ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The cracks had been showing for weeks, and on Sunday at New Era Field, the foundation of the Buffalo Bills‘ defense crumbled.
The New Orleans Saints embarrassed the Bills by running 24 consecutive times in the second half of a 47-10 romp at New Era Field, including rushes on all 10 plays of a 94-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. Overall, the Bills’ defense allowed 298 rushing yards and 482 total yards to the Saints as they got blown out of their own stadium.
At best, Sunday’s pitiful performance was rock bottom for Buffalo’s defense, which has been sliding after allowing a league-best 13.5 points per game through Week 4. Between Weeks 5 and 9, the Bills were tied for 18th in points per game allowed (23.75) and 24th in yards allowed per game (383.3).
At worst, it is the latest example of why the Bills, now 5-4 after their back-to-back lopsided losses, are heading the wrong direction as they try to end their 17-year playoff drought. The Bills have two road games — at the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs — before returning home in December to host the New England Patriots in a game that will likely mean more for the Bills’ chances at a wild-card playoff berth than winning the division.
The Bills were hoping their Week 9 loss to the Jets was an aberration. Buffalo trailed 34-7 late in the fourth quarter of that game as the Jets rushed for 194 yards. Coach Sean McDermott said last week that it would be unrealistic to expect any team to be perfect through all 16 games.
However, it was perfectly reasonable for fans to expect something better out of McDermott’s defense as it returned home, where the Bills had a 4-0 record entering Sunday. The Saints, now 7-2, had won six games in a row but were only three-point favorites.
New Orleans won by 37 points, imposing its will on the ground from start to finish. Mark Ingram ran 21 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns, Alvin Kamara added 12 carries for 106 yards and one touchdown, Trey Edmunds ran nine times for 48 yards and Drew Brees joined the action with a 7-yard rushing touchdown.
The Saints’ six rushing touchdowns were the most against the Bills all-time. The Saints’ 298 rushing yards were the eighth-most against Buffalo in their franchise history and most since 2012, when the Seattle Seahawks ran for 311.
Aside from a kneel-down to end the first half, the Saints reached the red zone on all of their possessions through the first three quarters, scoring five touchdowns.
So much for the progress made by McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in trying to fix the shortcomings of the Rex Ryan era. Last season, the Bills allowed three teams to run for over 200 yards, but none for 300. This was a clear step back.