“It wasn’t very good,” Payton said afterward. “So disappointing.”
Payton made things work for so many years with Brees as his quarterback. He made them work in recent years with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill filling while Brees was injured. He was making it work earlier this season with Jameis Winston as Brees’s replacement. But now, with Winston out with a season-ending knee injury, Payton seems unable to make it work with Trevor Siemian.
“It just weighs on you, period,” Payton said in his postgame news conference. “It’s something that obviously we’ve got to look closely at everything we’re doing and who we’re doing it with. And it’s not like new players are going to come walking through the hallway. It’s got to be from within.”
Payton tried what he could Thursday night. The Saints had two failed fourth-down attempts, one of them on a fake punt. They also had their 10th straight failed two-point conversion try.
The Bills led, 24-0, before the Saints finally got on the board with Siemian’s touchdown pass to tight end Nick Vannett on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The Saints, playing again without injured star tailback Alvin Kamara, suffered a fourth straight loss to drop to 5-6.
Brees addressed the Superdome crowd at halftime.
“We have experienced so many unbelievable moments on this field and in this city,” Brees said in his halftime speech.
But suddenly, those moments are beginning to feel like a long time ago.
“They were going to need to have just flawless execution and then have everything go their way tonight in order to have a chance,” Brees said on the air as the NBC broadcast wrapped up. “But it’s really just the way that Sean Payton has designed this offense to operate. It’s with high tempo. It’s a lot of stuff. It’s a lot of formations. It’s a lot of personnel groups. It’s a lot of movement.
“And it’s just unfortunate because there are so many young guys that are playing right now. And it’s just hard to do all of those things right where they sit. And I think in order to get to where they want to go, I think it’s going to be getting some of these guys healthy again and have that defense continue to play the way they are.”
Payton acknowledged that the Saints are “not a good offensive team” at the moment. Hill was on the active roster for the game but, according to Payton, was not available to play quarterback other than in emergency duty because of a foot injury. Once he’s healthy, turning to Hill as a full-time quarterback rather than as an all-purpose player could be a viable option for Payton.
“We’ll look at everything right now,” Payton said. “I mean, obviously we have to.”
The Bills, at least, got well.
Quarterback Josh Allen threw four touchdown passes and the Bills took a step toward recapturing their imposing form of earlier this season.
“Off a short week, off a tough loss like that, we just had to work,” Allen told NBC afterward. “And we did. We came out and we played really well.”
The Bills bounced back from Sunday’s lopsided loss at home to the Indianapolis Colts and improved their record to 7-4, pulling into a first-place tie with the New England Patriots atop the AFC East. They face the Patriots twice in December, beginning with a Dec. 6 meeting in Buffalo.
“We’ve got to start stacking these wins now as we go along in the season,” Allen said. “Every week is a one-game season, and that’s how we’re looking at it. We’re going to have a tough opponent next week that we’ve got to turn our focus towards.”
The Bills don’t exactly resemble the team that won four straight games in September and October by an average margin of 28.8 points to establish themselves as the AFC’s early Super Bowl favorite. But they played far better Thursday.
Allen threw two first-half interceptions as part of a 23-for-28, 260-yard passing performance. But he also had two touchdown passes to tight end Dawson Knox and one each to wide receiver Stefon Diggs and running back Matt Breida. With the outcome well in hand in the fourth quarter, backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky took over.
Kicker Tyler Bass added a field goal. For the Bills, about the only negative was that two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White exited the game with a knee injury.
White’s injury is a potential problem for the Bills. But their problems Thursday seemed minimal, compared to those of the Saints.
“It’s the now, and you deal with the now,” Payton said. “So obviously it was difficult, and I’m sure difficult for the television viewing audience.”
Read below for highlights from Thursday night’s game.