Few machinations can pretty up the New Orleans Saints' 31-6 loss to Buffalo on Thanksgiving night in the Caesars Superdome.
The Saints (5-6), who lost their fourth consecutive game for the first time since the 2015 season, constructed a strong first half defensively in spite of allowing a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive on Buffalo's first possession. But there wasn't much of anything else positive against the Bills (7-4) that could be logged.
OFFENSE: The unit is struggling. That's as charitable a term as can be used currently when the team hasn't scored a first-quarter point in four games and was shut out in the first half Thursday night. The Saints totaled 190 yards – 44 rushing on 25 carries in the absence of running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II – and were unsuccessful on nine of 14 third-down attempts. Quarterback Trevor Siemian was sacked twice, hit six times, intercepted once and never comfortable. Short-yardage conversions were an issue and the pressure to be pristine has become heavy. The unit desperately needs to pick up its production, as there's been a clear regression, and it's going to require as much ingenuity as Coach Sean Payton and his staff can muster.
DEFENSE: For a half, the defense did enough to keep New Orleans within striking distance. Interceptions by cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Kwon Alexander, and sacks by linebacker Kaden Elliss and defensive end Carl Granderson, helped the Saints hold the Bills to 10 points in the first half. But the load became too heavy. It's too much of an expectation that the unit plays mistake-free or pitches a shutout until the offense catches up and puts some points on the board in support. Alexander's interception came in the red zone (he was assisted by defensive end Cam Jordan's pressure on the play; Jordan hit Bills quarterback Josh Allen as he was attempting to pass) and it essentially took points off the board for Buffalo. But that momentum didn't carry over to the second half, where the Bills scored three touchdowns. New Orleans had trouble getting stops on third down (the Bills were 8 for 13) and admittedly hasn't been the defense it has said it is for the past two games.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The offense struggled, the defense weakened and special teams didn't fill in the gaps for either unit. The Saints' return game wasn't impactful at all – 15.3-yard average on four kickoff returns, 12 yards on one punt return – and New Orleans wasn't able to generate a splash play (blocked punt, forced fumble). Unfortunately, "solid" isn't enough these days, with the team struggling in other areas and in need of a boost.