NEW ORLEANS – The Bills often say they don’t do the roller coaster of the season like the fans do.
They pride themselves on their ability to recognize ebb and flow and not let anything affect them one way or the other. Never too high after a win, never too low for a loss.
It’s good for them, but not so great for their fans as there aren’t many roller coasters that offer a wilder ride than these Bills this season. There have been weeks where they have seemed absolutely dominant, and there have been weeks where they look like a team that is not even worthy of making the playoffs.
Thursday night at the Superdome, despite the unbalanced final score, it was somewhere in the middle. Against an injury-exhausted Saints side, the Bills ran their business on both sides of the ball and put together a solid effort to beat New Orleans 31-6.
It wasn’t pretty for parts of Thanksgiving night, but in the end the Bills bounced back from their horrific loss to the Colts last Sunday and momentarily tied the Patriots at 7-4 atop the AFC East. .
Here are three quick thoughts:
1. The offensive line always holds the team
What happened in the second trimester was bordering on ridiculous. The offensive line was so bad that Josh Allen couldn’t function. It’s amazing the Bills were able to secure a field goal from Tyler Bass early in this quarter. Of course, they only had to go 38 yards because Mario Addison made a huge fourth save near the midfield.
Allen threw two picks in the final 3:19 of the half. The first one was a bad decision trying to force one against Stefon Diggs, but he had to get rid of the ball as he came under pressure almost immediately. The second came when the line gave way again, Cameron Jordan hit Allen’s arm as he tried to throw at Emmanuel Sanders, and the ball floated into the arms of linebacker Kwon Alexander.
The two picks cost Buffalo at least six points, and of course, potentially 14. The turnovers didn’t ultimately cost the Bills the game, but they certainly kept the Saints alive.
2. The defense has rebounded well
The first thing we learned right away was that New Orleans running backs Tony Jones and Ty Montgomery are not Jonathan Taylor. Oh, and it’s not Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the two injured backers they were replacing.
A week after Taylor and the Colts wiped out the Bills ‘defense for 264 rushing yards, the Bills thwarted New Orleans’ running play. Halfway through the fourth quarter, the Saints totaled 21 rushing yards. And with Trevor Siemian playing the quarterback, it meant monumental problems for the Saints’ offense, which has gone completely anemic.
A safe and heartwarming match for a defense that was embarrassed a week ago.
There were several standouts, but no one had a bigger night than Ed Oliver. Aside from the stupid brutality of the ferryman penalty he took, Oliver was a beast all night long. This is what a No. 9 overall draft pick should look like.
3. Sean McDermott’s roster decisions have paid off
Zack Moss, who has done next to nothing this season, especially in the last few games, was inactive and that opened the door for Matt Breida to share the running back position with Devin Singletary, and it worked pretty well.
Singletary had their usual array of runs that went nowhere, but he did manage 11- and 15-yard breakages in the first possession of the third quarter, which helped set up a Bills touchdown that has to pretty much sidelined the game.
And Breida was instrumental in the Bills’ first offensive series with four carries for 19 yards to help prepare for Dawson Knox’s first touchdown. After missing for an odd time, he was back on the court in the fourth quarter and caught a screen pass on the third and 10 of the 23 and had a great run to turn that into a touchdown.
Isaiah McKenzie was also inactive, and rookie Marquez Stevenson did a good job with five punt returns for 49 yards. He dropped one, but was able to recover and still make a comeback.
Sal Maiorana can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.