ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Turns out Drew Brees doesn't have to throw a touchdown pass -- or put up 45 points -- to secure a victory
The New Orleans Saints' overlooked defense proved pretty stout.
Will Smith had a sack and an interception to lead a Saints defense that held Terrell Owens without a catch for the first time since his rookie season in 1996 on the way to New Orleans' 27-7 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Running back Pierre Thomas sealed the win by scoring two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes and finished with a career-high 126 yards rushing -- all in the second half.
Brees finished 16-of-20 for 172 yards, ending an NFL-leading 22-game streak of throwing for 200 yards or more.
"Our defense played outstanding," Brees said. "Every time they stepped on the field, they just felt like the were going to shut them down."
New Orleans generated four sacks and prevented Buffalo (1-2) from registering a first down in its final five possessions.
The cherry on top was shutting out T.O., who failed to make a catch despite five passes thrown his way, ending a 185-game streak that was the longest of any active player. It was also the third-longest streak in NFL history, behind Marvin Harrison (stuck at 190) and Jerry Rice (274).
Owens' day got even worse after the game. On his way up the tunnel, T.O. was struck in the face and chest by a large bucket of popcorn thrown from the stands.
"I'm good. Just got to get ready for next week," Owens said.
As for the offense, his role in it and whether he's happy about the play-calling, Owens would only say: "I'm going with the plays that are called."
Owens was thrown to only once in the first half, when he bobbled a pass out of bounds at the right sideline. He had four passes go his way in the second half, including one up the right sideline that he failed to make a play on, even though he was partially open and the pass fell within 2 yards of him.
"We have to get him the football, obviously," coach Dick Jauron said of Owens. "Clearly he's a big part of the offense."
Trent Edwards finished 20-of-35 for 156 yards. The Bills marched into Saints territory only once on seven possessions in the second half, and that ended in a turnover.
Edwards attempted to force a pass to Owens in the right flat only to have cornerback Jabari Greer get a hand on it. The ball popped up into the air and directly into Smith's hands.
The Saints went ahead for good late in the second quarter after New Orleans' Malcolm Jenkins stripped the ball from Roscoe Parrish on a punt return. The play led to John Carney's 27-yard field goal that put the Saints up 10-7. He also added one from 35 yards out.
New Orleans was only the fourth NFL team -- and first since the 1968 Raiders -- to score 45 points in each of their first two games. Brees, meanwhile, had matched an NFL record for throwing nine touchdowns. Two more against the Saints would have been a record for three games.
The Saints finally wore down the Bills by scoring 17 points on their final three possessions.
Thomas put the game away a little over five minutes into the fourth quarter by scoring on a 34-yard run to put the Saints up 17-7. Taking the ball on a sweep left, Thomas burst up the sideline, where he vaulted rookie safety Jairus Byrd, and then dragged cornerback Terrence McGee the final 5 yards into the end zone.
"This is a game that in the past would not have gone our way," Brees said. "It's the attitude. Once we got in the fourth quarter, offensively our attitude was every time we touch the ball we're getting points."
- Walt Anderson