Mark Ingram

New Orleans Saints' Mark Ingram (22) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown as teammate Josh Hill (89) watches during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus) ORG XMIT: NYFF101

Adrian Kraus

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Sean Payton didn’t see the need to expand on a question about the offensive line.

It probably didn’t need to be asked or answered. The results spoke for themselves, and the Saints coach made that clear when he swatted the question away.

“My guess is they did pretty well,” he said.

The evidence was there. Start with the 298 yards rushing, which was 301 yards until the team kneeled down a few times at the end of the game to run out the clock.

Or, really, just pick any play. You can start with the 11-yard run Alvin Kamara had after falling, getting up and running through a hole that stayed open for him. Work back from there. You’ll see the same thing play after play.

These Saints are balanced. They aren’t a running team. They aren’t a passing team. They aren’t a defensive team. They’re a team that does pretty much everything well, and after Sunday’s 47-10 dismantling of the Buffalo Bills, they look like one of the better offerings in the NFL. And the players are starting to feel it.

“We’re still growing. If we can stay healthy, keep that balance, we’ll see you guys in January and February,” offensive tackle Terron Armstead said.

Before this season, Payton and quarterback Drew Brees used to mention that the margin for error in the NFL is razor-thin nearly every week. It was said so often that it could have become a poster in the locker room next to the one saying good teams don’t assemble in groups and complain about the coaching staff.

But this team doesn’t know anything about razors and shouldn't have any complaints after improving to 7-2. The Saints have won their past seven games by an average margin of 18.5 points. The closest contest was a 20-12 victory over the Chicago Bears.

New Orleans is ripping teams apart. It's building leads so large it can run 24 times in a row and is so effective in doing so that it might rack up 169 yards and have a 10-play scoring drive without ever passing the ball. The only other time New Orleans has had a drive like that under Payton was in 2013, an eight-play scoring drive that traveled 78 yards against the Cowboys.

When everything is tallied this weekend, it's very likely New Orleans will rank in the NFL's top five in both rushing and passing per game. And it has a defense that has allowed 265 yards and 14 points per game since losing to Minnesota and New England to open the season.

This very well might be the most balanced team New Orleans has ever fielded.

“When you look at our productivity in the run game, certainly the way the defense is playing, and just how complementary we’ve been,” Drew Brees said. “I think a lot of things came together today, and we executed very well today.”

Sunday’s game might have been a statement. As the players discussed the victory, one term came up over and over: “Impose our will.” And that's exactly what New Orleans did at certain points throughout the game.

It was a stunning performance. The Bills are supposed to be a good defensive team. They entered ranked eighth against the run. Most of the Saints didn’t expect to have this kind of success on the ground, not to this level, even if committing to the running game was one of the keys to the game.

But then New Orleans put together one of its best drives of the season in the third quarter, running 10 times for a touchdown. It was different than most drives like that. There wasn’t one long run. It was a systematic dismantling of the Buffalo defense.

There were three runs of 11 yards, two for 9 yards, and one each of 15, 10, 7, 6, and 5 yards. There was Kamara, Mark Ingram, Zach Line and even Brees, who capped it with a scramble for a touchdown. It was a statement to Buffalo but also to everyone else: If it wasn’t obvious before, it should be now. This team can win a number of different ways, and it will make you feel every yard it gains.

“We came out and wanted to impose our will,” Kamara said. “When we were in the locker room, we said we had to put the pressure on them and break their necks.”

What do you mean, impose your will?

“How long was the drive?” Kamara said. “All runs?”

“94-yard drive on runs, man,” Ingram interjected.

But it was more than that. The Saints are imposing their will on every team they play. These games aren’t even close. They’re ripping teams apart and leaving them to pick up the pieces.

This team is for real. It’s not even a question.


Follow Nick Underhill on Twitter, @nick_underhill.​