2017 was such an exhilarating year as a Saints fan. First playoff appearance since 2013, outstanding rookie class yielding the offensive and defensive rookies of the year, a historically successful ground attack, and a reinvigorated defense all made for an inspired season of football. Though the postseason ended short of the team’s potential on a miracle, the regular season went from doom to boom rather quickly. With that, I’ll be counting down my top five Saints games of 2017.
Today we’re looking at game #4: the Saints 47-10 blow out over the Buffalo Bills.
This was easily the most one-sided victory of the season. The Saints had achieved a 90% win probability by the end of the first half with only a 17-3 lead before returning to score 30 second half points, leading to 47 unanswered. That’s how dominant the offense and defense were in this game. The Saints entered the week 10 showdown in Buffalo riding a six-game win streak. On the other hand, the Bills were entering that game 5-3 and undefeated (4-0) at home. There was also a bit of anticipation in Buffalo to premier their newest offensive asset and familiar Saints foe, WR Kelvin Benjamin. The Bills had completed a trade with the Panthers to acquire him a couple weeks earlier but because of injury issues (as usual) he was making a late debut against his former division rivals.
The Saints came into this game with one of the league’s top rushing attacks, but fan’s expectations were cautioned due to the Bills entering Week 10 with the league’s eighth ranked run defense. Unfortunately for Buffalo, things aren’t always that simple…
Running Attack Leads the Way
The Saints totaled a franchise record six rushing touchdowns, three by Mark Ingram. But what’s important to note is that these weren’t all breakaway runs. Only one of the touchdown runs went for greater than seven yards- Trey Edmunds’ 41-yard scamper. This was a game in which the offensive line just completely demolished the Bills’ front seven play in and play out. New Orleans ran the ball 48 times for 298 rushing yards. That’s 100 yards more than Buffalo gained total. This was a game of old-fashioned smash mouth football and it suited the Saints offense perfectly as both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara ran for over 100 yards.
What really helped the Saints rushing attack get going was pre-snap motion in and out of the backfield as well as post-snap motion along the offensive line. The Saints utilized pulling guards, stunting guards and centers to get them to the second level, additional linemen, and leading tight ends to help confuse the Bills’ defense after the ball was snapped. A good example of the confusion caused by pre-snap motion in the backfield came early on a 4th and 1 when Ted Ginn Jr. motioned into the backfield behind Mark Ingram. Brees snapped the ball and faked a toss to Ginn after handing the ball off to Ingram. This caused the defensive left side to crash left while Ramon Humber on the defensive right had a clear shot at Ingram but froze at the fake, freeing Ingram up the middle for a 25-yard run. That drive established the dominance that was oncoming from the Saints O-line.
Drew Brees, despite a rare scrambling touchdown, enjoyed a day of light work.
This was the first game since Week 4 of 2009 in which Drew threw for under 200 yards and no touchdowns in a Saints win. He threw for 184 yards, 117 of which went to Michael Thomas.
Defense Continues to Improve
The Saints defense was incredible. The Bills scored only twice: a field goal during the very first possession of the game and a touchdown their final possession in garbage time. Each of Buffalo’s eight drives between went for no more than 21 yards. Totaling six punts, one interception, and one turnover on downs (after a -6 yard drive). The opening drive followed what had become the usual approach for Dennis Allen and the defense. They sat back and diagnosed the Bills’ gameplan and then adjusted afterwards. The defense then went on to only allow 69 yards rushing an 129 passing while only giving up 18:37 in time of possession. They notched two sacks and one interception.
The lone interception came courtesy of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins who dropped back in a designed coverage fit. Rankins was patrolling the middle of the field as Tyrod Taylor rifled a pass to tight end Charles Clay. Clay, being closed in on by both Rankins and safety Rafael Bush, bobbled the catch and couldn’t corral it as the ball fell into the outstretched arms of Rankins, who then showed off some pretty nifty moved as he followed blockers and weaved through the Bills offense en route to a 27-yard return and a near touchdown. See the ensuing Boonk Gang (now apparently Freeway Boys) photo above.
#NeverPunt Takes on a New Definition
Thomas Morstead capped off the dominant win with a fantastic tweet in which he placed himself on the inactives list after not punting a single time throughout the game. With Wil Lutz leading the kickoff specialist duties, Morstead’s only snaps came as a holder for six extra points and two field goals. We love the guy, but it was nice to see a game in which his services weren’t necessitated.