Josh Allen and the mercurial Buffalo Bills swung back to a better version of themselves against the reeling New Orleans Saints.
Allen passed for 260 yards and four touchdowns, and the Bills throttled New Orleans’ short-handed offence in a 31-6 victory Thursday night that sent the injury-ravaged Saints to their fourth straight loss.
“Coach always talks about playoff calibre and that’s the team we want to be,” Allen said. “We want to be the best versions of ourselves … every time we step on the field.”
Dawson Knox caught two touchdown passes, giving him a franchise-best seven TDs in a single season by a tight end. His second score gave the Bills (7-4) a 24-0 lead.
Stefon Diggs had seven receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown, and running back Matt Breida turned a short pass into a 23-yard score in a dominant victory that came just four days after a 26-point home loss to Indianapolis.
“To come up short the way we did (last weekend), sometimes it can be demoralizing,” said defensive end Mario Addison, who had one of Buffalo’s two sacks of Trevor Siemian. “You’ve just got to flush that and do it all over again. Everybody had a great mindset going into this game and we were just ready.”
The Saints (5-6), playing without dynamic running back Alvin Kamara for a third straight game, were shut out for three quarters. They finally scored on Siemian’s 11-yard pass to tight end Nick Vannett on the first play of the fourth.
Buffalo outgained New Orleans 361-190 and the Bills possessed the ball for 34:38 to the Saints’ 25:22.
The game illustrated how limited the Saints’ offence has become, in part because of 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 the retired Drew Brees. But Winston went out for the season with a knee injury during New Orleans’ most recent victory on Oct. 31 and the Saints have lost every game Siemian has started.
Saints coach Sean Payton’s urgency to sustain drives against the high-powered Bills was evident in his decision to call a running play on fourth-and-2 near midfield and to later run a fake punt. Both failed, with the run losing yards and punter Blake Gillikin’s pass sailing high and wide of intended receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
“Going in, we felt like we had to be a little bit more aggressive,” because of how capable the Bills are offensively, Payton said. “We weren’t going to be able to win a game scoring 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 coming off a foot injury, was active as New Orleans’ backup quarterback but did not play.
Incidentally, Brees was working the game as a broadcaster and the raucous reception he received from the crowd when he was honoured on the field at halftime contrasted sharply from the collective groans of frustration when one New Orleans drive after another stalled.
Most fans had filed out of the dome by early in the fourth quarter, leaving a solid travelling contingent of fans wearing Buffalo blue to close out Thanksgiving on a celebratory note.
The result left Payton foreshadowing changes as the Saints try to figure out how to end their worst losing streak in a season since 2015.
“We’ll look at everything right now. Obviously, we have to,” Payton said. “We’ve got to look closely at everything we’re doing and who we’re doing it with.”
The result could have been more lopsided had the Saints not intercepted Allen twice – once deep in New Orleans territory when defensive end Cameron Jordan hit Allen as he threw and linebacker Kwon Alexander made a diving catch of the fluttering ball.
It was Allen’s third game in four in which he had multiple turnovers. The previous two were losses, but this time it only prevented the Bills from winning by even more.
Saints cornerback Bradley Roby had New Orleans’ first interception near midfield in the first half.
Allen has thrown seven interceptions and lost a fumble in his past four games.
Bills: CB Tre’Davious White, a former LSU star playing in his home state for the first time as a pro, appeared to hurt his left knee in the second quarter. He was able to limp off the field on his own, but slammed his helmet down near the bench and then walked to the locker-room with a towel over his head and did not return.
Saints: LB Kaden Ellis left the game with a hamstring injury. … Rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo was helped to the sideline after a heavy collision in the fourth quarter.
Bills: Host the New England Patriots in a Monday night showdown for first place in the AFC East on Dec. 6.
Saints: Host the Dallas Cowboys next Thursday night.