- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: This was a "measuring stick" game for the Bills, and one in which the outcome wasn't necessarily unexpected. The Saints, at 6-1, are one of the NFL's best teams. The Bills, with a first-year coach and a fill-in starting quarterback, aren't quite there. What the Bills did show, however, is some resilience. After giving the Saints an early scare on their home field, the Bills got punched in the gut by Drew Brees and the Saints' offense, but they stayed competitive throughout this game. That's a good sign for Doug Marrone's group.
Fast start fizzles: The Bills had things going in the first half. Their defense held the Saints to a field goal attempt (which they missed) after Thad Lewis lost a fumble on the first play of the game. They then forced Brees into a three-and-out on their second possession. Offensively, Fred Jackson gained 42 yards on his first five carries. Then the tide turned. Jackson gained a total of just 3 yards on his next 10 carries, while the defense allowed a 69-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter that opened the floodgates.
Stock watch: Falling: offensive line. While the Bills actually allowed as many sacks (four) as the Saints did in this game, it never seemed like Lewis was comfortable throwing in the pocket. He took some big hits after throws early in the game as the pass protection broke down. Part of it might be some hesitation to throw from Lewis, but the Bills have struggled to keep Lewis upright. He's been sacked 13 times in his three games as the starter. For all the injuries the Bills have endured this season, the offensive line has gone virtually unscathed. There haven't been major breakdowns, but their performances could be more consistent.
What's next: The Bills drop to 3-5 and remain in fourth place in the AFC East. They'll return home next Sunday to face the NFL's last undefeated team, the Kansas City Chiefs (8-0).