Kendall Hinton, Broncos Lose to Saints Without Any Eligible QBs Available

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2020

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) celebrates his rushing touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The NFL has made it much easier for offenses to thrive in recent years, but you still need a proper quarterback.

The New Orleans Saints defeated the Denver Broncos 31-3 on the road Sunday in Denver.

The Broncos were without a single recognized QB because of the terms of the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocols. They placed Jeff Driskel on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, and the trio of Drew Lock, Blake Bortles and Brett Rypien were deemed to be close contacts Saturday.

That meant wide receiver Kendall Hinton, who spent limited time at quarterback for Wake Forest, was promoted from the practice squad and started under center against New Orleans.

Latavius Murray played a starring role, hitting 100-plus yards on the ground for the third time with the Saints. He single-handedly out-gained the Broncos offense, which finished with 112 total yards.

           

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Notable Performers

Taysom Hill, QB, Saints: 9-of-16, 78 yards, one interception; 10 carries, 44 yards, two touchdowns

Latavius Murray, RB, Saints: 19 carries, 123 yards, two touchdowns; one reception, two yards

Michael Thomas, WR: Saints: four receptions, 50 yards

Kendall Hinton, QB, Broncos: 1-of-9, 13 yards, two interceptions; two carries, seven yards.

Royce Freeman, RB, Broncos: eight carries, 50 yards

Melvin Gordon III, RB, Broncos: 12 carries, 31 yards

               

Hill Falls Back to Earth in 2nd Start

Taysom Hill threw for 233 yards on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 11, a performance that seemed to be a direct rebuttal to skeptics who have long questioned his suitability at quarterback in the NFL. Those skeptics ultimately might have been on to something.

Hill had rushing touchdowns of one and two yards in the second quarter.

The former BYU star is a dangerous runner and provides a different dimension from the Saints' other quarterbacks. On the whole, he may not be the best choice to run the offense for as long as Drew Brees is out injured.

Any element of surprise New Orleans gained by choosing Hill over Jameis Winston is gone.

Spare a thought for any fantasy managers who started Alvin Kamara this week.

Kamara wasn't able to enjoy his usual role as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, getting only two targets. And he watched Hill score on a pair of short-yardage situations while Murray broke free for a 36-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Giving Hill a shot over Winston made sense because creative coaches are finding more ways to utilize mobile quarterbacks. Continuing that experience for another week isn't advisable based on Sunday.

           

Hinton Labors in QB Debut

The numbers largely speak for themselves.

When you hear an NFL team has to throw out somebody with little QB experience, you know things could be difficult. Eventually, the full scope of the situation becomes clear. DNVR Sports' Andrew Mason noted before the game how simply handing off to the running back would require some last-minute work for Hinton.

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur did what they could to work around Hinton's flaws, but the task was almost impossible. Hinton had to relearn how to play quarterback—in the NFL no less—with little to no opportunity to prepare.

The 23-year-old didn't look totally unnatural in the pocket. His performance nonetheless showed why quarterback is the most valued position on the field.

It turns out converted wide receivers from the practice team aren't the new market inefficiency in the NFL.

    

What's Next?

The Saints return to NFC South play with the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. ET. The Broncos are back in action later that night against the Kansas City Chiefs at 8:20 p.m. ET. They'll have time to line up a more suitable replacement in the event the four quarterbacks on their roster are once again unavailable.