It took three years, but it finally happened: Taysom Hill threw the first touchdown pass of his NFL career. Sean Payton has insisted for awhile now that Hill has what it takes to be the next Steve Young, and although that claim has raised some eyebrows around the NFL over the years, the Saints quarterback showed flashes of just how good he might be able to become during New Orleans’ 21-16 win over Atlanta.
Not only did Hill use his feet to run all over the Falcons, but he also used his right-arm as he threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns. When these two teams met back in Week 11, Hill only threw 23 passes, but for this game, Payton decided to dial things up by having him throw 37 times and Hill responded by completing 27 of those passes.
The most impressive part of Hill’s performance is that he constantly came through in the clutch. The Saints converted on six third-down plays of six or more yards in the game and five of those came on throws from Hill. That total included a third-and-13 conversion and a third-and-17 conversion on the same drive in the first half that spanned the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter. The ability to convert on third down was big reason why New Orleans won.
On the Saints’ first scoring drive of the game, Hill converted a third-and-6 with a seven-yard pass to Jared Cook and then one play later, he came up with one of the biggest plays of the game for New Orleans.
That’s a 43-yard run and it was huge, because one play later, Hill would throw the first touchdown pass of his career.
The scoring throw to Tre’Quan Smith gave the Saints a 7-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
Hill’s second touchdown pass would come on a third down late in the second quarter, and it was a big one, because if the Saints don’t convert, they may have had to settle for a field goal.
Thanks to in large part to Hill, the Saints have been able to survive without Drew Brees, who has now missed three games due to a rib injury. Although Brees has been out, the Saints have still managed to go 3-0. The crazy thing about the Saints is that this team has somehow found a way to thrive when Brees is out. Since the start of last season, the Saints are 8-0 when someone other than Brees starts at quarterback.
The fact that Hill has gotten some serious playing time over the past three weeks is huge for New Orleans as it gets ready for the postseason. For one, it means that Hill will be comfortable starting if something happens to Brees, and also, if Brees is back, Payton will likely be a lot more comfortable putting in bigger packages for Hill once the Saints get to the playoffs. That will keep opposing defenses honest and make the Saints offense nearly impossible to stop in the postseason. The Hill experiment has been win-win-win for the Saints, and it might lead to a few more wins down the road.
Alright, let’s get to the grades for every game from Week 13.
New Orleans 21-16 over Atlanta
Saints-Falcons grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Miami 19-7 over Cincinnati
Minnesota 27-24 over Jacksonville (OT)
Las Vegas 31-28 over N.Y. Jets
Indianapolis 26-20 over Houston
Detroit 34-30 over Chicago
Lions-Bears grades by Josh Edwards (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Cleveland 41-35 over Tennessee
Browns-Titans grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Rams 38-28 over Arizona
Rams-Cardinals grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
N.Y. Giants 17-12 over Seattle
Green Bay 30-16 over Philadelphia
Eagles-Packers grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
New England 45-0 over L.A. Chargers
Patriots-Chargers grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)