The New Orleans Saints are now 2-0 without starting quarterback Drew Brees; is fill-in starter Taysom Hill the future under center for the team?
Saints QB Dilemma | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis
The Saints caught a huge break on Sunday as Denver was without its top three quarterbacks for COVID-19 reasons yet the NFL made them play the game. New Orleans rolled to a 31-3 victory. Taysom Hill completed 9-of-16 passes for 78 yards, adding 44 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He rushed 10 times for the second consecutive week behind heavy formations.
Saints coach Sean Payton made it clear that Hill was asked to do very little Sunday because of the unique circumstances that left the Broncos without a true quarterback on their active roster. The Saints ran the football 44 times — or 69.9% of the time.
“Taysom played this thing just how I wanted him to play it,” Payton insisted. “And it doesn’t have to be aesthetically pleasing to be effective. The job is to win, and he did a good job of that. … I thought Taysom played well, but he played an entirely different type of game — and that had a lot to do with me, relative to how we wanted to play this game. I was in his ear 24/7 just about being smart with the football.”
Denver’s primary quarterback, Kendall Hinton, was a practice squad receiver who had less than 24 hours to prepare for playing quarterback against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
The Saints played a considerable amount of jumbo — their package where they use six offensive linemen — and used their blocking tight ends a significant amount. The Saints were three for three in the red zone. They converted seven of 15 times on third down. They ran for a season-high 229 yards. And they controlled the clock for 35:46 of the 60 minutes.
In two games as the starter, Hill is 27 for 40 (67.5%) for 311 yards with an interception (80.1 rating). He also has 20 carries for 93 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, a skill set Payton clearly has implemented into his offense — playing to Hill’s strengths.
Part of the reasons New Orleans is going with Hill instead of Jameis Winston while Brees is on injured reserve is to gauge Hill’s potential as a long-term quarterback solution.
The Saints (9-2) set a franchise record with just 112 yards allowed vs. Denver and forced three turnovers while winning their eighth straight game. The Saints have now allowed only one touchdown in the past four weeks (a 38-3 win at Tampa Bay in Week 9, a 27-13 win over San Francisco in Week 10, a 24-9 win over Atlanta in Week 11).
Sunday’s win made Payton the 13th head coach in league history to beat at least 31 other teams.
Denver became the first team with one or fewer completions and fewer than 20 passing yards in a game since the San Diego Chargers in 1998. Ryan Leaf completed one of 15 passes for 4 yards in that game.
“I was disappointed on several levels, that our QBs put us in that position, that our QBs put the league in that position,” Coach Vic Fangio said. “We count on them to be the leaders of our team, the leaders of our offense, and those guys made a mistake.”
Fangio added: “They got lax with their masks, I guess, and they got lax with their distancing, I guess. … I haven’t done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them when they’re on their own. That’s on me.”
Brees will not be back this week as he’s healing up from 11 broken ribs. New Orleans opened as a 3.5-point favorite in Atlanta. Hill’s first NFL start was on Nov. 22 vs. Atlanta, a 24-9 win. Hill completed 18-of-23 passes for 233 yards, rushing 10 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
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