Orchard Park, NY – It was hardly a secret that the New Orleans Saints owned the most dangerous passing attack in the NFL entering today's game. Today they proved they can run it with the best of them and play defense, as well. The Saints improved to 3-0 on the season with a 27-7 win over the Bills in Orchard Park and now stand alone atop the NFC South standings with a clean 3-0 record. The Saints scored 20 unanswered points today and improved their fourth quarter scoring to 38-2 in the team's favor, a large reason behind the unblemished record.
"I'm pleased," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "I'm not into style points, I care that we won the game."
RB Pierre Thomas, who did not have a carry in the first half of the game, came on in the second half and erupted for a career-high 126 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns and the Saints' defense didn't allow the Bills inside the 25 yard line, with the exception of a well-executed fake field goal that marked the Bills' only scoring of the afternoon. The Saints' defense stymied the Bills' offense all afternoon, particularly on third down (2-of-13; none in the second, third or fourth quarters), and held dangerous WR Terrell Owen to zero receptions on the day. Owens said simply after the game, "We didn't win the game." When pressed whether he was frustrated at not being involved enough, he continually repeated, "I'm just running the plays that are called," a mantra he repeated over and over when pressed by reporters.
The mood was clearly different across the hall in the Saints' locker room, as the team saw their record on the road improve to 2-0, which equaled the number of wins the team captured away from the Superdome last season. The Saints return home next week when they host the also undefeated New York Jets (3-0).
"It felt great to get out there and help the team," Thomas understatedly remarked after the game. "The Bills were playing great defense and the game was tight, but we didn't panic and just stayed with what we knew we could do, and that's run it. Give the credit to our offensive line, they just came up huge and were knocking guys backwards there and I just followed the blocks."
Payton was equally as pleased with the running game, and said the team has faith in all the team's running backs, faith that was rewarded when Thomas erupted in the second half. "Pierre really ran hard and broke some tackles and made guys miss, he came up huge for us, that was big," Payton said.
Bills head coach Dick Jauron said after the game, "Boy, they are a good football team. The are good, talented and they mix things up on you all the time. We hung in there with them and battled, we fought hard, but they earned it. I give credit to them."
New Orleans, with 382 yards of offense, broke open the tight affair in the second half, largely on the heels of a powerful running game led by Thomas, who missed the season opener and played only sparingly last week. Today, in the second half, he announced his arrival in a big way.
RB Lynell Hamilton, making his first career start, capped the Saints' opening drive of the game with a one-yard run behind left guard Carl Nicks to put New Orleans ahead 7-0. He became the ninth different player to score a touchdown for the Black-and-Gold over the course of the first three games.
Buffalo scored a rather unconventional touchdown early in the second quarter on a fake field goal, as holder Brian Moorman scampered out of the pocket and hit DE Ryan Denney for a 25-yard touchdown pass against the Saints' field goal block unit, which tied the game at 7-7.
New Orleans took advantage of a big play on special teams from rookie CB Malcolm Jenkins, who stripped and recovered the football from Roscoe Parrish at the Bills' 33, which then set up a John Carney 27-yard field goal by John Carney that put the Saints back on top, 10-7.
Thomas added a 34-yard scoring run down the Saints' sideline early in the fourth quarter to cap a three play, 65 yard drive that gave the Saints a 17-7 lead over the Bills. Carney added a 35-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and Thomas salted the game away with a 19-yard touchdown run that made the score 27-7 in the Saints' favor.
The Saints accepted the opening kickoff after the Bills deferred their possession to begin the second half. Hamilton started the drive with a four-yard carry, and the Saints picked up momentum on a third down completion between Drew Brees and Marques Colston for a gain of 12 yards. The duo then hooked up on the next play for a 32-yard completion after Brees neatly pumped faked a defender while Colston slipped by him along the sideline for the reception. Two plays later Brees, in the face of backside pressure from DE Aaron Schobel, found Devery Henderson behind the linebackers for a gain of 20 yards, taking the ball to the Buffalo 12. The Saints once again converted a key third down when Brees hit Colston for a completion in traffic to the one-yard line; on the next play Hamilton bulled his way in from the one for his first career touchdown.
The Bills began their initial drive of the game at their 11 yard-line and converted a third down and six with a 14-yard completion between Trent Edwards and former LSU standout Josh Reed. The two hooked up on the next for a nine yard gain, but four plays later the Saints got the Bills in a third-and-long situation, which they tried to convert on a screen pass, but Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma snuffed it out and clobbered RB Fred Jackson with a thunderous hit shy of the first down sticks and the Bills were forced to punt.
The Saints began their second drive of the afternoon at their own 25 yard-line with Brees hitting Jeremy Shockey for a 21-yard gain, then the two hooked up for a four-yard gain. Reggie Bush took an end around for a gain of 14 yards to the Buffalo 36, but the Saints were beset with by a 10-yard illegal block in the back penalty on the next play. But Bush ripped off a 17-yard run and Hamilton managed a yard on second down, but the Saints couldn't convert a third and two Brees' pass was incomplete. With the ball on the 28, the Saints elected to go for it on fourth down, but the play faltered immediately when Brees stumbled after taking the snap and threw an off-balance pass to Bush in the flat, but the play was diagnosed by veteran Kawika Mitchell for no gain and the Bills took possession at their own 28.
Buffalo ended the first quarter after marching to the Saints' 25 yard-line, compliments of some completions between Trent Edwards and Reed and a 15-yard penalty on the Saints' DT Anthony Hargrove for a personal foul roughing the passer call after he made contact with Edwards' helmet with his hand. The Bills faced a third-and-six from the Saints' 25 on the first play of the second quarter but the Bills were unable to connect on a pass intended for TE Derek Fine, as LB Scott Shanle. The Bills, though, had a trick up their sleeve on a fake field goal as holder Brian Moorman slipped out of the pocket after taking the snap and in the face of heavy pressure from Vilma, lofted a pass to DE Ryan Denney down the sideline and he jogged the final few yards into the end zone to knot the game at 7-7 after the extra point.
Buffalo tried a pooch kickoff after their first touchdown, but an alert play by DE Jeff Charleston witnessed the 6-4, 265 defensive end come up and make the catch at the Saints' 46 before absorbing a hard hit shortly after catching the football. The Saints, facing the hostile and energized home crowd, mixed the run and the pass, including a 10-yard run on a third down by Brees (his longest rush since Dec. 23, 2006 when he had a 16-yard run against the 49ers, took to the ball down to the Bills' 32. The Saints' drive, though, stalled when Brees was sacked and stripped of the ball by DE Aaron Schobel, who also recovered the loose ball at the Bills' 38.
Three consecutive runs by Fred Jackson took the ball into Saints' territory but a key third down stop by Saints defensive end Will Smith on Jackson forced the Bills to punt and try to pin the Black-and-Gold deep in their own territory, but Moorman's second punt of the day bounced into the Saints' end zone and the Saints took control of the football at their 20 with 7:58 left in the first half. The Saints could not pick up a first down after a tripping penalty put them in a third and long situation. The Saints called on P Thomas Morstead to bail then out and the rookie from Southern Methodist hit a high hanging 49-yard punt to WR Roscoe Parrish.
Saints rookie CB Malcolm Jenkins, who had a forced fumble on a kickoff team last week at Philadelphia, jabbed the football loose from Parrish and recovered the ball at the Buffalo 33. The Saints drove to the Bills' 13, but could not punch it into the end zone and settled for a John Carney 27-yard field goal that once again gave the Saints the lead, 10-7.
New Orleans' defense, nursing a 10-7 lead late in the first half, pushed the Bills backward for 14 yards, including a key sack by DE Charles Grant, his first of the season, that forced the Bills to punt and the Saints took possession at their own 27 with just over three minutes to go. New Orleans, though, was stymied by the aggressive Bills' defense and were forced to punt. Morstead hit another big 47 yard punt that was aided by an illegal block in the back penalty on the Bills and the home team took over at their own 24. Buffalo picked up 11 yards on a pass from Edwards to Reeds and 11 more yards on an Edwards scamper. The Bills called their first timeout with :51 left on the clock and the ball resting inches into Saints' territory. A big blitz from Scott Fujita and Sedrick Ellis caused Edwards to throw the ball away and he ended up being docked for a 13-yard intentional grounding penalty, which brought about a third-and-18 from the Bills' 38. The Saints gave a short completion up to WR Lee Evans and called a timeout with :36 left in the first half. Bush nearly popped a long return but was tripped up at the last instant by a Bills coverage team member and the Saints took a knee and the 10-7 lead at the half.
Buffalo began the second half at their own 24 yard-line and received a six-yard gain from Jackson off the left side of his offensive line and took the ball to the 40 on the next play with an 11 yard carry. Jabari Greer pressured Edwards into an incompletion on first down and a second down deep pass intended for Terrell Owens was mistimed and a third down pass to Derek Fine lost two yards after LB Scott Shanle drilled Bills' tight end Derek Fine.
The Saints were forced to start their first possession of the second half at their own three-yard line after Moorman's punt was downed deep in Saints territory. Pierre Thomas, who didn't have a carry in the first half, took the Saints out of the shadow of their own end zone with three straight carries of one yard, 19 yards and 13 yards. Reggie Bush then picked up the next 9 yards and the Saints faced a fourth-and-one at the 45, and Brees snuck around the corner for a two-yard gain and the first down. The Saints could advance no further than the Bills' 34 and Morstead chipped a perfect punt that was downed by CB Leigh Torrence at the Bills' three yard-line with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
Jackson picked up a quick four yards, then Edwards found Evan over the middle for an 11-yard gain but the Bills were awarded 15 more yards after Darren Sharper was charged with a late hit penalty. The Bills picked up another 15 yards when Hargrove was docked for a spearing infraction on an Edwards scramble and the Bills were in Saints' territory at their Black-and-Gold's 26. On a third-and-three Edwards tried to hit Terrell Owens over the middle, but Greer deflected the pass back towards the line of scrimmage and Will Smith jumped up to make his first career interception at the Saints' 23 and killed the Bills' drive.
New Orleans was once again hampered by a critical penalty on their final drive of the third quarter, as a second down illegal motion took the Saints from a second-and-seven to a second-and-twelve. The Saints picked up eight of the 12 yards, but opened the fourth quarter up with a punt from their own 29 yard-line and with the wind at their back. Morstead banged a 44-yard punt and the Bills were flagged for personal foul penalty on rookie defensive back Jairus Byrd, which put the ball on the Bills' 13.
The Saints' defense held the Bills to a three-and-out and picked up a huge play on third-and-short when Will Smith dropped Edwards for a loss of three yards and forced the Bills to punt. The Saints took over at their own 38 with 13:33 left in the game and clinging to a 10-7 lead. A Thomas rush for no yards started the drive and a second down incompletion brought up a third and ten but Brees didn't see anything that he liked and threw the ball away along the sideline. Morstead hit a 41-yard punt to the Buffalo 20 with 12:38 left in the contest and the Bills in control of the football. Jackson started the drive with a four-yard gain and Edwards then completed a short pass to Evans, which brought up a third-and-three from the 28. Edwards overthrew Owens as the Saints had three defenders in the area and the Bills were once again forced to punt, with New Orleans taking over at their own 35 with 11:01 remaining.
Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush combined to march the Saints 65 yards in three plays. First Thomas picked up five yards and was dragged down by his facemask by former Saints Bryan Scott, which took the ball to the Bills' 46. Brees then hit Bush in the flat and the fourth-year man put a deft deke on a defender to the Bills' 34. One the next play Thomas ran left and made a decisive cut up the sideline, picking up several huge blocks, especially on a lead block by FB Heath Evans and hurdled his way down the sideline for a touchdown, his first of the season, the 10th different player to score for the Saints this season and extend the Saints' lead to 17-7 with 9:39 remaining after John Carney's extra point.
The Bills started at their 19 after a massive hit on Parrish by Lynell Hamilton and the Bills then were guilty of two five yards penalties and the Boo-Birds came out. The Bills were forced to attack a third-and-ten, but could manage a nine-yard completion to Evans. The Bills appeared like they were going to challenge the spot by the officials but elected to save their timeouts with 7:22 left in the game.
From the Saints' 34, Brees tried to break the game wide open with a deep pass to Robert Meachem, but the Saints was just beyond the receiver's reach. Thomas then picked up a hard yard inside and a third down and long was converted with a bullet pass into the guy of Devery Henderson for a 13-yard gain and a first down. LB Kawika Mitchell was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul penalty and the ball was moved to the Bills' 37. Thomas somehow found a narrow gap and picked up nine yards and the Saints ran the clock down to 5:14 before calling their first timeout of the second half with the football resting on the Buffalo 27. Thomas then went over the 100-yard mark for the second half with a 14-yard gain to the Bills' 13. The Saints went over the 200-yard rushing mark in a single game for the first time since December 24, 2006 when the Saints had 236 yards against the New York Giants.
The Saints' drive continued to grind time off of the clock and with 3:25 from the Bills' 17, John Carney came on to attempt a 35-yard field goal, which he drilled right through the uprights to widen the Saints' lead to 20-7.
Sedrick Ellis and Charles Grant each racked up sacks on the Bills' next possession and the Saints made it ten straight Bills possessions without a third down conversion.
NOTES: The following players were inactive for the Saints: QB Chase Daniel (third quarterback), WR Rod Harper, WR Lance Moore, RB Mike Bell, LB Robert Meachem/Jo-Lonn Dunbar.aspx">Jo-Lonn Dunbar, T Jammal Brown, DT Will Smith/Kendrick Clancy.aspx">Kendrick Clancy and TE Darnell Dinkins.
For the Bills, Gibran Hamdan (third quarterback), WR Justin Jenkins, DB Ellis Lankster, LB Paul Posluszny, OL Jamon Meredith, TE Shawn Nelson, DE Chris Ellis and DT John McCargo.
In terms of starting lineup changes, DT Remi Ayodele received the starting nod for the second week in a row at nose tackle in place of Clancy.
The Bills won the opening coin toss and elected to defer the opening possession of the game to the Saints.
DEBUTS: Rookie free agent LB Jonathan Casillas made regular season debut, while RB Lynell Hamilton also saw his first career regular season action and was in the starting lineup.
At halftime the Saints held the edge in total yards gained, 187 to 162.
CAPTAINS: QB Drew Brees, CB Jabari Greer, LB Jonathan Vilma and LB Troy Evans.