Five Ways to Silence The Saints

Posted on September 25, 2009 by Paul Seebald

No matter how vehemently the most optimistic of Bills fans may try to deny, the New Orleans Saints are going to be a very difficult team to beat. Yes, they faced two newly christened starting quarterbacks (Kelvin Kolb, Matt Stafford) in their first two games. In part, that’s why they enjoyed the benefit of seven turnovers in those contests. But free gifts or not this is an offense that knows how to move the ball and score a lot of points. The effectiveness of the Saints’ aerial attack combined with a more forceful defense than last year’s version makes beating this team a thorny proposition.

I can guarantee there are more than five things that Buffalo needs to do to beat the Saints, but without stating the obvious (i.e. John Madden was not consulted), these five are most vital in this reporter’s eyes.

Win the turnover battle

The Bills secondary needs to be aggressive. Drew Brees will take whatever you give him and then he’ll take what you won’t, as evidenced by his nine touchdown passes in two weeks. Whether it’s the short, intermediate, or deep routes the Bills defensive backs have their hands full, so the defense must get aggressive and take some risks in going for interceptions. Getting pressure from the front four would help tremendously from a defensive standpoint, especially since Brees routinely shows he can beat the blitz.

The offense must, in turn, take care of the football. That means not attempting a reverse to the opposing safety (ahem, Fred Jackson). Edwards must get rid of the ball in a timely manner but be careful with his decisions when doing so. The last thing in the world the Bills need is giving Brees extra possessions.

Stop the Saints’ running game
Brees is obviously the star of the New Orleans offense, but they are more balanced than people would believe. The stats show 64 running plays and 68 passing plays in their opening wins over Detroit and Philadelphia. Certainly a significant reason is from having the lead most of the game, but the problem for other teams is that the running game has actually been effective for the black and gold. Mike Bell has averaged 5.1 yards per carry early in the season, and the team as a whole has averaged 145 yards on the ground.

Our defense will be assisted by injuries to two of the top Saints backs. Bell is unlikely to play Sunday after not practicing on Thursday. Pierre Thomas also has knee issues, but is expected to play though he won’t be at full strength. This means Reggie Bush should see the bulk of the action for the Saints.

If the Bills manage to keep the Saints from running effectively, it should make Brees’ job a little more problematic.

Improve red zone efficiency
Early returns are in for the Bills red zone units and the outlook is ugly. The Buffalo defense has allowed opponents to seven red zone trips through two games. The result has been five touchdowns allowed. That won’t get it done, especially against a chain moving team like New Orleans.

Our offense hasn’t been much better. The Bills have scored two touchdowns in six trips to the red zone, including zero in their past four visits.

The defense has to key on Marques Colston (3 touchdowns; two in the red zone and one from 25-yards out) and Jeremy Shockey. The Bills have given up four touchdown passes to tight ends already and Shockey is licking his chops right now.

For the offense: get creative. Use the scoring threats you have in Owens, Nelson, Evans, and Jackson. Running down the clock won’t help much if long drives only turn into field goals. These are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Odds are if the Bills kick four field goals Sunday they’re not going to win.


Don’t abandon the run: 

This holds especially true in the first half. For the first time in many years the Buffalo running has been effective in setting up the passing game. That’s in part the workings of a much improved interior offensive line. If it’s working, don’t try to change it regardless of the opponent.

Jackson has averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2009 and ran the ball 43 times in two games. Getting him 20+ carries should not only set up shots to take with Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, but it’ll help keep Brees off the field.

New Orleans’ defense becomes even better when they know their opponent will be passing, evidenced by their three interceptions late against the Eagles when they knew Philadelphia had to put the ball in the air.

Use the middle of the field in the passing game
Trent Edwards had a few nice deep balls last week against Tampa Bay – all along the sideline. I’d love to see more routes in the middle of the field in the 15-30 yards variety. That is how the Eagles got their first touchdown against the Saints last week. DeSean Jackson got open in the middle of the field and took a pass 71 yards for a score.

Edwards has yet to make effective use of the middle of the field. Maybe Buffalo is preparing to work in more slants to Owens. Or perhaps send Evans and Owens deep along the sidelines to draw the safeties away and hit Shawn Nelson deep down the seam. However they implement it, I believe Buffalo will need to hit a deep pass down the middle in order to open up the outside to our receivers and move the ball more efficiently.

As mentioned earlier and without stating the obvious, including “get pressure on Brees,” and “score more points,” this blueprint seems to be the most effective way of winning on Sunday. New Orleans will be Buffalo’s most challenging test yet and perhaps all season.

However, the Saints are anything but invincible. This was an 8-8 team a year ago that didn‘t make a host of changes. The Bills are talented enough to win.

One final key for the fans—be loud. New Orleans’ difficulties on the road last year are well documented. They scored, on average, eight fewer points when traveling than in the friendly confines of the Superdome.

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6 Comments on Five Ways to Silence The Saints

  1. george

    haha love the madden comment.

    good points pat but i think you left out one major one: reggie bush being a recieving threat out of the backfield. the actual running doesnt scare anybody but he is probably the most dangerous person on the field once he touches the ball. he actually has been under utilized so far this season (mostly cause the rest of the offense has been so effective) but if the bills key on colston & shockey and the saints are able to get bush alot of screens or flat passes, its gonna be a LONG day.

  2. Dave Timmerman

    Excellent advice. I hope coach Payton reads this.

  3. Kevin Shenoy

    great article. i think your point on using the middle of the field on intermediate balls is key. Josh Reed only has a couple catches, but in that area you are talking about.

    And if roscoe ever wants to be considered a WR, he should work the middle of the zone and show us his YAC capabilities.

  4. Joey

    The saints and their fans want this win SOOOO BAADD!!! 3-0 going into the dome against the Jets… We want that real bad. If the saints turn the ball over more than their fair share and the bills capitalize on those turnovers… that’s the best chance they have to win. I don’t think saints fans have anticipated a football game this much since the bears game in the nfc championship a few years back.

  5. Bills potential gameplan for the Saints... - New Orleans Saints - Black and Gold

    [...] potential gameplan for the Saints… Five Ways to Silence The Saints : Buffalo Sports Daily 5 ways to silence the Saints: 1) Win the turnover battle. 2) Stop the Saints running game. 3) [...]

  6. Grandpa

    Paul that was good advise you gave your team, But keep your mouth shut when and ever they play Broncos.

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