NEW ORLEANS — Josh Allen and the mercurial Buffalo Bills swung back to a better version of themselves against the reeling New Orleans Saints.
Allen passed for 260 yards and four touchdowns, and the Bills throttled New Orleans’ short-handed offense in a 31-6 victory Thursday night that sent the injury-ravaged Saints to their fourth straight loss.
“Coach always talks about playoff caliber and that’s the team we want to be,” Allen said. “We want to be the best versions of ourselves … every time we step on the field.”
Dawson Knox threw touchdown passes twice, giving him a franchise record of seven touchdowns. He scored his second touchdown, giving the Bills (7-4) a lead of 24-0.
Stefon Diggs had seven receptions of 74 yards and one touchdown. Running back Matt Breida converted a short pass to a 23 yard score, in an impressive victory just four days following a 26-point loss at home to Indianapolis.
“To come up short the way we did (last weekend), sometimes it can be demoralizing,” said defensive end Mario Addison, who had one of Buffalo’s two sacks of Trevor Siemian. “You’ve just got to flush that and do it all over again. Everybody had a great mindset going into this game and we were just ready.”
For the third consecutive game, Saints (6-6), without Alvin Kamara as their dynamic running back, were defeated for three quarters. They finally scored on Siemian’s 11-yard pass to tight end Nick Vannett on the first play of the fourth.
Buffalo outgained New Orleans 361-190 and the Bills possessed the ball for 34:38 to the Saints’ 25:22.
The game illustrated how limited the Saints’ offense has become, in part because of injuries to Kamara and star receiver Michael Thomas, who has not played all season, and also due to significant changes at quarterback.
New Orleans was 5-2 in the games that Jameis Winston started, taking over for Drew Brees. But Winston went out for the season with a knee injury during New Orleans’ most recent victory on Oct. 31 and the Saints have lost every game Siemian has started.
Saints coach Sean Payton’s urgency to sustain drives against the high-powered Bills was evident in his decision to call a running play on fourth-and-2 near midfield and to later run a fake punt. Both failed, with the run losing yards and punter Blake Gillikin’s pass sailing high and wide of intended receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
“Going in, we felt like we had to be a little bit more aggressive,” because of how capable the Bills are offensively, Payton said. “We weren’t going to be able to win a game scoring 14 points or 17 points against a team like this.”
Siemian completed 17 of 29 passes for 163 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Taysom Hill, who is coming off a foot injury, was active as New Orleans’ backup quarterback but did not play.
Brees had been working the game at the time as a broadcaster. The raucous reaction he received when he was honored was sharply contrasted with the collective frustration that a New Orleans drive kept stalling.
The majority of fans left the dome in the first quarter. There was a strong contingent of Buffalo Blue-clad fans who remained to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Payton saw the result as a sign of change and foreshadowed changes. The Saints will now try to find a way to break their worst losing streak since 2015, which was in 2015.
“We’ll look at everything right now. Obviously, we have to,” Payton said. “We’ve got to look closely at everything we’re doing and who we’re doing it with.”