3 Takeaways from Saints' Week 13 Loss
Hill was clearly hampered by the finger injury he suffered in the first half. He was wearing a splint, and he received medical attention on the sideline while the Saints defense was on the field. His injury severely affected New Orleans' offensive approach in what could have been a winnable game. The Saints were within one score of the NFC East leader deep into the third quarter.
New Orleans' defense played as well as it could to give Hill and Co. a fighting chance in the second half, but the offense did not capitalize on that effort.
The Saints are now 5-7 and in an awkward spot in the standings. They are not good enough to compete for a playoff spot, but they are not bad enough to be in contention for a high first-round draft pick yet.
Taysom Hill Should Not Have Played in 2nd Half
Hill's finger injury forced the Saints to employ a basic offensive strategy in the second half. New Orleans dialed up countless rushing plays for Hill and some short passes that they believed he could still complete.
The quarterback was effective on the ground with 101 yards on 14 carries, but he failed to find the end zone on any of the drives in which he carried the ball the most.
The opening drive of the second half provided us with the perfect example of Hill's limitations. He ran for 38 yards on four plays to get the Saints into scoring position, but then he threw three incomplete passes and the Saints had to settle for a field goal.
Other second-half drives stalled out as well. Hill was sacked out of field-goal range by Micah Parsons to start the fourth quarter, and he was intercepted on three straight drives.
New Orleans was not guaranteed to win if Trevor Siemian were on the field, but it would have at least had a more evolved offensive game plan in that scenario. Instead, Hill showed off his limitations as a passer, and the Saints are in no man's land of the NFC standings in 12th place.
Defense Kept Offense in the Game
The Saints defense did enough to keep the offense in the game until late in the third quarter.
New Orleans came up with back-to-back stops to open the second half. Dak Prescott was forced into five incomplete passes, and Ezekiel Elliott was held to a two-yard loss on the six plays during those series.
The Saints offense managed to get three points during that stretch off a 42-yard field goal from Brett Maher.
Eventually, the New Orleans defense broke. Tony Pollard used a 58-yard rush down the left sideline to break open the contest. Dallas led by double figures for the rest of the contest.
The Saints defense held Prescott in check for most of the game. The Dallas quarterback was 26-of-40 for 238 yards with one passing touchdown and an interception. Outside of Pollard's 58-yard scoring run, he and Elliott did not make a significant impact through the ground game.
Dallas produced fairly average offensive stats, and that is a credit to the effort out of the New Orleans defense. Unfortunately, the work was for naught because the offense was unable to take advantage of the stops.
Deonte Harris Had a Breakout Game
The Saints have had trouble filling the Michael Thomas void all season long.
Deonte Harris showed Thursday night that he could make the top-target role his own down the final stretch of the regular season.
Harris made four catches on eight targets, and he showcased his speed on a 70-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He did all of the work on the touchdown, as he caught a short pass and then eluded defenders to sprint into the end zone.
The third-year pro tied with Ty Montgomery for the most receptions by a New Orleans player, and he was the only one with more than 50 receiving yards. The high totals gave Harris his best overall game of the season. He set a season best with 96 receiving yards and tied his single-game high of eight targets.
If Hill or Siemian works Harris into the offense more, the Saints could have a dynamic playmaker on their hands, which is something they have not had outside of Alvin Kamara this season.