The New Orleans Saints marched into western New York on Sunday and ran roughshod over the Buffalo Bills, 47-10, for their 7th consecutive victory. Once again, the Saints defense was a little slow at the start, giving up a 36 yard run to Bills running back LeSean McCoy and a 13 yard scramble to quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Buffalo's opening drive to set up a field goal.
That was the last time the Bills put up any kind of competitive fight on the afternoon. The Saints responded with a 9 play, 74 yard touchdown drive, drove into the Buffalo red zone on all four of their first half possessions (not counting a kneel down to end the first half), and rolled out 482 yards for the game while possessing the ball for over 41 minutes without a single punt.
Canal Street Chronicles hands out our game balls for a dominating performance, including a group award
Game Ball #1 — The 1-2 punch of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara
I defy you to come up with a better running back duo in the NFL than this Saints combo. They have 1,385 yards from scrimmage this season, more than any other running back combination in the league, and rolled over the Bills defense on Sunday for 237 rushing yards, 7.2 yards per carry, and 4 touchdowns.
Ingram led the way, with 21 carries for a season high 131 yards and career high 3 touchdowns. Many of his yards came after first contact, and Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded Ingram's performance (88.5) as the second best among all running backs on Sunday, averaging over 4.8 yards after first contact.
Not to be outdone, Kamara again proved not only to be the ultimate compliment to Ingram, but one of the more versatile offensive weapons in the league. He had PFF's top grade among running backs on Sunday with 89.1, and continued to not only show great elusiveness, but an underrated ability to break tackles as well. Kamara had his first career 100-yard game against Buffalo, rushing for 106 yards on just 12 carries, along with a touchdown and adding 5 receptions.
Game Ball #2 — Michael Thomas
Thomas was predicted here to have a big game against the Bills zone coverage, and he certainly delivered, with a top five receiver 85.7 grade from Pro Football Focus. Thomas had as many receptions as the rest of his teammates combined, finishing with 9 catches for 117 yards, including numerous 3rd down receptions to continue drives and an acrobatic catch down the right sideline. It was Thomas' highest catch and yardage output of the season thus far, and quarterback Drew Brees has the confidence to throw the ball to his second year star wideout no matter the coverage.
Game Ball #3 — Ken Crawley
Marshon Lattimore has received the bulk of the attention for success in the Saints secondary, and he has been deserving of every accolade. What's gone largely unnoticed however, is the stellar play of second year cornerback Crawley, who continued his solid play on Sunday. Crawley gave up just one reception in the five times he was directly targeted, and finished with the 4th highest grade among cornerbacks on Sunday, according to PFF. Crawley was part of a defensive effort that allowed the Bills to complete just 50% of their passes for only 56 yards through 3 quarters and only five completions to wideouts on the afternoon.
Game Ball #4 — Sheldon Rankins
Rankins was a disruptive force all afternoon against the Bills. He recorded his first sack of the season, and provided consistent interior pressure that caused Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to scramble outside to further limit his passing options. Rankins was even better against the run, controlling the line of scrimmage and holding the Buffalo running game to just 2.5 yards per carry after McCoy's 36-yard run on the opening drive.
Late in the 3rd quarter, Rankins stuffed McCoy for a loss on 1st down, then showed his athletic ability by dropping into coverage on second and third downs. On 3rd down, Rankins intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 27 yards to the Bills 3-yard line, setting up an Ingram touchdown and ending any competitive phase to the game. It was a microcosm of the outstanding game that Rankins had, and also showed why New Orleans made him the 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft.
We most certainly need to award a much deserved game ball to the Saints offensive line. Drew Brees was not sacked, not even pressured, on his 26 pass attempts. Right guard Larry Warford returned to the lineup, and his 87.5 grade from Pro Football Focus was the highest among all interior linemen. Left guard Andrus Peat (79 grade) and center Max Unger (81.1) also earned top five grades from PFF, as the Saints produced their best rushing total since a December, 1986 game against Miami.
New Orleans rushed for 298 yards and a team record 6 touchdowns on the ground, as Drew Brees (7 yard run) and even rookie Trey Edmunds got into the act with a 41-yard score against a Bills defense that was ranked number 8 in the league against the run before Sunday's thrashing.
Who had your most impressive performance in the Saints streak past the Bills?
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The Offensive Line