Graham hurts Bills: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham might be limited for a while in practices and games while he manages the pain of a partially torn plantar fascia. But he showed Sunday that he’s still capable of making a big impact in small doses. Graham played just 18 snaps by unofficial count -- most of them in the red zone -- and was targeted only three times. But he caught all three of those passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns. His last two plays in the game were both touchdowns (one late in the second quarter, another in the third quarter).
Graham and coach Sean Payton explained that there isn’t a significant risk of a more serious injury if he continues to play on the sore foot. But Graham will have to continue to deal with the pain. (In some cases, it helps for the plantar fascia to completely tear, but Graham said he doesn’t know whether that’s true in his case.)
Strong Brees: I almost didn’t include Drew Brees in this report because his weekly brilliance is practically a given. But five touchdowns passes is probably always worth a mention. Brees completed 26 of 34 passes for 332 yards -- hitting 10 different receivers along the way. Brees and Payton were both disappointed that the Saints’ overall performance was too sloppy at times. But they proved once again what a quick-strike threat their offense poses.
Thanks again, D: Once again, the Saints' defense got off to the stronger start Sunday, providing a couple of jump-starts that finally got the offense going. Twice in the first nine minutes, the Saints forced fumbles inside the Bills’ 22-yard line (one by linebacker David Hawthorne, one by end Cameron Jordan). The first led to a missed field goal, but the second led to a touchdown.
Later in the first half, Saints linebacker Junior Galette forced a fumble that was recovered by the Bills. And cornerback Keenan Lewis intercepted a pass in the fourth. The Saints did allow a few big gains on the ground and through the air, but they were mostly outstanding throughout the day. They held the Bills to a net total of 299 yards and held them under 20 points for the first time all season.
Out of line: Once again, the biggest disappointment for New Orleans was the inconsistent blocking up front. The Saints allowed four sacks (one by left tackle Charles Brown, one by left guard Ben Grubbs, one by a free blitzer and one against fullback Jed Collins). They also were flagged for three holding calls (Brown, center Brian De La Puente and Collins). They had two runs go backward for losses, including a third-and-1 attempt in the first quarter. And two screen passes also got snuffed out for losses. The run game was just so-so with 80 yards on 23 carries (not counting Brees’ kneel-downs). The Saints showed more balance in all of those areas in the second half, though.
Off target: Kicker Garrett Hartley missed both of his field goal attempts Sunday, which snapped a streak of seven straight successful kicks. The first, from 47 yards, took a nasty snap-turn to sail wide left. The second, from 38 yards, went straight all the way, but it started too far left. I would expect a veteran like Hartley, who has been through slumps before, to be fine. But it's probably important that he makes the next one to keep the drama at bay.