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Bills Report Card: Grades Improve Dramatically After win Over New Orleans Saints

All position groups contributed, with special teams standing out most, according to coach Sean McDermott.

Four days after the Buffalo Bills' worst effort of the season came perhaps their best in a 31-6 romp over the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving night.

Despite turning the ball over twice in the first half, the Bills played incredibly hard throughout to improve to 7-4.

Here's the breakdown on their grades:

Quarterback: B

Even though Josh Allen's arm was hit as he threw his second interception, both giveaways were on him, raising his season total to 10 and putting him on pace for a career high.

On the other hand, he was remarkably efficient on his other 26 attempts, completing 23 of them for 260 yards and four touchdowns.

The last was one of his finest moments: An obvious audible to a screen for Matt Breida, who rumbled 23 yards for the score.

Running back: B

The numbers (24 carries, 70 yards) don't tell the story about how hard Breida and Devin Singletary ran and how tough it may be for Zack Moss, who was a healthy scratch, to get back into the rotation.

While many fans continue to blame the running backs for perceived lack of a running game, the real problems lie with blocking and game plans that don't usually call for the Bills to run very often.

Tight end: A

Dawson Knox caught his sixth and seventh touchdown passes of the season to tie and then surpass Scott Chandler, Pete Metzelaars and Jay Riemersma for the team record for most in a season by a tight end.

What's more, he did it with six games to spare and despite missing two games with a broken hand.

Knox caught all three targets in this game, His TD total in his third year is higher than in his first two seasons combined (five).

Next stop: Pro Bowl.

Wide receiver: A+

By now, everyone has seen the move Stefon Diggs put on talented cornerback Marshon Lattimore to get open for a 5-yard TD reception.

Incredible. And it helped him finish with seven catches on nine targets for 74 yards.

Cole Beasley (five catches on five targets) and Emmanuel Sanders (three catches on three targets) were even more efficient.

Gabriel Davis added two catches for 47 yards and was praised by Knox for his blocking on both of Knox's TD receptions.

"You've got to watch Gabe blocking," Knox raved. "... Receivers, when they can block, that adds a whole other level to the offense, and I give a lot of credit to him on both those."

Offensive line: D

The consistency is not there for any of them anymore. And the technique is so awful at times that it makes it look like an effort problem, which it usually isn't.

Is it the talent or the teaching or a combination?

Keep in mind that head coach Sean McDermott is not afraid to make bold moves in this area. He fired Juan Castillo, one of the most respected offensive line coaches in the league, after just two seasons and replaced him with Bobby Johnson.

Read More

Could Johnson be on the hot seat now?

Stay tuned.

Defensive line: A

Ed Oliver and Efe Obada combined for a sack that derailed the Saints' two-minute drill near the end of the first half.

Oliver and Mario Addison were especially active all evening in what represented a stunning turnarounf for this whole group from the week before.

It stands to resonate for a good, long time because the Bills don't play again until Dec. 6.

"I feel as though we needed a fast start by the D-line," Addison said. "The last game, it didn't go as planned, so we wanted to start fast and jump on them quick. And I think was the game to do it, you know, get back on track."

And let's not forget DT Brandin Bryant, a journeyman called up from the practice squad for this one. He was given the second-highest grade (82.9) of all Bills vs. the Saints by Pro Football Focus after finishing with two tackles and quarterback hit.

Linebacker: B

Having Tremaine Edmunds back after a two-game injury absence made a difference as he and fellow LB Matt Milano led the team with eight tackles apiece.

Their work in pass coverage complements their run defense.

Secondary: A

After star CB Tre'Davious White went out in the first half, this group played like he was there all along, thanks to backup Dane Jackson and a scheme all the veterans understand and execute perfectly.

Safety Jordan Poyer added to his team lead with his fifth interception.

One of nickel CB Taron Johnson's tackles was behind the line of scrimmage.

Special teams: A+

We add the plus because of the unsolicited praise of coach Sean McDermott.

"Kickoff coverage was outstanding," he said. "Special teams did a terrific job giving us a spark and the energy we needed."

Indeed. The four intentionally short kickoffs of Tyler Bass were returned for an average of just 15.3 yards, with a long of 18.

Rookie Marquez Stevenson made his debut after being removed from the injured reserve list and averaged a solid 9.8 yards on five punt returns, although he did muff one, which he recovered.

What this means for Isaiah McKenzie, who had done all their return work until Thursday, is unclear. McKenzie was a healthy scratch after losing a fumble on a kickoff return last Sunday, setting the Indianapolis Colts up for an easy touchdown.

Coaching: A

After not looking prepared for the schemes as well as the energy of the Colts, the Bills turned it around in a short time with inspired play and attention to detail.

When things started to go sideways in the first half, which ended with the Bills holding just a 10-0 lead after throwing two forced interceptions, they never panicked. Instead, they essentially put the game away by opening the third quarter with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ate more than 6 minutes off the clock.

They were prepared for everything, including the fake punt the Saints tried near the end of the first half.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to