On a day when Buffalo's defense was holding the league's highest scoring offense off the board for the first three quarters, the Bills attack couldn't provide the points in what ultimately wound up being a 27-7 loss to the Saints.
"We knew it would be a tough game against them," said head coach Dick Jauron. "We just made too many errors to stay in it. I thought our defense did a pretty good job until the end just to keep us in it."
"We obviously struggled," said Trent Edwards. "I feel like both in the run game and the pass game we couldn't stay on the field in third down situations and we didn't put points on the board. That's pretty frustrating when the defense plays that well and on our end I feel like we didn't really hold up our end of the bargain."
Edwards and the offense were able to move the ball at times, but finishing off drives simply did not happen for the Bills on Sunday. The only drive Buffalo successfully capped was turned in by Brian Moorman and Ryan Denney who hooked up on a 25-yard touchdown pass off a fake field goal.
After that scoring play, the Bills offense would be forced to punt on their next four possessions. Down 10-7 in the third quarter Buffalo put together a promising drive that began at their own three-yard line. But on the ninth play of the series on 3rd-and-3 at the Saints 27, a Trent Edwards pass intended for Terrell Owens over the middle was deflected up in the air by Jabari Greer and intercepted by New Orleans defensive end Will Smith at the Saints' 23.
"It was a simple slant-flat play and Jabari (Greer) just kind of squatted on it. He stepped in front of it. I probably could have hit the flat again, but a play I wish I could have had back."
Edwards finished the day 20-35 for 156 yards and an interception. Buffalo's young offensive line had its share of problems in protection as New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams brought pressure primarily with cornerbacks and safeties. They got into Buffalo's offensive backfield quickly forcing Edwards to throw checkdown passes or throw the ball away altogether.
"There have been plenty of bumps along the road for all of us," said Bills guard Eric Wood. "We had some more evident mistakes (Sunday) and we've got to get them fixed. We're never going to use our age as an excuse because that's not what we're about. I'll point at myself. I made some mistakes that I shouldn't have been making."
"They gave us more than we anticipated," said offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt of the Saints' pressure packages. "I have to do a better job of finding ways to get that defeated."
"They're a talented team. They're fast, they change (things) up on you," said Jauron. "They played a number of different things, different fronts, but we knew that going in. We really just didn't execute well enough or finish well enough to win the football game."
As a result Lee Evans and Terrell Owens were rarely targeted, particularly in the first half. Evans had four receptions for 31 yards, and Owens 185-game streak with a reception was broken as he did not pull in a pass. It had been the third longest consecutive games with a catch streak in NFL history.
"It's over," said an emotionless Owens after the game. "I'm just going with the plays that were called."
"It's frustrating. It's very frustrating," said Evans who finished with four catches for 31 yards. "We just didn't take chances when we had to or when we needed to and we could have. I think that's the difference. That's the most frustrating part. We had chances and we had opportunities and we didn't take them. When you don't things like this happen. I think our defense played great and offensively we had no support for them."
New Orleans wasn't having much success themselves and turned to their running game to keep the chains moving come the fourth quarter. The Saints ultimately broke through for a game-clinching touchdown with 9:45 left when Pierre Thomas busted a run down the far sideline 34 yards for a score (17-7).
At game's end the Saints had rushed for over 200 yards with Pierre Thomas doing the most damage with 126 yards on just 14 carries and two touchdowns. Reggie Bush chipped in with 64 rushing yards.
The Saints put the game out of reach with 10 points on their final two drives with a field goal and touchdown in the final six minutes to make it a 27-7 final.
The opening drive for New Orleans was an impressive one. Drew Brees methodically marched his unit down the field as the 10-play drive effectively mixed the run and the pass before Lynell Hamilton plunged in for a one-yard touchdown run and an early 7-0 lead. But after that Buffalo held the Saints passing game in check as Brees finished 16-29 for 172 yards. He was sacked twice.
Buffalo's defense did get an important stop on the second New Orleans possession as Kawika Mitchell and Chris Kelsay stopped Reggie Bush for no gain on a 4th-and-2 at the Bills 28.
The Bills offense put together their best drive of the half rolling up 72 yards on nine plays. The drive however, eventually stalled at the Saints' 25. Rian Lindell came out to line up for a 43-yard field goal attempt, but Brian Moorman took the snap and rolled to his left on a fake and connected with Ryan Denney for a 25-yard touchdown reception to tie the score at seven at the tail end of the first quarter.
After that Buffalo's defense stepped up big. Aaron Schobel got a takeaway on a sack and forced fumble that he recovered in Bills territory at the Buffalo 38.
They also forced New Orleans three-and-out in the second quarter, and defended a short field after a Bills fumble on a punt return in their own end and surrendered just a field goal to keep the score 10-7 at the half.
But Buffalo's offense had just as many problems with New Orleans defense as the Saints vaunted attack was having with the Bills defense. The Saints did not break through until the latter stages of the fourth quarter when the Bills defense had been on the field for more than 30 minutes.
Injury updateThe Bills might be even more shorthanded when they travel to Miami for an important AFC East matchup with the Miami Dolphins.
Demetrius Bell (groin), Leodis McKelvin (fibula), Bryan Scott (ankle) and Donte Whitner (thumb) all left Sunday's game and did not return.
Nevertheless Buffalo will look to regroup next week as they travel to Miami to take on the winless Dolphins.