In a game that was closer than the final score intimated, the Buffalo Bills were unable to hold off the New Orleans Saints in the end. The juggernaut that is the Saints offense was held to 10 points through the first three quarters, fewer than any one else in the NFL can claim so far.
The Saints started off right where they left off in Week 2 on the opening drive of the game as they marched into Buffalo with a touchdown. Lynell Hamilton’s one yard run put six points on the board following a dominant 10 play 82 yard drive spear-headed by QB Drew Brees. Not to be outdone, Edwards, Jackson and the Bills put up a subsequently impressive drive of their own getting all the way down to the Saints 25 yard line before being forced to kick a field goal. Special teams coach Bobby April made the gutsy call of the night, calling a fake which had Moorman roll out to his left and lob a perfect pass to Ryan Denney who ran it into the end-zone for the score. Little did any of us know that Moorman’s passer rating would eclipse Edward’s by over one hundred points by the time the night was over.
The Bills defense was staunch in the first half, with a solid passing rush, intricate blitz schemes and big stops on third and fourth down. Chris Kelsay had a monster night keeping Brees under pressure and forcing a fumble which he recovered. Unfortunately, the Bills drive was stopped short and they were forced to punt. Following another good defensive effort, Roscoe Parrish fumbled the punt return trying to make a play. While the Bills held up admirably keeping the Saints out of the end-zone, the mistake was essentially a free three points. The end of the first half closed with Bills fans optimistic, down only 10 – 7.
The third quarter saw the Bills defense continue to shine as DB Reggie Corner made some key plays in the secondary and Marcus Stroud closed every rushing hole within ten feet of him. The Ralph was filled with anticipation hoping the Bills could mount a drive that would allow them to take the lead despite the prolific Saints attack. That drive, however, never came. The third and fourth quarters saw punt after punt as the Bills were forced to turn to Moorman’s leg seven times over a series of eight consecutive drives. The offensive line, which held up so well the first two weeks, eventually folded as Edwards was sacked or hurried on almost every pass in the fourth quarter. The defense too, which was strong through the first three quarters of the game, eventually showed signs of fatigue. That’s when Nola struck.
With just under ten minutes left in the 4th Quarter, RB Pierre Thomas broke a 34 yard run through some tenuous blocking into the end-zone. With the Bills unable to move the ball into scoring territory, the Saints added to their 17 – 7 lead with a 35 yard field goal by Carney with under four minutes to play. As the score stood 20 – 7, it was clear to Bills fans that their offense – which was unable to score all night (save the fake FG) – was not about to do so at this juncture. They turned the ball over on downs yet again, and the Saints turned it into another touchdown. Again Thomas’ number was called, this time on a nineteen yard run. This touchdown would demarcate the final score, 27 – 7.
QB Trent Edwards had his worst outing of the season with a passer rating of 56.4 completing 20 of 35 for 156 yards and one pick. Jackson rushed for a quiet 71 yards, and T.O. had his first game without a catch in 185 consecutive starts. His most memorable moment was in the second quarter when Trent had him streaking down the field for what would have probably been a touchdown and a Bills lead, had it not been just overthrown by a yard or so.
While the first three quarters demonstrated the fact that the Bills defense was capable of handling one of, if not the best, offenses in the NFL, this game was also an eerie reminder of a gloomy preseason which lacked any offensive spark. If the Bills hope to rebound next week as they take on the Dolphins (0-3) they had better get it going offensively. Hopefully Marshawn Lynch’s return, which has been overlooked by many in the wake of strong showings by Jackson, can add some octane to the engine.