With the Saints trying to get back in the win column despite missing several offensive stars, do-it-all tight end Taysom Hill carried his team to victory.
Hill rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another score in New Orleans' 39-32 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Hill was brought in for key situations throughout the game to provide another offensive option for the Saints, and his contributions helped New Orleans come out on top in the back-and-forth contest.
"I mean he's such a weapon, and there's nobody else like him," said quarterback Andy Dalton. "If you're a defense you have to prepare for so much with him, because you never know where he's going to line up. So, his performance today, it's hard to match. All the stuff he can do, and all the stuff he was able to do to today to help us win. He's special."
Hill had only seen limited action this season as both a receiver and at the QB position, but Saints head coach Dennis Allen and his coaching staff decided that facing the Seattle defense Hill's versatility could be of significant benefit, a decision which paid off in spades in Week 5.
"Look, I've got to give (offensive coordinator) Pete Carmichael and the offensive staff a lot of credit for the game plan that they put together, they operated it very well," Allen said. "We talked earlier in the week, and Pete and I were talking, and he felt like some of the run game stuff we could do with Taysom in the game could be really good against (Seattle), and he was right. Taysom was really effective."
By bringing in Hill, the Saints expanded the offensive options, making the defense account for whether he'll hand it off, pass, or run it himself, all of which occurred at some point on Sunday. And that's not even including the extra play options when lining him up as a receiver.
"I think any time you have a guy that can play the quarterback position and he can affect the game with his legs, it creates a challenge for the defense because now you have to play 11-on-11 football," Allen said after the game. "If you start creeping your safety down too far in the box, he can still do some things in the passing game, so yeah, it's a good piece to have."
Hill rushed for two touchdowns in the first half on direct snaps, giving the Saints an early lead. And late in the fourth quarter with New Orleans trailing by one, Hill again broke through for a rushing TD, but this time on a 60-yard run. Hill pointed out after the game that by setting up the defense to anticipate a run on the third-and-1 play, the offense sets up a situation where getting past the first line means you're home free.
"Obviously that was a big play, they knew we were going to run the ball on third and short, and so they were clearly selling out to stop the run," Hill said. "So if you get by the first level of defense there's nobody left. And so once I broke that, I knew it was a foot race."
Hill also threw for one touchdown, finding tight end Adam Trautman for a 22-yard reception on his only pass of the game. Overall, Hill contributed four scores, and accounted for 28 of the 39 points the Saints put on the board.
The 32-year-old Hill was signed by the Saints in 2017 as an undrafted free agent and was listed as a quarterback up until this last offseason. But with Jameis Winston taking the starting spot for this season, New Orleans decided to put Hill's talents to use as a multi-purpose tight end. His ability to play multiple positions is what earned him his reputation as a Swiss Army knife player, and that was on full display Sunday.
He even set up to return punts, something he admitted he did not expect and hadn't practiced in a while, but was happy to help with when the special teams unit called on him. And while he knows the amount of usage he saw Sunday is not necessarily going to continue for every game, Hill said he's embraced the unknown aspects of his unique situation.
"Look, I just work here and do what they ask," Hill joked. "Every week I go in and I prepare for what I'm going to be asked to do. It's just a fluid deal, and I anticipate it being that way at least for the rest of the season."
When asked how he expects to use Hill in the coming games, Allen acknowledged that after this performance defenses are going to find ways to account for the tight end's contribution. But at the same time, the nature of his versatility means the offense will find new ways to use Hill.
"They're going to have ways they're going to try to defend it and people are going to make adjustments," Allen said. "But that's always been part of what we've been able to do with Taysom and we'll continue to find ways to utilize that."
The Saints' next game will be on Sunday, Oct. 16 versus the Bengals.