Saints Offense vs Broncos Defense
The Saints offense was supposed to take a step back with Hill under center, so naturally, they averaged 6.1 yards/play and 8.1 yards/pass attempt.
Overall, Taysom Hill’s statistics were tremendous. He completed 18 of 23 passes for 233 yards and also ran for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
The question, however, is the sustainability of a Hill-led offense. Head coach Sean Payton utilized play-action passes on more than half of Hill’s pass attempts, while the 30-year-old quarterback had multiple near turnovers.
Meanwhile, he had some success throwing the ball down the field, but underthrew his intended target on practically every attempt on vertical pass concepts. To top it off, he performed well under pressure, yet that isn’t a very stable area of play, and it wasn’t as though he was maneuvering the pocket at a high level.
My main concern with Hill is what happens when he is forced into unfavorable third-down situations. As Kevin Cole of Pro Football Focus noted, New Orleans struggled greatly in those situations:
The Saints have struggled more than usual with pass protection, which could put Hill in even more of a bind on third downs. It is one thing when Payton can assist him on early downs, but we still do not have evidence that he can come through when those training wheels are off.
Making matters more complicated is the defense he’ll be facing. It’s one thing to face the Falcons, who rank last in yards allowed/play. It’s another thing to then face the Broncos, who rank 9th in yards/play and my projection model’s 2nd-rated defense.
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Head coach Vic Fangio is considered one of the top defensive minds in the sports, so Payton is going to have to recreate this offense to guide Hill against this very difficult test. Facing a team that has a talented secondary, meanwhile, including opportunistic safety Justin Simmons, as well as defensive backs Bryce Callahan, AJ Bouye, and Kareem Jackson, is far from ideal.
The Saints’ passing offense has been centered more around their star receivers, as it should be, but this is a very difficult secondary to go up against.
With Hill in the lineup, the Saints are also hoping to count on a more diverse and explosive rushing attack, as they did against the Falcons.
Unfortunately, Denver is tied for 12th in rushing yards allowed/play, and that number is skewed by one poor performance against the Raiders, in which they were without top interior defensive lineman Shelby Harris.
There isn’t a specific area of this defense that New Orleans can exploit, which makes this is a difficult test for Payton.
In the end, he’ll need to rely on the team’s overall talent to win out – good offenses beat good defenses – but there is far less margin for error in this game with Hill than there was against Atlanta, so the results likely will not be anywhere close to as rosy.