Not long after getting blown away Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Buffalo Bills spoke in almost reverent tones of the quarterback who operates the potent New Orleans Saints offense.
“Darn it, Drew Brees just always finds those guys ... the best matchup,’’ Bills coach Doug Marrone lamented in the wake of his team’s 35-17 loss to the NFC South-leading Saints before a sellout crowd of 72,405.
Brees carved up a game but over-matched Bills’ defense, completing 26 of 34 passes for 332 yards, with five touchdowns and no interceptions, for a 146.1 passer rating. It marked his eighth game with five touchdown passes, breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills each caught two scoring passes, and wide receiver Lance Moore added one in his first game back from a hand injury since Week 3.
Moore beat Bills’ rookie cornerback Nikell Robey on a 15-yard slant route to give the Saints a 7-0 lead with 4:44 remaining in the first quarter.
Afterward, Robey still couldn’t believe his eyes.
“I was thinking interception the whole time,’’ Robey said. “When I didn’t catch it, I looked up and saw (Moore) had the ball. I was like ‘wow!’ I didn’t know how Brees could have squeezed it in there.
“But I guess great quarterbacks do that in this league. This was definitely a learning experience for me today.’’
Brees also victimized Bills’ strongside linebacker/end Jerry Hughes on Stills’ first touchdown, a 69-yard catch-and-run down the left sideline that gave the Saints a 14-10 lead with 3:43 remaining in the first half.
Stills finished with three catches for a career-high 129 yards.
“That was an unfortunate mistake on my part,’’ Hughes said. “I had my eyes in the backfield against an elite quarterback, and he took advantage of it. When they motioned, we checked out of our original call, and (Stills) was my responsibility all the way down the sideline. That’s all on me.’’
Marrone acknowledged that he put Hughes in a “bad situation” against the quicker Stills and said so when Hughes came to the sideline.
“That was a good call by them and got us in a tough call,’’ said Marrone, who served as offensive coordinator for Saints coach Sean Payton from 2006 through 2008.
“Those things happen in this game. But you feel really, really terrible as a coach when that happens, and I told that to (Hughes) when he came to the sideline.’’
Brees used the Saints’ entire receiving corps Sunday, completing passes to 10 players: four wideouts, three tight ends, two running backs and one fullback. Although Brees was sacked four times and hit on nine other occasions, he always seemed in control of the situation.
“Obviously, I tried to give my coaches and teammates as much information as I could, whether it was scheme or personnel, but it didn’t work out,’’ said veteran Bills cornerback Jim Leonhard, who went to camp with New Orleans but failed to make the final 53-man roster.
“This is a match-up league. They got Jimmy Graham, they got Darren Sproles, they got route-running receivers and they got speed receivers. They got a little bit of everything. So, when they get rolling, it’s tough, because Drew just sits back and picks the matchup that he likes best and goes to work.’’
Leonhard paused, then continued.
“It’s really frustrating when you come out of the game and you think you really didn’t play that terrible. Then, you look at the bunch of yards you gave up and the five touchdowns you gave up, and you get blown out. That’s what makes it so frustrating.’’