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Quick Takes: Saints make enough plays to down Bills

Despite kicking woes for Saints kicker Garrett Hartley, New Orleans held off the Buffalo Bills for a home win (Photo: Parker Waters).Despite kicking woes for Saints kicker Garrett Hartley, New Orleans held off the Buffalo Bills for a home win (Photo: Parker Waters).

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NEW ORLEANS - Under Sean Payton, New Orleans had played brilliantly following their bye week over the previous four years he was coaching. That trend continued Sunday though it did not start that way.

Early on, the Saints looked flat, sloppy, totally out of synch offensively.

The Saints defense forced two turnovers, giving the offense the ball at the Buffalo 22 and the Buffalo 20-yard line. New Orleans got just seven points off of the turnovers, a bad sign. The Saints let the Bills hang around when they should have built at least a two-score lead early. That would change late in the first half of a 35-17 victory for New Orleans.

Here are my quick takes on the solid win for the 6-1 Saints.

**David Hawthorne drilled Thad Lewis on the first play from scrimmage, causing a fumble with Junior Galette recovering and returning it three yards to the 22-yard line. Hawthorne followed up with a sack of Lewis on the second Buffalo series of the game.

**The Saints failed to capitalize, thanks to a lack of patience. Pierre Thomas rushed for six yards on first down but then the Saints elected to pass on second down and Drew Brees was sacked by Jerry Hughes. A third down completion to Darren Sproles lost six yards and Garrett Hartley hooked a 47-yard field goal attempt. Ugly!

**John Carpenter returned the favor, missing a 50-yard field goal on Buffalo's next possession.

**Fred Jackson gashed the Saints early in the game running inside but the Saints were able to slow him down.

**Cameron Jordan continued his Pro Bowl season with a sack, fumble and recovery on Lewis.

**The Saints took advantage this time, with Brees putting a perfect ball on Lance Moore for a 15-yard touchdown against tight man-to-man coverage. Cannot cover any better, cannot throw it any better. That's what the NFL is supposed to be about.

**Good call by Sean Payton on fourth-and-two from the Bills' 37-yard line to run a quick pitch to Pierre Thomas. Well devised, well blocked, well executed, got the Saints a first down. Options were to take a penalty and punt, try a 54-yard field goal by Hartley, who had already missed from 47 yards or to go for it. Good decision, good result.

**Brees drew consecutive false start penalties to take the Saints from third-and-one to third-and-11, killing a drive. Hartley then hooked yet another field goal attempt, this time from 38 yards. Brees later incurred a delay of game penalty. That is on the quarterback. Of course, that is about all Brees did wrong on this day.

**The Saints defense finally broke as Buffalo drove 72 yards in eight plays with Lewis hitting Stevie Johnson on a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.

** On the 69-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Kenny Stills, Buffalo had total confusion on defense. Stills was matched up with linebacker Jerry Hughes, who had no help over the top from a safety, resulting in an easy score for the Saints to go up 14-10 late in the second quarter.

**Stills is clearly filling the shoes of Joe Morgan as the primary deep threat for the Saints, a role previously filled nicely by a younger Devery Henderson. He proved it again with touchdown receptions of 69 and 42 yards, one game after making a huge 42-yard touchdown catch against New England on a deep ball.

**Brees engineered a beautiful drive of 10 plays, 78 yards, capping it off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham, who wisely did not go for his patented slam dunk over the crossbar. He did a mini-dunk, instead. Brees had a quarterback rating of 149.2 at halftime. Graham later stretched one out beautifully, surviving a booth review, for a 13 yard touchdown. Again, he mini-dunked. He also smiled broadly when the score was upheld.

**Brees completed passes to 10 different players, a true testament to spreading the wealth.

**Kenny Vaccaro was effective in run blitzes, collecting two tackles for loss. He is an aggressive, guided missile, a solid, improving rookie.

**A 55-yard TD pass to Stevie Johnson from Lewis was negated by a holding penalty on Scott Chandler. Still, Jabari Greer took a bad angle. Remember, he gave up the deep ball at New England to lose.

**Corey White got flagged for roughing the passer twice on the same drive. The first was a lousy call as Lewis ducked and White simply went over the top and tackled him cleanly. The second was helmet-to-helmet and it cost the Saints dearly, resulting in a Buffalo touchdown. Rob Ryan immediately pulled White from the game.

**Was it really worth a challenge by Doug Marrone on Fred Jackson's non-touchdown run early in the fourth quarter? It cost Buffalo a timeout and they had it inside the one-yard line. Chances are they would get in on the next play and they did. Bad challenge. Then, he challenged the spot on a Pierre Thomas third-and-one conversion to the 30-yard line when there was no way it would be overturned, leaving Buffalo with just one timeout remaining, down 11 points with 13:14 to play in the game, leaving him with no challenges.

**Keenan Lewis picked up the third turnover of the game for the Saints defense in the fourth quarter with an interception. He was shaken up a bit on the play. Lewis and Vaccaro collided trying defend a Lewis pass with four minutes left. Both stayed down for a minute but rose and left the field.

**Josh Hill made his mark at the tight end spot, making a pair of catches. Ben Watson had two third down conversion receptions in the fourth quarter to keep a drive alive.

**Despite five touchdown passes, the Saints struggled to protect Brees all afternoon. Brees did an incredible job buying time, rolling away from pressure and hitting Stills with a 42-yard touchdown pass on the dead run. Great throw!

Payton embraced Marrone, his former Saints' assistant at game's end. There is genuine respect among the duo. This time around, the teacher schooled the pupil.

It is always a pleasurable thing to see when your quarterback is taking a knee with two minutes left. The Saints are back on track at 6-1 with a tough stretch of games on the menu.

Now, it is on to the Meadowlands and MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets next Sunday under the direction of rookie quarterback Geno Smith, along with former Saints running back Chris Ivory and a defense that had been salty until getting hammered by the Bengals Sunday. The Jets will be a desperate team, looking for redemption. It will be more of a challenge than Buffalo was.

 

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