ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- At this rate, the New Orleans Saints probably will wind up hosting a playoff game or two.
But if they do have to travel somewhere cold and unwelcoming such as Philadelphia in January, they sure do look like a team that’s built to win on the road.
Forget what you think you know about the Saints, who have won seven straight games -- most of them in dominant fashion, including Sunday’s 47-10 annihilation of the Bills in Buffalo.
They aren’t relying on Drew Brees’ arm or the cozy confines of the Superdome.
They’re doing this with their run game and their defense -- and they’ve done it across the globe, in the cold, in the rain or in sloppy field conditions, from Carolina to London to Green Bay to Buffalo.
We now have a mountain of evidence from the Saints piling on a series of overwhelmed opponents that shows they can win any style of game in any conditions.
“Listen, we’re nine games in. No one’s sending messages [to the rest of the NFL],” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We’re just trying to play good football. But anytime you win on the road, it’s a plus. And I think this is a tough place to play.
“I think, more importantly, you’re trying to send messages to your own team, your own players. But they’ve responded well.”
The Saints (7-2) absolutely steamrolled the Bills, who were supposed to have a decent run defense. New Orleans ran for 298 yards and six touchdowns (a franchise record). Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara each topped 100 rushing yards. At one point, the Saints ran the ball 24 straight times in the third and fourth quarters -- the longest streak of consecutive runs by any NFL team since 1989, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“This is what we aim for. This is what our goal is, to be able to carry our team on the ground,” Ingram said. “It’s just great to see it come into reality like it did today.”
Likewise, New Orleans’ defense has been carrying this team throughout the seven-game win streak -- and Sunday was no exception. Buffalo gained a net total of 198 yards -- and 75 of those came on Buffalo’s only touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter with some backups on the field.
“I like the way our defense is playing, I like our mentality, I like the way we practice, I like the way we take the field. Whatever gets us to this mental edge, that’s what we need,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who cracked that New Orleans had such a dominant edge in the time of possession (41:23 to 18:37) that he was on the sideline “contemplating running extra half-gassers to keep my conditioning up.”
The word that came up most, however, in New Orleans’ postgame glow Sunday was “confidence.”
Payton always likes to bring up one of the lines he learned from Bill Parcells, that “confidence is born of demonstrated ability.”
Well, Sunday’s game will no doubt provide a further confidence boost down the road. But more than anything, it was a display of how much confidence the Saints already had gained through wins such as their 34-13 victory at Carolina, 20-0 over Miami in London and 26-17 at Green Bay, among others.
“Like anything else, you have to demonstrate it in performance,” Payton said. “But certainly it’s begun to happen.”
“Did I think we’d rattle off seven in a row? I’m not sure,” Brees said. “But I knew we were much closer than people gave us credit for [after an ugly 0-2 start]. I knew that tide would turn at some point.
“You just need a little bit of validation for the process, and for all the hard work and dedication that we all had put in, and the expectation that we had for the season.”
The Saints clearly are having fun in the process too. The defense gets together for a group photo pose to celebrate the big plays that keep coming every week. And Ingram took his version of the Lambeau Leap to a new location Sunday, twice jumping into a group of Saints fans in the Buffalo stands -- once getting a beer dumped on him.
“I got a little taste, man, and got my buzz going a little bit,” said Ingram, who insisted he was joking.
But he was right about the buzz surrounding this team. It’s even clear from the opposite sideline.
"This is definitely a different Saints team," Benjamin said. "They're definitely playing with more confidence. They're just flying around, and you can tell they're having fun. You can just tell they're together over there, they're playing for each other."