Buffalo's first team defense gave up some long drives to the league's number one offense from last season, but were stingy when it came to surrendering points Friday night as big plays helped the Bills earn a 13-10 victory.
"We didn't execute at a top level and you generally don't in your first exhibition," said head coach Dick Jauron. "Would you like to see it? Yeah you'd like to see it. We're not happy with some of the things that occurred. We need to correct them and get better, but it's always nice to win. We're happy we got a win against a good football team."
After two good early stops by Buffalo's run front forced an early 3rd-and-7 on the Saint's first drive the Bills gave up some yardage in big chunks. Reggie Bush ran through a big hole inside for 13 yards and a first down. Drew Brees then completed his next four passes for a total of 41 yards to move the Saints into field goal range.
But after Tim Anderson and Angelo Crowell made a good stop on Deuce McAllister for a loss of one on second down and a John DiGiorgio pressure on Brees forced an incompletion on 3rd-and-2, Langston Walker blocked Olindo Mare's 27-yard field goal attempt to keep New Orleans scoreless.
"He's definitely got a knack for that," said Jauron. "I think he's blocked a bunch of them. We were clearly aware of that in free agency. It wasn't the number one reason we went after him. We were aware that he is someone that can benefit us there. And the final score is 13-10 and he blocked the first field goal. Huge play, huge play."
"I think we did a great job keeping points off the board," said Angelo Crowell. "They moved the ball down the field a little bit, but we settled down and held them in the red zone. We did some good things out there."
The Saints also moved the ball successfully on their second possession, but Buffalo got the third down stop they needed forcing New Orleans to settle for another field goal attempt as Mare put a 42-yard attempt through the uprights for a 3-0 lead.
Buffalo's second string defense performed in much the same fashion. They surrendered 86 yards on an 11-play drive, but Jabari Greer came up with a big play just in time. On a 2nd-and-8 from the Bills 11-yard line, Greer jumped on a quick slant intended for Terrance Copper to intercept a Tyler Palko pass at the goal line.
"I just wanted to help the team at a time when we needed to make a play," said Greer. "I think just being able to help the team in critical situations and gaining the trust of the guys, that's the biggest thing."
Greer also had another interception midway through the third quarter.
"It's nice to make those plays you work hard and prepare yourself for those situations," Greer said. "So I'm just glad that it paid off and I could help my team."
Rookie middle linebacker Paul Posluszny was active defensively. He made a tackle on his first play from scrimmage as a pro. He had five tackles on the Saints' 11-play possession. Three of those stops allowed just two-yard gains. Posluszny also had a sack in the third quarter and finished as the team's leading tackler with nine.
Buffalo's second team defense did force a three-and-out on the Saints first drive of the second half.
Offense has mixed results
The Bills number one offense managed just a pair of six-play drives. New Orleans' starting secondary was pretty effective in coverage forcing J.P. Losman to leave the pocket to buy time on a few occasions. Buffalo's starting quarterback had the longest run from scrimmage for Buffalo in the first half with a 12-yard scramble for a first down.
"We tried to be as sharp as we could be," said Losman. "It seemed like just when we started to get in our groove they were taking us out. So we're starting to look forward to next week."
The debut of the revamped offensive line was short, but left guard Derrick Dockery felt good about their effort.
"There was good energy out there," he said. "There are some things we're going to work on and evaluate on film. We just have to hone our skills and work on some techniques and we should be alright."
Marshawn Lynch was used sparingly in the first half as he entered the game on the final play of the team's opening drive and ran a pass pattern. On the team's second possession he had two carries for two yards.
Craig Nall led an effective and time consuming 14-play drive that covered 62 yards in the second quarter. Nall completed his first five passes on the possession with three completions to Roscoe Parrish.
Parrish proved difficult to cover and accounted for three of the four first down receptions on the drive. His best effort was a leaping grab over the middle for a 17-yard gain that put Buffalo in field goal range. Rian Lindell capped the drive with a 36-yard field goal.
In the second half Trent Edwards was under center. He too got off to a good start completing his first five pass attempts, but the drive stalled at the Saints' 37 forcing the Bills to punt. Edwards led a touchdown drive on his third series.
Fred Jackson performed very well rushing and receiving with a first down on the ground and through the air on the possession. He added a leaping 17-yard touchdown run on the team's next possession to give Buffalo the lead (10-3) late in the third quarter.
Special teams solid
Brian Moorman was strong with his two punts thanks to some help from Sam Aiken, who made a shoestring tackle on Lance Moore for a loss of four yards on the return.
Ashton Youboty also made a strong tackle on punt coverage in the second half operating at the gunner position. Youboty beat the jammer down the field, made the tackle on Moore for no gain and drew a block in the back penalty on Anwar Phillips.
Overall coverage on punts and kickoffs was pretty good with the exception of a late kick return by New Orleans when they gained the sideline.
Schobel and Whitner held out
Starters Aaron Schobel and Donte Whitner were held out of the game Friday night with injuries.
"Aaron had a hamstring issue," said Jauron. "Our trainers looked at it and said it's not severe. It's kind of the same thing with Donte Whitner. It's not severe, but there's something there. We just felt like it wasn't in our team's best interest to put them out there. They knew that going in."
Josh Scobey (calf) and Aaron Merz (shoulder) also did not play due to injury.
Duke Preston started the game at right guard on offense with Jason Whittle coming in to play the second series. Preston got more work with the second team offense, while the veteran Whittle got the rest of the night off.
John DiGiorgio started at middle linebacker with Posluszny playing with the second unit.
Jason Webster started at left cornerback with Terrence McGee on the right side.
Ryan Denney started at right defensive end in place of Aaron Schobel.
Jim Leonhard started at strong safety in place of Donte Whitner.