Josh Allen threw four touchdown passes in concert with his team's dominant defensive effort as the Buffalo Bills rolled to a 31-6 road win over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday at Caesars Superdome.
Buffalo led 24-0 after three quarters. Tight end Dawson Knox caught a seven-yard TD pass in the first quarter before adding a 24-yarder late in the third. In between, a 34-yard Tyler Bass field goal and a third-quarter touchdown pass from Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs for five yards completed the scoring.
Allen's fourth and final touchdown pass went to running back Matt Breida, who caught a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
The short-handed Saints played without both top running backs, as Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II sat with knee injuries. New Orleans was also without offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (shoulder).
The remaining Saints struggled on offense, amassing just 64 yards on their first six drives (not counting a first half-ending kneeldown).
They did engineer a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Nick Vannett 11-yard touchdown catch to cut the lead to 24-6, but that served as the Saints' offensive apex.
The Bills ended up out-gaining the Saints 361-190 after possessing the ball for nearly 35 minutes.
The Bills unfortunately did not come out of this game unscathed as No. 1 cornerback Tre'Davious White suffered a left knee injury in the second quarter.
The 7-4 Bills moved into a tie for first place in the AFC East with the New England Patriots. The 5-6 Saints fell a half-game out of the NFC playoff picture behind the 5-5 San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings with the loss.
Bills QB Josh Allen: 23-of-28, 260 passing yards, 4 TD, 2 INT; 8 carries, 43 rushing yards
Bills WR Stefon Diggs: 7 catches, 74 receiving yards, 1 TD
Bills TE Dawson Knox: 3 catches, 32 receiving yards, 2 TD
Saints QB Trevor Siemian: 17-of-29, 163 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Saints RB Tony Jones Jr.: 16 carries, 27 rushing yards
Saints TE Nick Vannett: 1 catch, 11 receiving yards, 1 TD
Best Version of Bills Shows up in Superdome
At its best, Buffalo has as strong a case as any city that it's home to the best NFL franchise.
The Bills have seven wins, six of which have come by 18 or more points. They include a 38-20 road win over the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs and a pair of shutout victories over the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans by a combined 75-0 score.
The Bills also have four losses, including a 9-6 result to the 2-8 Jacksonville Jaguars and a 41-15 home defeat to the Indianapolis Colts that saw Jonathan Taylor score five touchdowns.
On Thursday, the best Bills showed up, with numerous players stealing the spotlight.
Having a healthy Knox in the mix helps. All he's done in the past two games is catch nine passes for 112 yards and two scores. He has seven touchdowns in eight games after missing three contests because of a broken right hand.
Knox went to work on his first score, making a few Saints miss tackles before crossing the goal line:
The second Knox touchdown occurred on 4th-and-2 deep in Saints territory. Allen evaded the pressure and threw to a wide-open Knox, who did the rest:
Diggs is also heating up with touchdowns in five of his last six games. His phenomenal footwork and route-running were on display during his touchdown:
The former Maryland star has at least 60 receiving yards or a touchdown in each game this year.
Of course, Allen delivered all those passes, and he looked far more like the 2020 NFL MVP candidate version of himself rather than the shaky, inconsistent gunslinger that came to play in 2018 and 2019. He did throw two interceptions, but neither ended up mattering in the 25-point win.
The Bills have also gotten a backfield boost thanks to Breida, who gives Buffalo more burst and elusiveness in the open field. That was clearly evident after he took Allen's screen pass to the house for six:
Breida and Devin Singletary made up the backfield with a healthy Zack Moss scratched. The move to Breida has worked, with the five-year veteran amassing 172 scrimmage yards on 23 touches in his last three games.
Meanwhile, the Bills' defense had the Saints' number all night, capped by this Jordan Poyer interception:
After allowing the Colts to run free the week before, the Bills defense needed to respond with a big performance, and they got it in a tough environment.
The Bills will certainly be tested the rest of the way, with two games against the AFC East co-leading Pats and a road date with Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the regular-season ledger.
However, Buffalo at its best can beat any team, anywhere. The question is whether that 2021 Bills version shows up enough consistently down the stretch.
New Orleans' Season Is Sinking
The Saints' last four games bring to mind the closing lyrics of The Tragically Hip's ode to the city, "New Orleans Is Sinking."
"My memory is muddy, what's this river that I'm in? New Orleans is sinking, man, and I don't want to swim."
New Orleans started the year 5-2, with wins over three legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The combined score in those three wins: Saints 102, Opponents 43.
That start is nothing but a muddy memory at this point.
The shorthanded Saints have since lost four straight without starting quarterback Jameis Winston (torn ACL, MCL damage). A laundry list of injuries have existed all month, which includes a 27-25 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a 23-21 result to the Tennessee Titans and a 40-29 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Those games at least had varying levels of competitiveness, but any drama and intrigue in this one was gone well before the fourth quarter.
The Saints couldn't move the ball through the air or on the ground, and save for two Allen interceptions, the defense had no answer for anything Buffalo did Thursday.
Granted, the Saints are playing with a backup quarterback right now. In addition, Siemian was thrust into a very difficult spot as he plays behind a banged-up offensive line. Missing the team's top star in Kamara certainly hurts, and star wideout Michael Thomas isn't playing this year as he recovers from ankle surgery.
But it's more clear than ever that New Orleans' season is sinking with the team officially sliding out of the playoff picture Thursday.
The Saints have historically been a tough, resilient bunch under head coach Sean Payton over the past decade-and-a-half. Not every season has gone their way, but New Orleans never went worse than 7-9 since 2006.
Granted, all those teams had Drew Brees, and this one does not. But the Saints showed what their peak looks like earlier this year, and there's time to answer the question as to whether New Orleans is capable of hitting anywhere close to that mark again.
However, with the team losing so many key members that started the season with them, they may have to find another way to swim and stay alive in the playoff race.
The Bills will host the Patriots in a key AFC East matchup on Monday, Dec. 6 at 8:15 p.m. ET from Highmark Stadium.
The Saints will welcome the Dallas Cowboys into New Orleans on Thursday at 8:20 p.m.