So the Bills got their “must-win” Thanksgiving night in New Orleans and continued their seven-game streak of alternating victories and defeats.

And, the 31-6 triumph was Buffalo’s fourth road win, meaning they will finish at very least at .500 away from Highmark Stadium.

In addition, the victory made the Bills 7-4 on the season and lifted them into a tie with New England atop the AFC East, pending the Patriots home game against Tennessee Sunday afternoon.

It also assured Buffalo of the third and final conference wild-card spot, at this point in the season, no matter what the Pats do in Foxboro three days from now.

But it’s a bit too soon to conclude the Bills have solved what ailed them in this uneven season.

The reality is, the one-sided win came against a flawed team, albeit on the road in a short week.

New Orleans starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, is out for the season with an injury and Taysom Hill, who shares the backup role with Trevor Siemiam, was the emergency QB last night due to a lingering foot problem.

Neither of the Saints top two running backs — Alvin Kamara (knee), one of the NFL’s best, and Mark Ingram (knee) — were active due to knee injuries. And offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee) and tight end Adam Trautman (injured reserve), both starters, were also inactive on offense.

Finally, New Orleans’ top sacker, defensive end Marcus Davenport, also didn’t play with a shoulder injury.

To be sure, injuries are part of the NFL but there’s no question the Saints’ offense was severely impacted to the extent that Buffalo’s triumph has to be viewed in context.

STILL, one reason for encouragement is that the Bills might be rediscovering a running game.

Matt Breida, after seeing limited action the first eight games — inactive for six of them — has been an impressive contributor with a trio of touchdowns the last three games. And though two of them have been on pass receptions, the fastest Bill has juiced up the rushing attack. Over that span, he’s had 105 yards on 17 carries (over 6 per try) with five receptions for 67 yards and those two TDs.

And quarterback Josh Allen, after a lackluster first half, finished a solid 23-of-28 passing for 260 yards with four touchdowns, two interceptions, two sacks and a 115.0 passer rating.

Other notes from Buffalo’s win:

— The most discouraging aspect of the game was the loss of Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White, who left the game with a first-half knee injury and didn’t return.

— The first-period score by Buffalo tight end Dawson Knox was his sixth touchdown, tying him with Stefon Diggs for the team lead until the wideout caught his seventh in the third quarter. But later that period, Knox again tied for the team lead with his second TD reception of the game.

— Buffalo’s lone takeaway was an interception of Saints quarterback Trevor Siemian by safety Jordan Poyer, his team-leading fifth, and the team’s 16th, best in the NFL.

— The Saints’ first takeaway came when cornerback Bradley Roby intercepted an Allen pass, his first of the season. Later linebacker Kwod Alexander picked off an Allen pass, whose arm was hit as he threw. It was his initial pick of the year and the first time in Allen’s four-season career that he was intercepted inside the red zone (inside the opponent’s 20).

— Buffalo’s first sack of Siemian was logged by defensive end Mario Addison, his team-leading fourth of the season. Later, tackle Ed Oliver and end Efe Obada, shared one. Oliver’s half-sack was his first of the season, but it was also his best game with four tackles with three solos, a team-best two quarterback hits and a knocked-down pass.

— New Orleans’ first sack of Allen was recorded by his former Wyoming teammate, Carl Granderson, the defensive end’s second of the season. Later linebacker Kaden Ellis got his first.

— Linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds tied for Buffalo’s tackles, each with eight stops and five solos. New Orleans linebacker Demario Davius had game highs in tackles (10) and solos (6).

— Next up, the Bills host New England a week from Monday.

— Inactive for the Bills were wide receiver/kick returner Isaiah McKcKenzie, running back Zack Moss, defensive end Boogie Basham, defensive tackle Vernon Butler, cornerback Cam Lewis, safety Damar Hamlin and guard/tackle Bobby Hart.

McKenzie, whose fumbled kickoff return helped key the Bills’ 41-15 loss to the Colts last Sunday, seemingly lost his job to rookie sixth-round draft choice Marquez Stevenson.

(Chuck Pollock, an Olean Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

 

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