Quarterback Trevor Siemian came off the bench in the second quarter of a tie game, against the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and coolly led the New Orleans Saints offense in a 36-27 victory after Jameis Winston was injured.
No ambiguity there.
But whether that earned Siemian, who completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions against Tampa Bay, the start on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome against Atlanta (3-4) is a bit of a mystery at present.
Siemian hadn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2019, and hadn't thrown a touchdown since 2017. And quarterback Taysom Hill, who started four games last season when Drew Brees was injured, appears ready to return to the lineup after missing two games due to a concussion as New Orleans (5-2) seeks its fourth consecutive victory.
Regardless of who opens against the Falcons, the Saints undoubtedly liked what they saw from Siemian against the Buccaneers.
"In my opinion, you always have to be prepared," receiver Tre'Quan Smith said. "So coming into training camp, we didn't only catch from Jameis, we didn't only catch from Taysom, we didn't only catch from Ian (Book). We caught from all four quarterbacks, so you've just got to be prepared. You never know what's going to happen. I believe training camp and preseason prepared us for whatever quarterback may play."
As for Siemian, Smith said some characteristics were obvious when he entered the game against the Buccaneers.
"Oh, man, you could definitely tell he's experienced," Smith said. "Honestly, he came in the game and shocked me. He looked very comfortable in the pocket, he stood in the pocket, he took some hits and still delivered the ball. That just amazed me. He definitely looked like he was ready to play, like no hiccups. He was definitely ready to play."
Siemian played three seasons in Denver and one with the Jets, and started 25 times in 27 games from 2015-19.
That experience, coupled with being with the Saints last season as their Covid-emergency quarterback – Siemian would have gotten the call to play if, somehow, Brees, Hill and Winston all were declared out due to Covid protocols – helped prepare Siemian to step in.
"Obviously, tough injury for Jameis," right tackle Ryan Ramczyk said. "But I think we're confident as a group going forward, you know, whatever the coaching staff decides, whoever the quarterback is, we all got our jobs to do and we're gonna go forward and move confidently with whatever Q (quarterback) is behind us.
"You hate seeing your quarterback go down. But at the end of the day, it's football, there are injuries in football and it has to be a next man up mentality. We had a ton of confidence with Trevor coming and I think he played really well. We have confidence in him and whoever's back there, so we got to go out and do our job at the end of the day."
Siemian did his as well, or perhaps better, than most could have imagined.
"We knew he was someone who had a quick release, good feet, and he is smart," Coach Sean Payton said. "I remember him coming into the league starting with Denver. He has good athleticism and we had a chance to acquire him last year to get to know him more. I would say he picks things up very quick, the ball comes out quick, and that served him well (Sunday) with the pressure we were getting."
It also extended the Saints' recent trend of creating success without Brees, a lock Hall of Famer who retired in the offseason. From 2006-18, only four quarterbacks started games for the Saints – Brees, Mark Brunell (one), Luke McCown (one) and Teddy Bridgewater (one). None other than Brees won as a starter.
Since 2019, New Orleans has had four starters at quarterback: Brees, Bridgewater (five games), Hill (four) and Winston (seven). The Saints were undefeated with Bridgewater in '19, 3-1 with Hill last season and 5-2 with Winston this year. If Siemian opens Sunday, he'd be the fifth to start in the last 40 regular-season games.
"Everyone's looking, it's a big moment to step into," left guard James Hurst said of Siemian. "Everyone was feeling for Jameis. We thought it was a tough injury in the moment, so, Trevor came in and took command immediately. I don't think he left any doubt.
"There was no doubt in that huddle. I think as soon as he called the first play, everyone said, 'Alright, let's do it, here we go,' and we had to finish that game out and finish with a win."