Buffalo drops to 3-5 with 35-17 loss at New Orleans
The Associated Press The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS —
A hobbled tight end and speedy rookie receiver provided Drew Brees all the help he needed for another vintage performance.
Brees passed for five touchdowns and 332 yards, and the New Orleans Saints pulled away for a 35-17 victory over Buffalo on Sunday.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham played after missing practice most of the week with a left foot injury and scored on 13- and 15-yard passes over the middle, powering through tackles at the goal line both times.
Rookie Saints receiver Kenny Stills had touchdowns of 69 and 42 yards and Lance Moore snagged a 15-yard scoring pass in his return from a hand injury that sidelined him three games.
Bills quarterback Thad Lewis was sacked four times, intercepted once, lost two fumbles and appeared shaken up at times, but stayed in the game, finishing with 234 yards passing and one touchdown. Buffalo's Fred Jackson scored on a 1-yard run.
The game matched Bills coach Doug Marrone against his former boss in New Orleans, Sean Payton.
Graham's second touchdown, which he scored after the catch by muscling through Jairus Byrd's tackle, gave the Saints (6-1) a 28-10 lead in the third quarter.
Buffalo (3-5) closed to 28-17 on Jackson's TD, set up by a pair of roughing-the-passer penalties called on reserve defensive back Corey White.
But Brees responded by rolling right and lofting a 42-yard pass into the end zone, where Stills outmaneuvered rookie defensive back Nickell Robey to make the catch.
Stills, who caught his first career TD one game ago in New England, finished with three catches for 129 yards against Buffalo. Graham had three catches for 37 yards.
Tight end Scott Chandler and receiver Stevie Johnson each had 72 yards receiving for Buffalo, though Johnson appeared to be laboring through leg pain in the second half.
Lewis, making his third start for Buffalo after being called up from the practice squad, took a hard helmet shot from linebacker David Hawthorne and fumbled on his first play from scrimmage. Although Buffalo's defense forced a missed 47-yard field goal try, the play still was the beginning of a tough day for Lewis, who was sacked by Cam Jordan and fumbled again on his third series.
Jordan also recovered on the Bills 21, and Brees found Moore a few plays later for a 7-0 lead.
Buffalo managed to stay close early thanks to New Orleans' missed opportunities.
Consecutive false starts by Brees helped stall one threat that ended with kicker Garret Hartley's second miss of the first half, this time from 38 yards.
Lewis then quickly moved Buffalo into Saints territory with completions of 17 and 14 yards to Johnson, then found Johnson a third time with a 13-yard strike to tie it at 7.
Lewis fumbled a third time when flattened from behind by Junior Galette, but Buffalo guard Doug Legursky recovered, and the resilient Lewis responded with a 22-yard completion to Chandler. That helped fuel a nine-play drive which set up Dan Carpenter's 37-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.
New Orleans went back in front when Brees spotted Stills, his fastest receiver, in a coverage mismatch with defensive end/linebacker Jerry Hughes. Stills had several steps on Hughes when he caught a deep pass down the right sideline and sped away for his long score to make it 14-10.
Graham's first touchdown, on which he bowled over Da'Norris Searcy at the goal line, made it 21-10 in the last minute of the half.