behind the proverbial eight ball. The Saints need to make not beating themselves a point of interest moving forward.
The schedule only gets harder from here on out.
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