Taysom Hill proves rushing ability, but throws four picks to doom Saints


NEW ORLEANS – For a minute there, it looked like Taysom Hill’s legs might just inject some life into the New Orleans Saints’ flailing offense on Thursday night. But then the wheels came off when he threw three interceptions of his four total in a fourth-quarter implosion, allowing the Dallas Cowboys to run away with a 27-17 victory.

The Saints (5-7) have now lost five consecutive games in the same season for the first time in the Sean Payton era. The only glimmer of hope left for their playoff chances is that they’ll have nine days off before visiting to the New York Jets in Week 14. And by then, offensive stars like Alvin Kamara, Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk might be back from injuries.

But it’s hard to expect a miracle finish after New Orleans has been regressing at such a rapid pace over the past five weeks.

The Saints kept things relatively close Thursday night during Hill’s first start of the 2021 season at quarterback. But once they were forced to play catchup in the fourth quarter, that didn’t suit Hill’s game as well.

QB breakdown: Hill finished 19 of 41 passing for 264 yards and two touchdowns (including a 70-yarder to Deonte Harris in the final minutes). He threw four total interceptions (including a deep ball in heavy traffic in the second quarter that tipped off receiver Kenny Stills’ hands). And he finished with 101 rushing yards on 11 carries (including a spectacular hurdle over a Cowboys defender).

Chances are, Hill will get another chance to start, especially considering that he was dealing with a partially torn plantar fascia that he suffered in Week 10 and an injury to the middle finger on his right throwing hand that was wrapped in a splint during the first quarter Monday. But he’ll need to improve his accuracy to stick in the role.

Pivotal play: Cowboys running back Tony Pollard broke the game open with a 58-yard touchdown run on a toss to the outside that gave Dallas a 20-10 lead late in the third quarter. Up until that point, Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for just 20 yards on 11 carries against New Orleans’ normally-stout run defense. But the Saints missed some tackles early in the scrum, then deep safety Marcus Williams took a poor approach near the end of the play instead of trying to chase Pollard down near the sideline.

Pivotal misplay: The Saints squandered a great scoring opportunity on the first play of the fourth quarter when they were facing a third-and-2 on Dallas’ 26-yard line. The Saints dialed up a screen pass – but the Cowboys were all over it, and rookie sensation Micah Parsons didn’t even give Hill a chance to throw the ball away. He was sacked for an 11-yard loss, forcing a punt instead.

Troubling trend: For the second time in four weeks, the Saints were victims of a dubious personal foul penalty that had coach Sean Payton livid and yelling at officials. This time, it was an illegal blindside block penalty against Saints tight end Garrett Griffin, nullifying a first-down pass and leading to a punt when the Saints were trailing 13-10 in the third quarter. Three weeks ago, it was a controversial roughing the passer call in a two-point loss at Tennessee.

Eye-popping stat: Slow starts have been one of many issues for the Saints offense this year, regardless of the quarterback. They have scored three total points on opening drives this season – lowest in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The Falcons are the only other team with zero touchdowns on opening drives.

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