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Film Study: What exactly did the Saints pass defense do?

Dennis Allen & co. made life tough for the Broncos and their makeshift quarterback

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints passing defense faced as test unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time in the NFL. With all three of the Denver Broncos’ quarterbacks deemed ineligible to play versus the Saints due to close contact tracing with a positive COVID-19 test, Denver had to turn to practice squad wide receiver and former Wake Forest QB Kendall Hinton. The Wake Forest product was signed off the practice squad roughly 24 hours before game time, with no practice at the position and not having played a single snap at quarterback since a game against Clemson in 2018 while still playing for the Demon Deacons. Hinton provided a valiant effort, but the situation was a little too much to overcome, as he finished the day 1 for 9 on completions with 13 yards and a pair of interceptions. This begs the question, was it his lack of experience that did him in, or was the Saints defense that stringent that it made the Wake Forest product worse than he actually is?

It turns out, playing quarterback is hard! Even for players that played it in college! While the NFL’s official gamebook has this down as an incompletion intended for Tim Patrick, there’s reason to believe that Hinton was looking for Jerry Jeudy across the middle (which, to be fair, if I was thrown wildly in over my head in a professional football game and told “throw the ball”, my first instinct each and every play would also be to find Jerry Jeudy and chuck it wildly in his direction). Jeudy’s got a step across the middle on Marshon Lattimore, and Hinton either overthrows him or underthrows Tim Patrick, who is not expecting the ball which nearly lands in the lap of a similarly unexpecting Janoris Jenkins. A better (or different if you believe this was going to Patrick) throw could’ve given Hinton and the Broncos a first down here, however the Saints were bailed out by the inexperience of the former Wake Forest man.

The first of Hinton’s two interceptions wasn’t even necessarily a bad throw. Bad decision maybe, but Janoris Jenkins has air-tight coverage on DeaSean Hamilton and steps in front of him to make this interception. There’s something to be said about his confidence that he made this throw when he had a pair of open checkdowns right past the line of scrimmage on this 2nd-and-8, but that was his own undoing with this Jenkins interception.

Right place, right time for Chauncey C.J. Garnder-Johnson on the second interception that Hinton threw. On a designed roll-out, Hinton’s got Troy Fumagalli on the crossing route, but with a pair of unblocked pass rushers getting right in Hinton’s face, he throws the ball off his back foot, over Fumagalli’s head and into the waiting arms of Ceedy Duce. This was the final pass attempt of the day for Hinton, a day to remember and forget for various reasons. The kid was thrown into a tough spot, it’s hard to rag on him for not succeeding. That said, the Saints defense still made the plays that they were supposed to and made life even more difficult for Hinton. It’s hard to take anything away from this game for the Saints defense, other than that they treated Hinton with the utmost respect, and that was by not letting him up, treating him like an actual quarterback and beating him into the ground.

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