ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer wanted to believe what he was saying, but on the heels of a second consecutive horrific performance by the Buffalo defense, his words rang hollow.
"They were able to do whatever they wanted to do on any down," Poyer said following the Bills' nightmarish 47-10 loss to the Saints. "It wasn't us back-to-back weeks."
For clarification, it hadn't been the Bills, at least for the first seven weeks of the season when they won five times thanks in part to an opportunistic defense. But what happened on a cold, gray day at New Era Field appears to be the team the Bills are now. For two weeks, they have been unable to stop the run as the Jets rolled up 194 yards and the Saints had 298 yards along with six rushing touchdowns, a first against the Bills.
"It's terrible," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said as he did the math that showed 492 yards the last two games. "The whole thing stunk today."
Now those were words you could take to the bank. The Saints dominated the Bills, continually gashing holes in their front seven for Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara to run through. Each back topped 100 yards, and things got absurd in the fourth quarter when third-stringer Trey Edmunds broke a 41-yard touchdown run.
"We've got a certain standard; that wasn't up to our standard," head coach Sean McDermott said. "Today was not indicative of the standard that we've set for ourselves. They beat us. Give them a ton of credit. I've got to coach better, we've got to play better, that's the obvious. That was not what we expected."
The Bills' defense was on the field for more than 41 minutes, including about 24 of the 30 minutes in the second half. At one point, the Saints called 24 consecutive rushing plays because there was no need to pass.
"It's embarrassing to go out there and put that on film," Bills safety Micah Hyde said.
And so, just like that, a 5-2 start that had people outside of Buffalo talking about the Bills and considering them a potential crasher to the playoff party, has been reduced to 5-4 with a difficult schedule coming up. In the next three weeks, the Bills have games at the Chargers and Chiefs and a home game against the Patriots.
"We weren't good," linebacker Preston Brown said. "They killed us in every single stat, everything you could talk about. We have to find a way to get better, or we'll have five wins at the end of the year. We'll be 5-11, it's that simple."
It's probably not going to end at 5-11, but guard Richie Incognito, like Brown, recognized the fact that the season is now in peril.
"It's about that time in the season where teams start separating themselves, and at 5-4 we just put ourselves right back in with the rest of the pack," said Incognito.
On Monday, head coach Sean McDermott had no real updates on four injured players.
Left tackle Cordy Glenn (ankle/foot), wide receiver Zay Jones (ankle) and cornerback E.J. Gaines (hamstring) were all inactive for the Saints game. And defensive end Jerry Hughes played only about a half after suffering a shin injury. McDermott said all four players are "day-to-day" as the Bills begin looking forward to their trip to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.
Missed tackles have become a major factor for the Bills during their two lopsided losses to the Jets and Saints. According to Pro Football Focus, the Bills missed 22 tackles against New York and 15 more against New Orleans. Not surprisingly, they allowed a combined 492 yards rushing in those games. In the first seven games, the Bills missed only 47 tackles.
"You don't want to start creating bad habits or start doubting yourself, and that's what happens when games like this kind of go back to back and you start seeing a routine of things happening," said linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who leads the Bills with 13 missed tackles.
But the problems go beyond tackling. The Bills are getting manhandled up front, and it's probably not a coincidence that these two games have come minus the traded Marcell Dareus, who, if nothing else, could plug the middle and tie up blockers.
"When you're starting to give up those type of rushing yards, it goes beyond physically getting beat," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "We're not fitting where we're supposed to and then you start to press and then maybe guys are just trying to make a play to make up for something and maybe not where they're supposed to be. There's a lot of things to critique for sure."
Kelvin Benjamin's first game with the Bills didn't go as planned. He caught only one pass from Tyrod Taylor, a 9-yarder on the second play of the game, and didn't catch another until the Bills were down by 44 points in the fourth quarter and backup Nathan Peterman was mopping up. It was a disappointing day for Benjamin, who did not provide the upgrade that was expected in the passing game, especially having to go against New Orleans shutdown cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
"The defense started rolling toward him," Taylor said, trying to explain why Benjamin seemed to disappear from the route tree. "Just a lack of execution across the board. Passing game, running game. That starts with me."
Benjamin said he was in tune with the game plan, so that wasn't an excuse for the performance.
"I felt good. I felt very comfortable with the playbook," he said. "Just trying to play fast, man. Unfortunately, it didn't go our way. We'll get the film, find out the mistakes, fix them and move on."
NOTES: FB Patrick DiMarco tied WR Kelvin Benjamin for the team lead with three catches, which indicates just how bad a day it was for the Bills on offense. ... LB Ramon Humber had 10 tackles and he forced a fumble, but he also had two offside penalties and missed three tackles. ... FS Jordan Poyer was in on 10 tackles, though most of them came after long runs by the Saints running backs. ... LT Cordy Glenn was inactive due to foot and ankle injuries and was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Dion Dawkins. ... CB E.J. Gaines was again inactive due to a hamstring injury and was replaced by Shareece Wright.... WR Zay Jones did not play due to an ankle injury. ... DE Jerry Hughes was unable to finish Sunday's game as he suffered a kick to the shin.
REPORT CARD VS. SAINTS
--PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Tyrod Taylor was supposed to raise his level of play with the return of TE Charles Clay and the addition of WR Kelvin Benjamin. Instead, it was one of the worst games of his career as he completed 9 of 18 passes for 56 yards and had a 33.6 passer rating. Taylor's lone interception was not his fault as the ball should have been caught by Clay. Benjamin caught the only pass by a wide receiver when Taylor was in the game, that on the second play of the day. He finished with just three catches for 42 yards. Jordan Matthews was more invisible, with one catch for 14 yards.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- The Bills are in big trouble when they can't run the ball effectively, and that happened again against the Saints. They managed only 69 yards on 15 attempts and only three runs came after halftime when the Bills had the ball for only six minutes. The Bills had only five first downs in the first 3 1/2 quarters before the Saints backed off with a 47-3 lead. LeSean McCoy broke a 36-yard run on his first carry, then gained 13 yards on seven carries the rest of the day.
--PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Bills were so pathetic against the run that Drew Brees hardly broke a sweat in the passing game. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 184 yards because he didn't need to bother throwing the ball. However, when Brees needed to complete a pass, he did, and nine of his completions resulted in first downs. WR Michael Thomas hurt the Bills with nine catches for 117 yards. The Bills' lack of a pass rush has become a major problem as they have only 14 sacks this season, four in the last six games. The only turnover the Bills forced came on a fumble recovery after a pass completion, one of the lone positive plays of the day.
--RUSH DEFENSE: F -- If a lower grade existed, the Bills would have earned it. The Saints annihilated Buffalo up front as they gained 298 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per attempt. Furthermore, they scored six rushing touchdowns, the first time Buffalo had ever allowed that many in a game in its 58-year history. Mark Ingram II scored three of the TDs and had 131 yards, while Alvin Kamara had 106 yards. The Bills were soft up front, and there was another spate of missed tackles, which has become a trend the last few weeks.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- Stephen Hauschka made his only field-goal attempt, so that qualifies him as the player of the game for Buffalo. Colton Schmidt had a 42.2-yard net average on six punts, but it didn't matter because the Saints drove easily no matter what their field position was. Brandon Tate averaged 21 yards on three kickoff returns, while the coverage team did a nice job on Saints' dangerous punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. As for punt returns for the Bills, there were none, because the Saints never had to punt.
--COACHING: F -- The Bills' staff was outcoached by Sean Payton and his group on both sides of the ball. This is an indictment on the first-year head coach because the Bills not only had three extra days of rest, they were at home where they had been 4-0 this season. The defensive staff needs to take a long look at what's happening up front because the line is getting blown out of the way on run plays, and there has been no pass rush for weeks. On offense, it's hard to fathom how they could have looked so terrible when they got Clay and Benjamin on the field, but when you have the ball barely 18 minutes, it's tough to get anything established.