The Taysom Hill-led New Orleans Saints continued their march to the postseason as they defeated the Atlanta Falcons to the tune of 21-16. This was the second meeting between the two teams during the 2020 season, and it was a much more stress-inducing matchup the second time around.
Additionally, the victory marked Hill’s third consecutive win as a starter. He now sits at 3-0, however, he has had struggles in the process, many of which were expected before even being handed the starting job. The defense continued to play well, but sloppy penalties led to additional opportunities for the Falcons. Without delay, here are our biggest takeaways from Sunday afternoon:
Taysom Hill is both electric and worrisome
Let’s start by saying that at times Hill looked like a legitimate quarterback for perhaps the first time in his NFL career on Sunday. The BYU product did not have any rushing touchdowns, but his stat line of 232 passing yards and 2 touchdowns coupled with 83 rushing yards looks like a relatively typical modern NFL quarterback. He went through his progressions with more ease, helped get key playmakers like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas the ball, and when he couldn’t do that, he made it happen on the ground himself.
This all sounds and looks great, but in reality Hill played relatively poorly. It is nice to see the improvement in his quarterbacking ability, but it in no way resembles the talent level needed to win a Super Bowl. While he is improving on his progressions, he still forces passes and was lucky to not have a few picked off against Atlanta. Additionally, his timing with receivers is lacking and he even looks unnatural trying to be a traditional quarterback.
Yet, what is the most worrying aspect of his entire game is his ball security. More specifically his fumbling issues. In just his three starts he has fumbled the ball five times. If you take into account every snap he has taken this season, he has fumbled the ball nine times, a team high. This is has to be unacceptable.
One particular fumble comes to mind from Sunday. Late in the fourth quarter the Falcons were already back in the game due to a Hill fumble. With the Saints driving to try and add on to the 21-16 lead, Hill fumbled the ball a second time, but it took a few lucky bounces to find itself harmlessly out of bounds. Had the Falcons recovered the ball we would likely not be talking about a clinched playoff berth, Hill being 3-0, or nine wins in a row. Instead, everyone would have been looking to Taysom’s ball security as the reason the team once again lost to a miserably bad Atlanta team.
Payton says that Taysom Hill's ball security as a runner has to get fixed.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) December 6, 2020
While the 43-yard runs, the deep balls and all the electric plays make for great viewing, Hill’s lack of execution of some of the most basic quarterbacking tasks is worrisome. Hill is not a finished product, nor was he promised to be, but at some point the experiment could come back to haunt New Orleans in what is likely Brees’s final season and potentially final shot at another Super Bowl.
The Saints secondary has a lot of cleaning up to do
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 273 yards and 1 touchdown on Sunday. Those numbers aren’t eye popping until one realizes 108 of those yards went to Calvin Ridley and 94 went to Julio Jones. The Saints defense knew that when the ball was thrown it was going to go to one of those two star wideouts and they still could not stop them.
Some of this can be attributed to Janoris Jenkins’s absence due to a knee injury, as well as backup cornerback Patrick Robinson’s absence. However, Pro Bowler and 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore failed to step up. This is becoming a recurring theme with Lattimore despite him being a leader not just in the secondary but on the defensive unit as a whole.
New Orleans committed 11 penalties on Sunday, ten of them were accepted. Of those ten penalties, six of them were on the secondary with Lattimore responsible for three of them. C.J. Gardner-Johnson was penalized twice due to a lack of discipline and extra-curricular activities after the snap. This Saints defense has worked hard to fix shortcomings and improve over the course of the season to become the top unit in the league. In fact, the defense has been the driving factor in New Orleans’ success even before Brees left with his rib injury.
The Saints' 10 penalties today matched a season high (worst?). Their 79 penalty yards was the most they'd committed since Week 3.— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) December 6, 2020
However, Sunday afternoon the Atlanta receiving corps gave the Saints secondary issues. This should improve as Jenkins and Robinson return from injury and alleviate some of the pressure on Lattimore. But, the penalty woes have to be cleaned up and it starts with the secondary.
Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are BACK!
Saints fans and fantasy owners alike have been wondering just where Thomas and Kamara have disappeared to over the course of the last three weeks. Before Brees’s injury, Kamara was on pace to make a case for the MVP award and Thomas was getting worked back into the offense after a long injury. But, after Hill took over under center the two superstars combined for a total of 251 yards and just 2 touchdowns.
Much to everyone’s pleasure (well, except Falcons fans) the pair had a phenomenal game on Sunday. Kamara had 97total yards and a touchdown while Thomas racked up 105 yards on 9 receptions. Both players reclaimed their spots atop the offense and looked to have better chemistry with Hill. This should bode well for the team moving forward.
At the end of the day the Saints sit at 10-2, have won nine games in a row and are in complete control of their destiny when it comes to the first seed bye. This team has the talent and depth to continue to be successful even with Brees out. However, it will take marked improvement from key players in order to make this happen.
What are your biggest takeaways? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, follow us on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, Instagram at @SaintsCSC, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. And as always you can follow me on Twitter at @KadeKistner.