Instant reactions: Bills' defense dominates in lopsided bounce back win over Saints

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NEW ORLEANS - The Bills often say that they don’t ride the rollercoaster of the season the way fans do.

They take pride in their ability to recognize the ebbs and flows and not let any of it affect them one way or the other. Never too high after a win, never too low for a loss.

That’s fine for them, but not so great for their fans because there aren’t many rollercoasters that provide a wilder ride than these Bills have this season. There have been weeks when they’ve looked absolutely dominant, and then there have been weeks when they look like a team not even worthy of making the playoffs.

More: Report card: Buffalo feasts on New Orleans in Thanksgiving blowout

Thursday night at the Superdome, despite the lopsided final score, it was somewhere in the middle. Against an injury-depleted Saints team, the Bills handled their business on both sides of the ball and put together a solid effort in defeating New Orleans 31-6.

It wasn’t pretty for parts of Thanksgiving night, but in the end, the Bills bounced back from their horrible loss to the Colts last Sunday and momentarily pulled even with the Patriots at 7-4 atop the AFC East.

Here are three quick thoughts:

1. Offensive line still holding team back

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) carries in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) carries in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

What transpired in the second quarter was borderline ridiculous. The offensive line was so bad that Josh Allen could not function. It’s amazing that the Bills were able to get a field goal from Tyler Bass early in that quarter. Of course, they only had to drive 38 yards because Mario Addison came up with a huge fourth-down stop near midfield.

Allen threw two picks in the final 3:19 of the half. The first one was a bad decision trying to force one into Stefon Diggs, but he had to get rid of the ball because he was pressured almost immediately.

The second one came when the line caved in again, Cameron Jordan hit Allen’s arm as he tried to throw to 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 wound up not costing the Bills the game, but they certainly kept the Saints alive in the game.

On a night when the Bills topped 30 points again, it’s hard to quibble, but you saw what I saw. This offensive line remains a weakness, and they can’t get Spencer Brown and Jon Feliciano back fast enough. Hopefully, that will happen when the Bills host the Patriots on Dec. 6.

2. Defense bounced back in a big way

Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver celebrates his sack in the first half.
Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver celebrates his sack in the first half.

The first thing we learned right away is that New Orleans running backs Tony Jones and Ty Montgomery are not Jonathan Taylor. Oh, and they aren’t Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the two injured stud Saints running backs who they were replacing.

One week after Taylor and the Colts annihilated the Bills defense for 264 rushing yards, the Bills completely stymied New Orleans’ run game. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Saints had all of 21 yards rushing. And with Trevor Siemian playing quarterback, that meant monumental trouble for the Saints offense which was rendered completely anemic.

Now, the caveat here is the same one we’ve leaned into all year: Yes, the defense played very well, but for cryin’ out loud, it was Siemian and an offense devoid of playmakers.

Siemian is a mediocrity, a backup forced into a starting role, and this Buffalo defense toyed with him. The Bills - even without Tre’Davious White who exited in the second quarter with a knee injury that did not look good - had him confused all night with their coverages, and when you couple that with receivers who are barely NFL caliber, the Saints had no chance.

It was an achievement that they managed to drive 75 yards for a touchdown which came on the first play of the fourth quarter and cut their deficit to 24-6. A definite get right, feel-good game for a defense that was embarrassed a week ago.

There were several standouts, but no one had a bigger night than Ed Oliver. Outside of the stupid roughing the passer penalty he took, Oliver was a beast all night. That’s what a No. 9 overall draft pick should look like.

More: Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White out with knee injury against Saints

3. Sean McDermott’s roster decisions paid off

Nov 25, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott talks to wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott talks to wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Zack Moss, who has done almost nothing this season, particularly 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 that worked out quite well.

Singletary had his usual array of runs that went nowhere, but he did break 11- and 15-yarders on the first possession of the third quarter that helped set up a Bills touchdown that pretty much put the game away.

And Breida played a key role on the first Bills offensive series with four rushes for 19 yards to help set up Dawson Knox’s first touchdown. After he disappeared for a weird length of time, he was back on the field in the fourth quarter and caught a screen pass on third-and-10 from the 23 and made a beautiful run to turn that into a touchdown that sent Who Dat Nation home for the night and left the Superdome to Bills Mafia.

Isaiah McKenzie was also inactive, and rookie Marquez Stevenson did a nice job as he had five punt returns for 49 yards. He dropped one, but was able to recover and still make a return.

Finally, both Vernon Butler and Boogie Basham were inactive and were replaced by practice squad call-ups Brandin Bryant and Eli Ankou. I’m not sure that made much of a difference, but it was McDermott sending a message to two players who have not played well.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills' defense dominates in lopsided bounce back win over Saints

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