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Quarterly Report / Mark Gaughan breaks down the game quarter-by-quarter


Third dimension

Third down is a win for the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints entered the game No. 1 in the NFL in the key situation, converting 57.7 percent into first downs. The Saints were No. 1 in the league last year, too, converting 46.5 percent. The NFL record for a season is 56.1 percent, set by the Indianapolis Colts in their Super Bowl championship season of 2006.

Drew Brees converted two third-down plays on the Saints' opening drive to a touchdown. The first was a 12-yard throw to Marques Colston to the Saints' 34. The second was on third-and-4 from the Bills' 6. A pass over the middle to tight end Jeremy Shockey got 5 yards. The Saints scored on a 1-yard run by Lynell Hamilton.
Stat: On the first drive, Josh Reed caught two passes in the quarter, moving past Peerless Price and into eighth place on the Bills' all-time receptions list with 290.
Second-guess: Dick Jauron opted to defer the choice after winning the coin toss. The reason? Coaches think it gives their offense an edge to watch what the opposing defense is trying to do for a half, then get the first possession of the third quarter.



Denney goes deep

Moorman. Denney. Touchdown.

It's not exactly as famous as the call of legendary broadcaster Ray Scott, who coined the phrase "Starr. Dowler. Touchdown." while calling Packers games in the 1960s.
But it's becoming a tradition for the Bills.
For the second year in row Moorman threw a TD pass to Denney on a fake field goal. This one was a 25-yarder that tied the game 12 seconds into the second quarter. Moorman made a good pass down the sideline while sprinting to his left.
Last year's was a 19-yarder in the season-opening victory over Seattle at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Key plays: Saints rookie Malcolm Jenkins forced Roscoe Parrish to fumble on a punt return. Jenkins forced a fumble on the second-half kickoff last week vs. Philadelphia. That led to a Saints field goal.
Great play: Donte Whitner showed his free safety skill by recognizing a deep pass for Devery Henderson and breaking it up.
Whoops: Saints kickoff man Thomas Morstead whiffed on a kickoff, as it fell off the tee as he was approaching it. The Bills tried to recover it, but the play was dead because the kicker never touched it.



Defense hangs in

Against all odds, the Buffalo Bills' defense kept the team in the game in the third quarter, despite the fact the Bills' offense whiffed on two possessions.

The Bills took the opening kickoff of the half and managed just one first down before being forced to punt.

On its second chance, the Bills benefited from two unnecessary roughness penalties on the Saints that gave them 32 yards. Buffalo moved from its own 3 to the Saints' 27.

But on third and 3, Trent Edwards tried to force a ball over the middle for Terrell Owens. The pass was tipped, popped up in the air and was intercepted by Saints defensive lineman Will Smith. End of threat.

If the pass was incomplete, the Bills would have faced a 45-yard field goal try to tie the game.

Key plays: Chris Kelsay smelled out a draw play run by Reggie Bush and stopped him 4 yards short of a first down on a key third-down situation on the last play of the quarter.

Zebra report: The Bills got a break when Trent Edwards scrambled for 3 yards and Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove was penalized 15 yard for a personal foul for spearing. Edwards wasn't down yet, and Hargrove didn't hit him with the helmet.



He just scores TDs

Pierre Thomas is not a household name for anyone who is not a fantasy football player.

The third-year running back for the New Orleans Saints was an undrafted free-agent signing who broke onto the NFL scene last year thanks to his knack for finding the end zone. Thomas scored 12 touchdowns last year and led the Saints in rushing with 625 yards. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder played 40 college games for Illinois and is sixth on that school's all-time rushing list.

Thomas looked a little like famous Illini great Red Grange in the fourth quarter against the Bills. He rushed six times for 87 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 34 and 19 yards.

Key plays: The Bills' last good chance, in retrospect, came when Trent Edwards overthrew Terrell Owens on a deep ball on third down with 11:09 left.

Second-guess: Dick Jauron opted to punt on fourth and 1 from the Bills' 29 with 7:34 left and the Bills trailing, 17-7. It was asking a lot of the defense, which was wearing down. The Bills got the ball back with 3:15 left, trailing, 20-7. Jauron also punted with 1:45 left on fourth-and-10 from his own 20, trailing, 27-7.

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