Pace picks up for Saints, who play five games in 26 days

The New Orleans Saints’ bye came at just the right time last weekend.

After getting a full week off from practice and a weekend without a game thanks to the bye, the Saints returned this week to begin preparing for Sunday’s game with the Buffalo Bills in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The team better be well-rested now, because the Bills game will be the first of five in a busy 26-day span that culminates with a Thursday night game Nov. 21 at Atlanta.

“I didn’t realize that, but it seems like the week off came at the right time,” free safety Malcolm Jenkins said Thursday. “We’re rested and ready to go to the next stretch of games.”

After Sunday’s meeting with the Bills, the Saints go to the New York Jets (Nov. 3) and play the Dallas Cowboys (Nov. 10) and San Francisco 49ers (Nov. 17) at home. They finish the stretch four nights later at Atlanta (Nov. 21) on a Thursday night.

“When you have a stretch like that, you grit your teeth and go through it,” Jenkins said. “You can’t worry about it. You just take ’em one at a time.”

Graham out again

Tight end Jimmy Graham again did not practice Thursday and will likely be questionable at best for Sunday’s game when coach Sean Payton issues his final injury report Friday.

Graham injured his left foot in the fourth quarter of their last game Oct. 13 at New England. He did not participate in Wednesday’s practice and likely didn’t work Monday when Payton held a bonus practice.

Payton no longer discusses injuries, but when asked how much practice Graham could miss during a week and still play in a game, Payton said: “He’s day-to-day. (Friday) will be an important day. We’ll just kind of go by that.”

Practice report

In addition to Graham, SS Roman Harper (knee), RB Mark Ingram (toe), DE Tyrunn Walker (knee) and CB Rod Sweeting (hip) didn’t practice Thursday.

DE Cameron Jordan (ankle) and T Zach Strief (ankle) were able to participate on a limited basis after not working Wednesday. CB Jabari Greer (not injury-related) was back Thursday.

For the Bills, DT Kyle Williams (Achilles) worked fully and RB Fred Jackson (knee) were limited after being held out on Wednesday. QB E.J. Manuel (knee), RB C.J. Spiller (ankle) and LB Manny Lawson (hamstring) did not practice.

Familiar faces

Williams, a former LSU standout, is one of four players with Louisiana ties on the Bills’ roster.

Also on the active roster are two other former LSU players — quarterback Matt Flynn and cornerback Ron Brooks — as well as cornerback Justin Rogers, a Baton Rouge native and Redemptorist graduate who played at Richmond.

Safety Jim Leonhard was with the Saints in training camp, but was released when the team made its final cuts Aug. 31.

Record gone

Saints quarterback Drew Brees had his FBS record of 83 pass attempts in a game erased Saturday when Washington State’s Connor Halliday fired off 89 passes in a 62-38 loss to Oregon.

Brees held the mark since 1998 when he completed 55 of 83 attempts for 494 yards in Purdue’s 31-24 loss to Wisconsin. Halliday was 58 of 89 for 557 yards in losing to second-ranked Oregon.

When asked Wednesday if it hurt to lose the record, Brees said: “No, records are made to be broken.”

Brees said throwing 83 passes back in 1998 was a bit unusual. But not so much in this day and age of the spread offense and up-tempo style of play.

“Nowadays, if a team puts up 70 points, 500 yards of offense and throws it 80 times, it’s not all that uncommon,” he said. “But still, that’s 89 times.”

See O.J. run

The Saints are 0-3 all-time in the Superdome against the Bills.

Their only win in New Orleans came in Tulane Stadium, 13-0, on Nov. 4, 1973, when they held O.J. Simpson —who was on his way to becoming the NFL’s first 2,000-yard rusher — to just 79 yards on 20 carries.

That was one of only three games that season in which Simpson failed to gain 100 yards.