1:00 PM ET, October 27, 2013
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
The New Orleans Saints have had plenty of time to move on from their first loss of the season, which came in heartbreaking fashion.
Coming off their bye week, the Saints' focus shifts to trying to prevent the Buffalo Bills from moving back to .500 on Sunday at the Superdome.
Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins for a 17-yard touchdown with 5 seconds left to deal the Saints a 30-27 loss at New England on Oct. 13. While the memory is hard for New Orleans' players to forget, the Saints (5-1) are confident going forward.
"The overall mood and spirits were good," coach Sean Payton said.
"I like the work ethic, the competitive nature of this team. I like it a lot."
The NFC South leaders are sixth in the NFL with 397.7 total yards and 26.8 points per game. New Orleans ranks 28th with 3.4 yards per carry, but Drew Brees has completed a league-high 69 passes to his running backs.
The Saints are fourth with 17.2 points allowed per contest after giving up 28.4 in 2012.
Brees believes the lessons learned from the dramatic loss to the Patriots will make the team stronger because of the way they've handled the situation.
"At times, when you lose, especially a tough loss like that, you make more of an impact when you're encouraging and very positive," said Brees, who has eight touchdowns and one interception in the last three games.
"At times, human nature would tell you to do one thing when really you may need to just take a deep breath and do the other. I think after a loss, human nature would tell you to get all riled up and mad and angry and yell. I think cooler heads prevailed and Sean has a great feel for that, to say, `Man, you guys battled, you played your heart out. It didn't go our way this time but there's going to be many more like this. Let's be ready to win those.'"
Brees hopes Jimmy Graham can play Sunday after suffering a foot injury last week, when cornerback Aqib Talib and the Patriots held the star tight end without a catch for the first time in 46 games. Graham leads all tight ends with 593 receiving yards and posted four straight 100-yard games prior to facing New England.
"We know every week there's going to be a plan for Jimmy Graham and a plan for (Darren) Sproles and a plan for (Marques) Colston, and that's just opportunities for guys like (tight end) Ben Watson to have big days and these young receivers to continue to develop," Brees said. "If they're spending that much time worrying about you, then other guys can make them pay as well.
"That's football, that's the chess match that we play each Sunday."
New Orleans, which hasn't faced Buffalo since 2009, has outscored the Bills 70-20 while winning the last three meetings.
Buffalo (3-4) avoided a third straight loss with a 23-21 victory at Miami last Sunday. Fred Jackson shook off a knee injury to total 85 yards with a rushing TD while ex-Dolphin Dan Carpenter kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals, including the 31-yard winner with 33 seconds left, to rally Buffalo from a four-point deficit.
The Bills have had a lead in all but one game, and they haven't trailed by more than 14 points.
"I'm extremely proud," said first-year coach Doug Marrone, who was New Orleans' offensive coordinator under Payton from 2006-08. "We're fighting, fighting, fighting. And that's what we're going to keep doing. ... Granted, we're not happy with the record or where we're at, but we're working on changing that every single day."
Jackson has been the poster boy for Buffalo's resiliency, overcoming knee problems to gain 595 yards from scrimmage and a team-leading five touchdowns. Second on the club with 25 receptions, Jackson is confident he'll play Sunday despite his injuries.
"I expect to be out there. I'll do everything I can," he said.
"We've got a great opportunity in front of us right now. And I want to be a part of it. The confidence in this locker room is sky-high in here. We believe in ourselves. And there's nothing more powerful than a locker room that has confidence in itself."
Even with quarterback Thaddeus Lewis set to make his third straight start in place of the EJ Manuel, the Bills and Denver are the only teams to score at least 20 points in every game.
Lewis, who has made three career starts in two seasons, has done a serviceable job by completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 418 yards with two touchdowns and an interception the last two weeks.
Brees threw for just 172 yards without a TD or INT in the teams' last meeting four years ago at Buffalo, but teammate Pierre Thomas ran for 126 and two scores during New Orleans' 27-7 win.
Bills running back C.J. Spiller (ankle) and linebacker Manny Lawson (hamstring) are doubtful after not practicing Friday. Spiller hasn't missed a game, but his playing time and production have been limited since he was hurt against Baltimore on Sept. 29.
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|Avg Points Allowed||26.6||17.1|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||BUF|
|Rush Yds Allowed||BUF|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New Orleans leads 4-0|
|Sep 27, 2009||BUF 7, NO 27|
|Oct 2, 2005||BUF 7, @NO 19|
|Sep 9, 2001||BUF 6, NO 24|
Drew Brees has relied primarily on his running backs and tight ends in the passing game this season, targeting them on a league-high 64% of his throws. Alex Smith and Philip Rivers are the only other qualified quarterbacks who have targeted wide receivers on less than half of their passes this season.[+]
Drew Brees Passing By Target - This Season
ESPN Stats & Information