- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly examination of the Buffalo Bills' quarterback play:
Rewind: Thad Lewis posted a 29.0 QBR against the Dolphins, which ranked 24th in the NFL in Week 7. Although he didn't throw any touchdowns -- he had two against the Bengals along with a 47-yard completion -- he improved on his 16.2 QBR from last week. The Bills kept the passing game short and manageable for Lewis, whose 6.62 air yards per passing attempt were the fourth-lowest among NFL quarterbacks in Week 7. It wasn't the sort of performance that will win the Bills many games without help from the defense, but the Bills have to be happy with the way Lewis has played so far.
Fast-forward: The challenge is even greater for Lewis and the Bills this week when they travel to New Orleans. The Saints allow opposing quarterbacks to complete 59.7 percent of their passes, 12th-best in the NFL. But what can't be overlooked is the Saints' offense, which has the ability to score points in bunches. If the Bills' defense slips and puts the offense into an early hole, it will force Lewis to get into a shootout with Drew Brees, and Lewis would not win.
Third-down magic: When comparing Lewis to EJ Manuel, the biggest difference has been on third downs. The Bills converted 30.4 percent of third downs through Week 5, when Manuel was injured, the fifth-worst rate in the NFL. Over the past two weeks, they've posted a 47.2 mark on third downs, which is fifth-best in the NFL over that span. Part of that success has been Lewis' ability to drive the ball downfield better than Manuel, while his receivers have also done a better job of making defenders miss to gain the necessary yards after the catch.
Prediction: Lewis will have to do more in this game, on the road against a 5-1 team, if he wants to come out with his second career win. He's been steady and reliable thus far, which is just what the Bills need, but he'll need to make more plays if the Bills are to keep up with the Saints in the Superdome. I don't think he's ready quite yet to rise to that level. Even if he posts a 60-plus percent completion percentage and doesn't throw any interceptions, the Bills will need scoring from defense or special teams to get over the hump.