The New Orleans Saints (9-2) defeated the Denver Broncos (4-7), 31-3 at Empower Field at Mile High. The Saints' defense led the way, holding the Broncos to 112 yards of offense and forcing two turnovers en route to Taysom Hill's second victory as an NFL starting quarterback. Below are three takeaways from New Orleans' eighth consecutive victory and first against the Broncos since 1994.
Saints Defense Continues Dominant Play
Saturday night news broke that the Denver Broncos would be without all 3 active QBs against the Saints. The ruling came after the positional group was deemed in “High-Risk close contact” with QB Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Denver QBs Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, and Blake Bortles were in close contact and not wearing masks, resulting in their ineligibility.
Denver started wide receiver Kendall Minton who was Wake Forest's starting quarterback in college. Minton was called up from the team's practice squad and made his NFL debut as an emergency QB. The Saints defense swarmed the young QB, holding the Broncos' offense to 112 total yards and 12 passing yards.
Dennis Allen's group has been dominant over the last month by surrendering an average of 7 points per contest and collecting three takeaways a game. Against Denver, New Orleans made it two consecutive weeks without yielding a touchdown and forcing 2 INTs.
Taysom Struggles but Finds End Zone Twice
Despite finding the end zone twice on Sunday afternoon, the Saints' signal-caller was suspect at best - failing to find a rhythm in the passing game. Hill made his second career NFL start at QB against Denver, completing 9 of 16 passes for 78 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT.
Hill's subpar outing through the air forced the Saints to lean on the ground game to move the football throughout the contest. New Orleans gained 222 yards of offense on the ground between Hill, Murray, and Kamara, including another 40+ yard and two touchdowns showing from Taysom Hill.
Taysom has yet to throw an NFL touchdown pass; however, he has rushed for four. Hill's first road start may have told us of his development as an NFL quarterback. He struggled to find a rhythm and relied on his athleticism to move the football. In the postgame press conference, Coach Payton blamed himself for Hill's uneven performance. Payton implied it was more reflective of how he decided to call the game.
Hill and the Saints will face the Falcons again next weekend. His passing game timing growth will be critical against an Atlanta team that routed the Las Vegas Raiders 43-6 at home. Under Taysom Hill, the New Orleans is undefeated at 2-0, with the offense averaging 26 points per game.
Murray Has Been The Team's Workhorse For the Last Two Weeks
With Alvin Kamara's start to 2020 propelling him into the limelight, it is easy to forget about the Saints other former Pro-Bowl running back Latavius Murray. Over the last two weeks, Murray has powered the Saints to victory, running vigorously in the second half of each ballgame. The 8-year NFL veteran has racked up 172 yards and 2 TDs since Week 10.
Murray's role has grown following Drew Brees' injury, similarly to how it did just a year ago after Brees tore his UCL in his right thumb. Without QB Drew Brees and with a less than 100% backfield partner Alvin Kamara (Foot), Murray has seen an increase in snaps, production, and end zone trips.
Against Denver, Murray posted his first 100-yard performance of 2020 and doubled his season touchdown total, scoring twice in the second half to seal the Saints' 8th consecutive victory. His ability to run between the tackles effectively and slip the first tackler adds another wrinkle to the Saints' new-look offense and will continue to be vital down the stretch of the regular season.
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