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Receiver Michael Thomas shows ability to produce with all New Orleans Saints quarterbacks

'I know that dude has fight on every play'


It matters, obviously, who's playing quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. Receiver Michael Thomas just has a tendency to make it seem like it doesn't.

In doing so, he mostly has shown is that he's able to make it work with whomever takes the snaps.

In Sunday's 21-16 victory over Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Thomas had his second 100-yard receiving game in three weeks, both against Atlanta, as the Saints (10-2) won their ninth straight game and secured a playoff berth. He also caught his 500th career pass, setting the NFL record for fewest games (69) to reach the mark.

Against the Falcons, with Taysom Hill starting at quarterback in the wins – including a 24-9 knockout in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans – Thomas first caught nine passes for 104 yards, then followed with nearly identical numbers (nine catches for 105 yards) to provide a reminder of just how influential he can be when he's in the lineup.

Much like the chemistry he has developed with starter Drew Brees, and then exhibited last season with Teddy Bridgewater when Brees missed five games due to injury – Thomas caught 42 passes for 551 yards and three touchdowns in the five games – Thomas and Hill synced immediately.

The first 100-yard game against Atlanta came in Hill's first NFL start at quarterback, and Sunday's came in Hill's third start. The second start essentially was a wash; the Saints didn't throw the ball much in a 31-3 victory over Denver because there wasn't much need, since the Broncos played the game with no quarterbacks, and Thomas caught four passes for 50 yards.

"That starts with being a great receiver," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "He's able to separate, he gives you a great target radius – an area to throw to. That suits, I think, anybody who's passing the ball to him. And so, the key each week is to find different route concepts that give him those opportunities and continue to find more of those even in the red zone."

Thomas hasn't found the end zone this season, primarily due to injuries.

He missed six straight games with ankle and hamstring injuries, as well as being disciplined by the team for a game during the stretch. Once he returned, Thomas caught a combined seven passes for 78 yards in wins over Tampa Bay and San Francisco before breaking out against Atlanta.

"First off, I'm proud of him because I know it's been a grind working back, and still trying to get to 100 percent," Payton said. "Obviously, the injury he had was significant. But man, he's come up with some big play here. For a quarterback new in the lineup, to have that target and someone who's going to come down with the ball and make plays, that's a big deal."

Thomas, who set the NFL single-season record with 149 catches last year, for a franchise-record 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns, said the chemistry between him and Hill is developing.

"Yeah, whatever he asks for me to do, however he wants me to run it and wherever he needs me to be, when my number's called I'm trying to be there and be exactly where he needs me to be," Thomas said. "So, we've just been working on that in practice.

"Like I said, he's improved week-in and week-out. Sky's the limit for him, because he's the guy that wants to learn and (is) willing to get better. And I love that about him."

Hill has said that having Thomas on the field is a substantial comfort as he has grown into the role.

"I've just seen a guy come in and handle the situation very well," Thomas said. "He's improved week-in and week-out. He's getting more comfortable, obviously, you can see that. And you can tell a guy that loves football and just wants to win.

"So, whenever you have a guy like on your team, we just want to help him and make him right and complement him and make his job that much easier when he throws you the ball."

Hill is just as appreciative of Thomas' drive and contributions.

"Michael Thomas is phenomenal," Hill said. "He's a big, strong, physical receiver. Such a security blanket for a quarterback early in their career.

"I know that dude has fight on every play, he's so big, strong and physical that if you make the right throw, he's open. I appreciate how hard he plays, how competitive he is and I love playing with him."

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