On a day where NFL MVP candidate Drew Brees looked his worst this season, Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay was at his best. Facing the quarterback that was sacked just 13 times all of last season, and in charge of an offense averaging 46.5 points per game, the veteran end had his best game of the young season.
Through three quarters of play, the Bills defensive front that was challenged all week to get consistent pressure on quarterback Drew Brees played admirably and Kelsay was at the front of the line. On a 4th-and-2 at Buffalo's 28-yard line, Brees dropped back and flicked a short pass out to Reggie Bush in the flat. Bush lunged for the first down marker, but was stoned by Kelsay and linebacker Kawika Mitchell to force a turnover on downs.
Fellow end Aaron Schobel turned in a big play a short time later with a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery to thwart another Saints drive.
Kelsay soon followed with a sack of his own on a big 3rd-and-10 play at the Saints 29 getting the ball back for the offense with two minutes left in the half.
His quarterback pressure early in the fourth quarter also forced the Saints to punt as he hurried a Brees throw that fell short of intended target Marques Colston.
By game's end Kelsay had eight total tackles to lead the defensive effort with a pair of tackles for loss to go with his sack and quarterback hit.
"He did a great job coming off the edge and crashing down the pocket on Drew all day," said defensive tackle Marcus Stroud.
Unfortunately the effort was in vain. Despite holding Brees to his lowest passing total of the season (16-29, 172 yds) by frustrating him into hurried throws and disrupting his rhythm with his receivers, the running game ultimately led the way for New Orleans in a 27-7 loss for Buffalo.
"There's always frustration any time a team is able to run the ball on you from a defensive lineman's standpoint," Kelsay said. "We've got to shut the run down and make them throw the ball and get a good rush against the passer."
Shutting down one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Brees and holding him without a passing touchdown was a success, but not stopping the run proved to be costly. With the Saints leading 10-7 early in the fourth quarter, running back Pierre Thomas capped his 126-yard rushing day with two long touchdown runs—giving the Bills too much a deficit to overcome. Without starter Mike Bell, the Saints used three different running backs, gaining 222 yards on the ground compared to the Bills 89.
Kelsay said it was a combination of the game plan and breakdowns in fundamentals that hurt the team in the fourth quarter.
"Our goal is to keep an opponent to 193 yards passing and 100 yards rushing. We doubled our total goal in the run game," Kelsay said. "When you're running the ball it doesn't matter how much you pass. Controlling the clock, keeping our offense off the field—that's what they did. They had a good game plan for us."
Though he was far from satisfied with the outcome, Kelsay's performance stood out.
"It's our job to go out there and stop them," he said. "We didn't stop them enough and didn't do the things we needed to do to win. We'll sit back and sulk over this for a few hours and then we have to get ready for Miami."
The Bills were determined to earn a win over a quality opponent at home, only to let a spirited defensive effort slip away. The late game defeats have become familiar to the team early this season. A heartbreaking one-point loss to the Patriots in the season opener and Sunday against a hot New Orleans team were games the Bills had several chances to win. Kelsay said coming up short just gets tougher to handle.
"It stings more," Kelsay said. "If it stings less, you should probably get out of here. I think it means a lot more for veterans. The more you play, the more you realize how hard it is to win in this league."