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Efficient game came as no surprise to New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill

'I've always believed in myself'

Absolutely, Taysom Hill envisioned success for his first NFL start at quarterback because, well, why wouldn't he?

Since the New Orleans Saints claimed him off waivers in 2017, Hill has been effective in every role played for the Saints. None of them had been as an all-game quarterback, but that's the position that New Orleans envisioned for Hill, Coach Sean Payton has said.

So Hill simply went about the business of doing what he expected against Atlanta, and completed 18 of 23 passes for 233 yards, and ran 10 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns, in a 24-9 victory that gave the Saints (8-2) their seventh consecutive win.

"I wouldn't say that I was able to do something that I didn't know I was capable of," said Hill, who made his first start in place of the injured Drew Brees, and will make his second start Sunday when the Saints play the Broncos (4-6) at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.

"I've always felt like I was capable of being a starter in this league and really, it just came down to having the opportunity," he said. "So I wasn't surprised from that standpoint. I've always believed in myself."

His teammates also believed that the next man would step up.

"No one was different," running back Latavius Murray said. "We're all here to adjust. We're all here as part of a team, as part of something bigger than our individual self. No one was different.

"Everybody knew that they had a job to do and they were here for a reason, so I think everyone took that to the field on Sunday and we'll continue to do that. If a guy goes down or it doesn't matter what happens throughout the course of the season, we have to be ready to go. The opponent is looking to win. Do everything you have to to come out on the other side."

Hill's journey to the winning side wasn't without a few hiccups, he said. There was a fourth-quarter lost fumble – he has lost fumbles in consecutive games – that was a mistake he doesn't want to repeat, as well as a few more issues.

"There's a couple things that stick out in my mind from the game, and really it was just timing elements – a few particular route concepts, a few timing elements protection-wise that I felt like I could have been better at," he said. "So as I watched the film and was making notes and kind of reviewed that, those were a couple of things that stood out to me."

An area that stood out to others, on the positive side, was Hill's patience in the pocket as a passer. Though he had been much more of a running than passing threat in his other game appearances – 558 yards and four touchdowns as a rusher, and 205 yards and no touchdowns as a passer in the NFL entering the Atlanta game – he displayed promising characteristics as a passer.

"If you're a guy that can run and you're a more athletic quarterback, so often people peg you as a runner and they say, 'Man, you would prefer to run it than throw it,' or whatever," he said. "But I wouldn't say that's my mind-set.

"I step up in the pocket, my idea is to keep my eyes downfield. And look, I had an opportunity to learn from Aaron (Rodgers, in 2017 training camp with Green Bay), who I think has done some of the best scramble and make-good-plays happen because he's athletic enough to get outside the pocket. I think that's when a lot of big plays happen, too.

"My role is keep your eyes downfield. If nothing presents itself and you have an opportunity to get some yards, then I'm going to do that. But I went around to all my receivers pregame and I said, 'Make sure you guys continue to work for me. There's going to be opportunities where I break contain and I step up, that the defense will react to that. So just keep working.'

"But that's my mind-set."

It served Hill well in his debut as a starting quarterback. The mentality that led to the moment is one that he'll maintain.

"I'm taking every game very seriously," he said. "There are a lot of really great players who just didn't get opportunities in the NFL, and these opportunities are few and far between.

"My mind-set is to do everything I can to take advantage of every single opportunity. So I'm preparing as hard as I can for each and every opportunity. Each game is a big game for me."

SIEMIAN ADDED: Newly-added quarterback Trevor Siemian had his first practice with the Saints on Wednesday. Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015 who played his first three seasons with Denver, was added after Brees was placed on reserve/injured. "With everything that's going on right now, the ability for us to have a third quarterback trained and ready in the event someone got Covid, or something else happened," Payton said. "We just felt strongly that that was something we needed to do."

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