It seems that this New Orleans Saints team has three quarterbacks whose legends will live in New Orleans folklore as long as there’s football to be played. Sunday we got to witness a vintage performance from the NFL passing yards record holder as Drew Brees returned ahead of schedule from his thumb injury. This came after a five-week stretch that saw Teddy Bridgewater—possibly the most beloved backup quarterback in Saints history—go undefeated as he filled in for the future first ballot hall of famer.
Missed in the action was the do it all third year quarterback Taysom Hill, whose status as the new number-2 quarterback kept him from playing the average number of snaps he typically would see.
But with the return of Brees, the legend of Taysom Hill was able to grow as he would see an increase in snaps in his “slasher” role, lining up at multiple positions throughout the game.
In a game that had Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook out due to injuries, Hill went on to make the most of these snaps charting a stat line of three receptions for 63 yards (with 32 yards coming after the catch) and one touchdown.
Sean Payton schemed up a few plays to get Hill into open space where he could use his run after the catch ability to pick up extra yards
Hill’s first reception came at the end of the first quarter with just under three minutes left.
The Saints face a third and seven from the Cardinals’ 46-yard line and will come out with 12 personnel (I’m counting Hill as a tight end here) in a 2x2 alignment. Fullback Zach Line is in the backfield to Brees’s left and Hill is at the top of the screen.
The play call is a variation of the classic “mesh concept” that has been a staple in this offense. Thomas and Hill will both run shallow crossing routes where they meet at a “mesh point” towards the middle of the field within a few feet of each other. The #2 receivers on both sides (Josh Hill and Ted Ginn) will run vertical routes that will clear out the underneath zones, while Patrick Peterson (#21) follows Thomas’s crossing route. This leaves the flat open and Hill makes an easy catch and picks up 22 yards.
At the top of the fourth quarter Hill would find the endzone for the third time this season.
The offense will line up at the Cardinals’ 5-yard line in 13 personnel. Line is split out wide to the top of the screen, tight end Dan Arnold is in the slot and Hill is lined up tight to the line of scrimmage. Towards the bottom of the screen Thomas is in the slot and tight end Josh Hill is out wide.
The play call here is a version of “Y-stick” that the team has had a good amount of success with in the past. On the backside (bottom of screen) Thomas will run an option route that he breaks outside away from the linebacker and Josh Hill runs a fade. The frontside of the concept will be towards the trips side (top of screen), where Line runs a fade, Arnold runs a speed out and Hill runs the stick.
The linebacker (#58) takes away any chance of Thomas breaking inside forcing Brees to look to the frontside of the play. Budda Baker (#32) will carry Arnold’s speed out toward the sideline, creating an opening. Hill has outside leverage on Byron Murphy (#33) so he will break his stick route out towards the sideline, running into the space created by Baker widening with Arnold’s route. Brees sees the leverage that Hill has and quickly gets the ball out for the easy pitch and catch.
The third string quarterback may not have put up any rushing yards, but he did line up in the backfield on occasion.
With the game winding down, the offense will rollout their jumbo package that has offensive lineman Will Clapp check in as a tight end. The jumbo package is typically a run-heavy formation that uses the extra lineman to add another blocker. This will force the Cardinals to keep in their base defense, giving the offense a favorable matchup for the play call.
The call is a play-action fullback wheel with Taysom Hill lining up at the fullback position. The play-action will draw the linebacker (#59) that is supposed to cover Hill down to defend the run. This gives Thomas enough time to direct his route at the linebacker which creates a natural rub allowing Hill who is running the wheel route to get wide open along the sideline.
This play would be hard to defend against an average fullback, but with Hill’s 4.4 speed it makes the matchup against the linebacker even more advantageous for the Saints. This was a great play design that forced the Cardinals to keep their extra defensive backs off the field due to the run heavy look the Saints show presnap.
Now that the bye week is here, it should give some of the other playmakers time to get healthy and open up even more opportunities for the offense to put up more points.
(For those too young to get the title, look up Kordell Stewart.)