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NEW ORLEANS – It just gets uglier every week for the New Orleans Saints and their exhausted offensive.
With running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram II and right tackle Ryan Ramczyk out of line on Thanksgiving night, their remnants came nowhere near getting the job done in a 31-6 loss to the Buffalo Bills (7-4), leading to some audible buh from the home crowd of Caesars Superdome.
Eventually, the defense also fell. And the Saints (5-6) are now 0-4 since Trevor Siemian replaced the injured Jameis Winston as quarterback.
“Let’s start with the obvious – of course we were not very good tonight,” said Saints coach Sean Payton. “Of course it was difficult – and I’m sure it was difficult for TV viewers.”
The Saints’ six points matched their lowest total in the Payton era (2015 at the Houston Texans) – and it was their lowest in the Superdome since 2001.
Oddly enough, New Orleans also decided to leave backup Taysom Hill on the sidelines for the second week in a row – just days after he signed a four-year contract extension worth at least $ 40 million.
Payton explained that Hill was still limited by the foot injury he sustained in week 10 – even though he practiced fully in the short week – so they only wanted to use him in an emergency. Payton said that if the Saints were forced to use Hill on Thursday night, “obviously his role would be limited.”
But when asked if the Saints will look to expand Hill’s role as he gets healthier, Payton said, “We’ll see. We’ll look at everything right now. Of course we have to.”
Maybe that could mean a possible quarterback shift as early as next Thursday night, with the Saints visiting the Dallas Cowboys (7-4). And Kamara, Ingram and Ramczyk are all expected back soon.
But the Saints come dangerously close to the “too little, too late” stage.
QB breakdown: Siemian has been less effective this week after a promising start to the role. He continued a disturbing trend with slow starts, but this time he was only able to save a touchdown in the fourth quarter before throwing his lone interception and finishing 17-of-29 in 163 yards. He threw just 68 yards in the first half while the Saints went 0-to-6 on third downs (their worst result since resting their starters in Week 17 of the 2009 season, according to ESPN Stats & Information).
Pivotal games: It’s hard to pick some individual plays that could have made a difference. But the ugliest moments came on two failed fourth-down attempts in the second quarter. First, the Saints tried to convert a fourth-and-2 from Buffalo’s 41-yard line, but running back Tony Jones Jr. lost five yards as several players did not appear to be ready for the snap. Center Erik McCoy said it was “all on me” to hear the snap count wrong and snap too soon. Later, the Saints tried a desperately false punt from Buffalo’s 49 at fourth and 8, but it came nowhere near as player Blake Gillikin sent receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey by airmail.
Silver lining: The Saints intercepted two passes in the first half – one by cornerback Bradley Roby and a fantastic dive catch by linebacker Kwon Alexander – while holding Buffalo to 10 points. But the wheels eventually came off on an evening where the Saints had the worst tackle of the season.
“We have to put it on our defense right now,” said defensive end Cameron Jordan, who pointed out that defense is much healthier than offensive. “We must be who we think we are.… We must be the strength. We must be more than we were this battle.”
Eye-catching statistics: The Saints have now failed to turn a two-point conversion into four games in a row. And they have missed a staggering 10 consecutive two-point conversion attempts going back to 2018 – by far the longest drought in the league.
“I have to be honest with you,” Payton said. “If you are a pretty good offensive team, it’s probably not a problem. And if you’re not a good offensive team – which, I would say, is where we are right now – it’s probably a problem. Two yards on a handful of downs tonight was a game. “