The Bills may have stumbled badly in a Week 11 loss to the Colts, but they returned to form in no time for the finals in the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day slate. When the Saints played host Thursday night and were desperate to stay alive in the NFC’s wildcard race after three losses in a row, Buffalo instead stole the show behind great performances from its tent stars. Josh Allen finished with four touchdowns, Stefon Diggs showed his All-Pro route-running, and the Bills defense had no trouble draining New Orleans’ injured lineup from start to finish on the way to an even-sailing 31-6 victory to improve to 7-4.
Here are some things from Bills’ formidable Thanksgiving victory:
Why Bills won
They know how to play offensively. Josh Allen got into trouble a couple of times in the first half, forcing some short passes and being picked twice as a result, but otherwise he slung it with both authority and accuracy, taking everything the Saints gave him and thus feeding Stefon Diggs and Dawson Knox in crucial places. The ground play was once again forgettable, but Allen helped a lot, and the truth is, they never really needed a quick attack to stay ahead. Defensively, they were just as impressive. Tre’Davious White’s early exit with a knee injury promises not far beyond Week 12, but Ed Oliver and Co., who won in the trenches, never allowed the depth-tested Saints to establish momentum, making their running game non-existent and forcing Sean Payton to to rely on things like fake punts to generate movement.
Why the Saints Lost
They could not move the ball, quite simply. Sure, Trevor Siemian got them on the board early in the fourth with a nice touchdown pass to Nick Vannett, but only after having an average of 2.5 yards per. games and been shut out for 45 minutes. Injuries severely limited their lineup to begin with; Siemian giving and throwing to Tony Jones, Ty Montgomery and Lil’Jordan Humphrey would never scare anyone. But the execution was just as bad, with Siemian failing most of the night. It’s a wonder Sean Payton did not hand over the keys to Taysom Hill at some point, let alone involve the newly paid reserve on a regular basis. How different could this game have looked if guys like Jameis Winston and Alvin Kamara had actually been on the field. “D” was obviously not perfect either, letting Diggs and Knox get the best of them in the red zone, but Bradley Roby, Kwon Alexander and Cameron Jordan all had their hands in potentially game-changing games that went to waste.
With 3:19 left in the first half, the Saints were trailing 10-0, but threatened to jump back into the game, with Bradley Roby jumping a Josh Allen pass to Stefon Diggs, picking it off and giving the New Orleans ball just close midfield. They went on to win two yards in the next four games, with Siemian absorbing a sack on the second down, and then playing Blake Gillikin, who toppled her covered man on a fourth-down foul. The turnover on the downs did not give Bill’s more points before the break, but it erased the small momentum that New Orleans seemed to have, and allowed the visitors to go into the break with a comfortable lead.
Play the game
Kwon Alexander deserves a ton of credit for the way he set out to intercept Allen in the first half, but Stefon Diggs’ footwork on his scoring catch against Marshon Lattimore? Heavenly. Who in the world could defend this?
The Bills (7-4) are all back in the mix for the AFC East thanks to their victory, and they get a real chance to prove it again in Week 13, where they will host rival Patriots (7 -4) on “Monday Night Football” after a long break. The Saints (5-6) meanwhile topple over in the NFC wild card picture thanks to their fourth loss in a row. They face another big task in exactly one week when they have to host the NFC East-leading Cowboys (7-4), who fell to the Raiders earlier on Thanksgiving.