Yesterday afternoon in Orchard Park in upstate New York just outside the city of Buffalo, the New Orleans Saints gave one of their most dominant performances as a visiting road team at another NFL stadium, in the franchise's entire 51-year history.
The Saints pummeled the host Buffalo Bills by a score of 47-10 at New Era Field, and beat them in just about any way, shape, or form that you can physically beat someone in the National Football League.
As a result, New Orleans extended its winning streak to 7 games; and the (7-2) Saints extended their lead over the Carolina Panthers to one full game in the NFC South Division, pending the outcome of tonight's Monday Night contest between the Panthers and the Miami Dolphins.
Additionally, the Saints are currently the #3 seed in the NFC Playoffs, if the season were to end today.
New Orleans will now will host the (4-5) Washington Redskins next week for a key conference game at home inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
With that, let's first have a look back at the Saints News Network's 5 biggest "winners and losers" from yesterday's impressive win for the 1st place, NFC South division-leading New Orleans Saints, over the Buffalo Bills.
And keep in mind before we start:
When you play as well as the entire Saints team played yesterday, it's VERY HARD to pick out players who performed poorly or that you think affected the team in a negative manner.
Which means that our 'losers' list this morning, is a serious case of "nitpicking" at its finest.
And so now, let's get started......
THE BIGGEST LOSERS
5. DANIEL LASCO, RUNNING BACK
Injuries are the only reason why the first 2 players on our list of biggest Saints 'losers' this week; and for Saints 2nd year RB Daniel Lasco, his injury could have been much worse than fortunately it turned out not to be.
He was hurt six minutes into the 2nd quarter when he appeared to lower his head while tackling Bills returner Brandon Tate. Lasco moved his left leg while lying face-down on the field before being rolled on his back by Saints medical staff.
But before Lasco disappeared in the back of the emergency vehicle, he shared a spoken message with teammates and it provided inspiration for the rest of the game.
"He told us to finish strong and go out there and do what we do," rookie running back Trey Edmunds said. "I'm sure when he sees the results of this game he'll be happy."
Lasco was loaded into an ambulance on the field and taken to the hospital, where the Saints later announced that he has feelings in his extremities and that his injury thankfully does not appear to be career-threatening.
We here at the Saints News Network wish Daniel Lasco a speedy recovery, and want him to know that even though he made this list, that he is a true WINNER in every sense of the word.
4. A.J. KLEIN, LINEBACKER
As was the case with Lasco, Saints 5th year veteran and linebacker A.J. Klein makes our list of 'losers' due to injury, and not because he had a poor performance that negatively impacted the game for New Orleans.
The Saints' leading tackler left after suffering an injury to his left ankle in the 1st quarter. Klein appeared to suffer the injury in the Buffalo offense's first few snaps, and he eventually came back to the lineup after getting re-taped.
A few plays later, Klein had to come out again, and the team's defensive captain walked to the locker room alongside team trainers without assistance and was ruled out for the remainder of the contest. With Klein out of the game, back-up linebacker Manti Te'o moved into his role and made a team-high six tackles.
The team will likely update Klein's status today, but it's expected that he'll be ready when the Saints play the Washington Redskins at the Superdome next Sunday.
3. DAVID ONYEMATA, DEFENSIVE TACKLE
This is also another classic case of "nitpicking", because as a whole, the entire Saints defensive line played well and essentially made life absolutely miserable for the Buffalo offense when ever they actually had the opportunities to see the field, given the dominance by New Orleans in time of possession.
In the case of 2nd year defensive tackle David Onyemata, it appeared that the bad angle he took when attempting to tackle Bills RB LeSean McCoy was what led the speedy Buffalo RB to hit the crease in the line of scrimmage and take off nearly untouched into the Saints secondary on his way to a 36-yard run on the Bills opening possession.
To his credit, Onyemata and his Saints defensive teammates then stiffened and held Buffalo's offense to a field goal, which essentially was their only points of the entire game until they scored a TD near the end of the game in what's known as "garbage time".
2. JOSH HILL, TIGHT END
As previously mentioned, we're "nitpicking" this week since the Saints team as whole had such a brilliant performance in their absolute beat down of the Bills, but one thing coming into the contest that was stressed by the Saints coaching staff was for the offense to protect the football.
And it was back-up tight end Josh Hill who ended up being the one player that gave up the football on his fumble in the 1st quarter, that KILLED a Saints drive that seemed destined for another Saints offensive touchdown.
In Hill's defense, he never saw the hit from Bills linebacker Ramon Humber coming as he had made the catch and then turned to run; as Humber's hit jarred the ball loose and allowed Buffalo defensive tackle Kyle Williams recover the ball at Buffalo's 9-yard line.
Still, with the Saints coaching staff having preached about ball security all week, Hill is certain to be reminded of it when the team looks back at the film later today. Fortunately for New Orleans because they were so dominant, it didn't have any adverse affect on the game, as each team had 1 turnover each in a game that was won and lost "in the trenches".
1. WIL LUTZ, KICKER
This isn't the first time that Saints 2nd year kicker Wil Lutz has topped our list, and unfortunately it won't be his last either. Or at least, that's how it appears anyway.
Lutz missed an extra point for the 2nd straight week, but this time he simply hooked it badly to the right instead of having it blocked as he did last week in the Saints win over Tampa Bay.
Now while some analysts and writers that cover the team as well as Saints fans themselves might dismiss this as not being all that important in the "grand scheme of things" because of New Orleans' current success at the moment, you can still rest assured that this could become a much bigger deal than it should be when the team least expects it — like an NFC Playoff game.
Lutz is talented but he is maddeningly inconsistent, and he will continue to end up on this list time and time again until he finally does become consistent. Hopefully it doesn't cost the Saints a crucial win in an important game, along the way.
THE BIGGEST WINNERS
5. DREW BREES QUARTERBACK
Let's face it: we probably should put Brees as #1 on our list for the simple fact that WHO in the entire NFL has it any better right now, than Brees does at the moment?
For the 2nd time this season, Brees finished with ZERO TD passes; but only because the team was so dominant in the running game and on defense (both Saints wins) that he didn't have to throw any TD passes to begin with.
Brees had some great throws to Michael Thomas and he also ended up scoring a rushing TD of his own early in the 4th quarter, but this is EXACTLY the scenario that the Saints have always envisioned for Brees late in his career.
If this team can continue playing at this level for the remainder of the year, Drew Brees could have another shot at winning a World Championship and be able to "go out on top".
4. ALVIN KAMARA, RUNNING BACK
No one will be surprised to see Kamara on out list of 'winners' this week, especially since he's been on it every single week of the season so far.
But that's just an even further testament to how much of an impact that this young man has had as a rookie, and how much he has literally helped transform the entire Saints offense.
Yesterday, Kamara had the first 100-yard rushing game of his rookie season, finishing with 106 yards on just 12 carries as well as five catches for 32 yards.
But once again he served as a catalyst for the offense every single time that he got his hands on the football, and there's no question that he and Mark Ingram (more on him in a moment) are the best RB tandem in the entire sport of football right now, college or pro.
3. MICHAEL THOMAS, WIDE RECEIVER
In what was easily his best performance thus far of the 2017 season, Saints 2nd year WR Michael Thomas put on a clinic yesterday about how to perform like a #1 WR in an NFL offense.
Thomas came up with what certainly was his most productive game of the season, and he set personal bests in both catches and receiving yardage.
Yes, it could be said that the Saints running game "ruled the day", but Thomas was still prominently featured in the passing game, finishing with 6 more targets than the next closest teammate (Kamara).
Thomas had 9 catches (on 10 targets) for 117 receiving yards, and at times made it look effortless as he made contested catch after contested catch, sometimes with more than one Bills defender draped all over him.
Thomas demonstrated once again why he is an emerging young superstar in this League, and now that NFL defenses have to figure out HOW to stop Ingram and Kamara, it should give Thomas even more opportunities to make plays going forward.
2. MARK INGRAM, RUNNING BACK
Ingram easily would have been #1 on this list (you'll understand why he wasn't in a minute) and rightfully so, after he literally RAN OVER the Buffalo run defense all day long yesterday.
Ingram scored three touchdowns yesterday, which was the 1st time that's happened for him in his 7-year NFL career. He also became the only player in the NFL this season with 100-plus rushing yards and 3 or more touchdowns, as well.
Ingram had 21 carries for a season-high 131 yards, thanks mostly in part to the gaping holes that were opened for both him and Kamara, and he was all too happy to oblige the Saints offense with a dominant performance reminiscent of his days as a Heisman Trophy winner in the previous decade for the University of Alabama.
For Ingram, the question has NEVER been about talent but rather the opportunity to play in the style that's suited to his strengths; and credit Saints head coach Sean Payton for resisting the urge to throw the football 50 times a game with Brees and give Ingram the opportunities that he's been waiting for all along.
1. THE ENTIRE SAINTS OFFENSIVE LINE
There isn't any other way to describe this with words, other than to say that yesterday in what was easily their most PHYSICAL game of the 2017 season, the New Orleans Saints offensive line put a literal ASS-WHIPPING on the Buffalo Bills run defense.
A Buffalo run defense that entered Week 10 ranked 8th against the run and previously had allowed an average of 94.4 yards per game, got completely eviscerated.
The Saints O-Line cleared a path for the RB's by simply just getting down "in the trenches", and physically man-handling any Bills defender that tried to get in their way.
In fact, Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said after the game that there were times that the Saints were just running the same play over and over again because the Bills couldn’t figure out how to stop it.
The Saints running game ended up finishing with 298 total yards on the ground along with a whopping 6 rushing touchdowns on 48 attempts, averaging a phenomenal 6.2 yards per carry
At one point, the Saints ran the ball 24 straight times. In the process, the Saints actually became the first team to rush for at least 295 rushing yards and 6 rushing TD's in a single NFL game since the 1957 Browns.
There isn't any question that the return of both starting left tackle Terron Armstead and right guard Larry Warford had a big hand in that performance; and it should be a VERY scary thought for the rest of the NFL right now of just how good this Saints offense can be, when their O-Line is as dominant as they were yesterday.......