What We Learned From Buffalo Bills vs. New Orleans Saints

By Ryan Womeldorf
Drew Brees
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Well that was ugly.

Then again, everyone knew that the Buffalo Bills were probably in over their heads when they entered the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on a Super Bowl contender in the New Orleans Saints.

It didn’t help that CJ Spiller wasn’t in the lineup due to an ankle injury, but really, no one would have expected anything close to competitive with him around. It would’ve just been a few more yards gained at most or a nice touchdown in a blowout loss at best.

Still, there were lessons to be learned from Sunday’s 35-17 loss.

That’s Gonna Happen

I’m not even sure if the defense should feel bad about the performance they turned in on Sunday. Drew Brees has a tendency to destroy secondaries. That was, after all, his NFL-record eighth five-touchdown effort of his career, moving past Peyton Manning for first in the books.

Funny thing is it could have been worse. Far worse. The Bills turned the ball over early and gave the short field to Brees and the Saints, but they couldn’t capitalize. They missed a pair of field goals in Bills territory that would have put them up over 40 points for the day. Not only that, but the Bills defense made a couple of big stops to even keep the game within a single score until Brees found Kenny Stills for a wide-open 69-yard touchdown with less than five minutes to go in the half.

Still, the pass rush garnered some pressure throughout and managed to bring down the normally clean Brees four times. They remain a dangerous team when rushing the quarterback, and when they’re a little more suited to challenge defense in the same way, things will go much more smoothly.

Also, Jimmy Graham just isn’t fair.

Chalk Lines

The line is still having issues keeping their signal-caller clean, which is a problem considering just how important the position is to the success of a football team.

Fact is, even if your backup is in (as the Bills’ backup has been since starter EJ Manuel went down in a Thursday Night loss a few weeks back), you should probably keep him from being murdered by the opposition’s pass rush.

The Bills did not do this with poor, poor Thad Lewis. Lewis was hit early and often.  Most of the time, a free blitzer got through to absolutely pulverize him. By the second half, he was visibly just trying to get the ball out of his hands before he got annihilated. And the fact that he got up after some of those hits was downright impressive.

Lewis isn’t the answer long-term, but it’s nice to know that the Bills have a competent, confident quarterback on the bench in the event Manuel is injured. It’s also horrifying to know that we’re one snap away from seeing Jeff Tuel on the field. Please, never let that happen.

Receiver Wanted

Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler put in an admirable effort; the former was visibly hobbling throughout the game but still tied the latter for the team lead with seven catches. But the fact of the matter is that the Bills need another impact receiver if this offense wants to move away from being a run-first team.

Robert Woods looked like he might be emerging a few weeks back, but he’s been quiet since. Chandler isn’t a dependable, consistent option in this offense and doesn’t look to be for the future.  The only sure thing is Johnson, and he’s better suited to be a No. 2 receiving option than he is in his current standing as the top target.

It’s been said for years, but bears reiterating: more receivers, please. Stop picking guys who can run really fast and start picking guys with a proven history of catching the football. Turns out catching the football is important in football. Who knew?

The road ahead remains a tough one. Next week, it’s a visit from the Kansas City Chiefs and their top-ranked defense. I can picture Lewis having night sweats about this game and that pass rush. That chalk outlines joke may be something that needs to happen after dealing with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.

See you then.

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