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Top 3 things we learned from Bills-Saints

Posted Nov 12, 2017

Giving up yards in big chunks continues, as do the third down woes on offense and it might take a little time to put Kelvin Benjamin's abilities on full display.


1 – Giving up yards in chunks continues
A week after there were more missed tackles than usual and Buffalo gave up a season-high 194 yards rushing to the Jets, the Bills defense repeated the practice in a lopsided loss to New Orleans. For the second straight week head coach Sean McDermott saw a loss at the line of scrimmage and the result was giving up yards in big chunks to the Saints on Sunday.

“We know it starts up front. You’ve got to win at the line of scrimmage,” said McDermott. “That’s where this game is won, is up front and we’ve got to do a better job there.”

The Saints offense did almost anything they wanted. In the first half they exploited the middle of the field with top receiver Michael Thomas, who had seven catches on seven targets for 91 yards. Then in the second half, when Buffalo tried to close down the middle of the field, RB Alvin Kamara was deployed to exploit the edges of the Bills defense.

Kamara finished with 138 total yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.

All the while fellow back Mark Ingram pounded out yards right up the middle and had three rushing touchdowns.

“They were able to do whatever they wanted to do,” said Jordan Poyer. “Any down, any distance. It’s hard to stay in rhythm as a defense. That wasn’t us. That wasn’t us in back to back weeks. We’ve got to find a way to play better. I’ve got to play better, speaking for myself. We’ve all got to play better, as a team, as a unit, as a secondary. We’ve all got to play better.”

Six offensive plays for New Orleans went for 20 yards or more and there were another dozen plays that went for between 10 and 19 yards.

“We got off to a bad start and it snowballed,” said Kyle Williams. “We got beat physically, we’re out of our gaps and aren’t where we’re supposed to be and it just snowballed into a nightmare.”

2 – Third down woes persist
Following Buffalo’s opening field goal drive, the offense couldn’t get much going at all. On 10 possessions the Bills went three and out a total of five times. And they can point to their third down conversion rate for much of the reason why.

Buffalo converted just two of their 11 third down opportunities for a season low conversion rate of just 18 percent. It’s part of a troubling trend for the Bills attack.

Since Week 1, the Bills third down conversion rate has declined with each passing week. In the opener they converted at a rate of 62.5 percent (10-16).

In Week 2, in a 9-3 loss, that was considered an offensive struggle, they still converted on third downs at a rate of 47 percent (8-17).

Against Denver in Week 3, 46.2 percent in a victory and in Week 4 at Atlanta a respectable 40 percent conversion rate (6-16).

From Week 5 onward however, Buffalo has not reached the 40 percent mark on third down conversions. Here’s a look at the steady decline.

Week 1 – 62.5%
Week 2 – 47.1%
Week 3 – 46.2%
Week 4 – 40%
Week 5 – 37.5%
Week 7 – 37.5%
Week 8 – 33%
Week 9 – 31%
Week 10 – 18%

“We put ourselves in bad situations,” said Tyrod Taylor. “A couple of penalties early on in first and second down. Also, just not getting movement on first and second downs put us in third and longs. We’ve got to be better on third down for sure.”

3 – Benjamin addition a work in progress
Early on in Sunday’s game, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison made a point to get Kelvin Benjamin involved early. Benjamin was targeted three times on the first drive, making one reception for nine yards. The other two times were uncatchable passes that were out of his reach.

What was unfortunate was Benjamin wasn’t targeted again until there were four minutes left in the game and Nate Peterman was in at quarterback in mop up duty.

“It was part of the plan, but I was also taking what the defense gave me too,” said Tyrod Taylor. “The defense started rolling toward him in some situations too. But just a lack of execution across the board. Passing game and running game. That starts with me.”

Benjamin, who finished with three catches for 42 yards to lead the team, was eager to make an impact.

“I ain’t going to lie, I was excited,” he said. “First game in the Bills uniform with the guys. They go out there and leave it all out on the field. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way.

“Our first drive they played a little bit more man. We started attacking them and then they started switching up on us. They started going more cover-2, cover-6, they were playing a little bit of three. Kind of like they were saying we’re just going to sit back and let our D-line get to you.”

The Bills only ran 45 offensive plays in the game.   

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