In the eyes of New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, Taysom Hill simply had earned the opportunity to start at quarterback Sunday against Atlanta.
Hill has been in the Saints' system since 2017, and even though he has plugged in at several other positions – on the punt and kickoff teams, at tight end and receiver – the vision always has been for Hill to play quarterback.
So when Drew Brees couldn't start due to cracked ribs and a punctured lung, Hill, who has been listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, was handed the keys. The Saints (8-2) defeated Atlanta 24-9 to win their seventh straight game, with Hill completing 18 of 23 passes for 233 yards, and rushing 10 times for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
"Here's what no one else is privy to, and it's hard," Payton said Monday. "Because what the fans and other people are privy to is the special teams snaps, the Wildcat quarterback snaps, the tight end/receiver snaps. They don't get a chance to see the same snaps that we might see throughout the course of a year that take place, that aren't necessarily game snaps.
"It wasn't by any means an easy decision because I feel like we have two real capable and really good quarterbacks that are in the building already. And so, a lot went into it. That's kind of how we arrived at it."
Payton said Hill's willingness to play other positions only highlighted his hunger to play.
"He wanted to play," Payton said. "And make no mistake, when we claimed him off the film, it was as a quarterback.
"Our vision was not as those other things, those are end results after he was here. But our vision watching the film – I've told it a number of times, started watching a practice squad receiver (in Green Bay) and then pretty soon, started watching more of the tape, more of the tape and then here it was that evening (or) the next day, we were putting a claim in for him. He enjoys playing, and you can't help but notice that when you watch his snaps in a game."
Payton said there wouldn't be any "big announcements" going forward indicating that Hill would be the starter.
"That's not us," he said. "We thought he played well. We thought there were a lot of things we did well in that game – defensively, obviously, (and) we won the field position battle, we won a number of situational battles. I thought we ran the ball well, especially in the second half.
"It was a real good team win against, I think, a good football team. I know the record doesn't say that, but when you look at the games they've played this year and the games they've been in, that was a team that we've got a lot of respect for. But outside of that, we'll take each week with the approach what's best for our team."
As to whether the win was gratifying, Payton said:
"I was happy to get the win against Atlanta, and I was happy for Taysom, obviously, because there's a lot of pressure in that spot. He or Jameis (Winston) come into that spot, there's pressure, no different than last year with Teddy (Bridgewater) in Seattle. There's a lot of pressure when you all of a sudden become that starter and so I was happy we played well, we played a good, complementary game.
"There was an obvious amount of attention drawn to it, mainly because I think, most who cover the game thought it might be Jameis as opposed to Taysom. And then of course, those people covering the game don't want to be wrong. And so there's a reaction – there's a reaction when you think something's going to happen and it doesn't, it must be the wrong decision. But no one else has all the other stuff taken into account."
LINE UP: New Orleans posted at least 115 rushing yards for the fifth straight game, totaling 168 and three touchdowns on 36 carries. During the streak, the Saints are averaging 136.2 yards on 30.2 carries per game (4.51 yards per carry) and have scored seven touchdowns.
"The run game is a mentality and yesterday I felt it was a physical game," said Latavius Murray, who ran for 49 yards on 12 carries against Atlanta. "We definitely wanted to impose our will. We want to do that every week, but yesterday for sure, just what the gameplan (called for) and how the game was going. We had some opportunities to have a physical finish to that game."