At the start of the 2017 NFL regular season, it looked like the matchup between the Bills and Saints would present a favorable opportunity for the Bills. However, after losing their first two games and going on a six-game win streak, the Saints will be bringing more than their notorious high-powered offense to New Era Field on Sunday against the Bills.
The surprising reason the Saints are surging is because their defense has been solidified by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. After Rob Ryan was fired (and subsequently hired to turn his brother Rex’s horrid defense in Buffalo around), Allen did a masterful job retooling the Saints defense.
HomeNewsHere.com’s Joel A. Erickson described why the Saints’ turnaround on defense is real.
“With help coming from all over and Allen calling more blitzes than anybody in the NFL, (Cameron) Jordan has been able to bring his full powers to bear on opposing quarterbacks, racking up seven sacks and 14 quarterback hits as he makes a case for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.”
While quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense have wreaked havoc on opposing defenses for years, their lapses on defense forced Brees to outscore opponents in order to have a chance to win. That’s certainly not the case this season in New Orleans.
Allen explained why they chose to emphasize drafting defensive players and be methodical in turning the Saints’ defense around.
“All the players that we drafted on the defensive side of the ball will be productive players for us, not only now, but in the future,” Allen said. “We don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about why things happened the way they did; we just take the tools that we have available to us and try to do the best that we can.”
Those “tools” include defensive tackle David Onyemata, selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. Onyemata is already on fire in his second season in the NFL. Check out what Buffalo News’ Chris Trapasso found researching Onyemata’s stats from Pro-Football Focus (PFF).
“On 135 pass-rushing snaps in 2017, Onyemata already has 10 pressures (two sacks, one hit, and seven hurries). He owns a +10.3 overall PFF grade (+2.1 pass-rushing, +8.2 vs. the run). He’s made 17 total tackles on the season, and 12 of those have been “stops” for the Saints defense. He’s missed two tackles.”
Yikes. That could be bad news for a Bills offensive line battling injuries and coming off a poor performance against the Jets. Bills tackle Cordy Glenn is (again) bothered by nagging foot/ankle issues that just won’t seem to go away.
After missing all of training camp and the preseason, it appears Glenn cannot stay on the field consistently, and that has to be a big concern because the Saints will show no mercy blasting through the Bills’ porous offensive line to get after Tyrod Taylor or LeSean McCoy. And we all know how solid (not) the right side of the offensive line has been all season (rolls eyes).
The Bills can’t afford to get blown out by the Saints after failing to show up at MetLife Stadium and being thoroughly embarrassed by the Jets and dropping to a 5-3 record. With four divisional games in December against the Dolphins and Patriots, the Bills must eek out every win they can before December.
If they lose two games in a row the Bills will let much of the positive ‘mojo’ they built over their unexpected early success go out the window. They must find a way to “defend their dirt” and show why they still should be taken seriously as contenders.
Unfortunately, a loss like the one the Bills suffered at the hands of the Jets did little to encourage anyone outside WNY to “BILLieve” the Bills are for real. Heck, even within our own FAMbase there was trauma to our sensitive collective psyche after that beatdown. It took only one crushing loss on national television to blow up a half-season’s worth of trust the team wouldn’t embarrass us again.
If the Bills can find a way to dig down deep and snap the Saints’ six-game win streak it would go a long way in restoring faith among the FAMbase. There’s arguably never been a more devoted fan base who deserves a chance more than ours. Go Bills.
Editor’s babble: After an aborted attempt to return to WNY for the upcoming game against the Saints (thanks United Airlines), I’m back to writing from my home base in Wyoming. I even packed venison jerky to give to Eddie Yarbrough, sniff. If you lean toward punishing yourself on Twitter, you can find me @RobynMundyWYO. Thanks for reading our blog.