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Taysom Hill at his all-around best for New Orleans Saints in last two games

'Teams still have to stop it'

Taysom Hill long ago lost the benefit of deception.

No matter, because when the New Orleans Saints quarterback gets on a roll, knowing he's on the way and preventing his arrival are two wholly different items. And lately, Hill has been arriving on schedule for the Saints, 6-2 entering Sunday's game against San Francisco (4-5) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

In the Saints' 38-3 victory over Tampa Bay, New Orleans' fifth straight win and one that lifted the team into first place in the NFC South Division, the 6-foot-2, 221-pounder had one of his best days in his four-year career: Single-game career highs in rushing attempts (seven), rushing yards (54), completions (two), and passing yards (48), and added a 21-yard reception.

The possibility of predictability isn't an issue when Hill – and the Saints' offense – is in a groove.

"It's definitely valuable because at the end of the day, people talk about, 'Why are we doing that, why are we doing this?' But, teams still have to stop it," running back Alvin Kamara said.

"They know when Drew (Brees) lines up at quarterback, it's a possibility he's going to throw the ball. When Taysom lines up, he can throw the ball, they think he's going to run it – they've got to stop both, they've got to figure out what to do with him. It's something I think is an asset to our gameplan week in and week out."

Statistically, Hill started slowly this season. In back-to-back games, against Green Bay and Detroit, he fumbled.

But the last two games – against Chicago, he had five carries for 35 yards and caught two passes for 30 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown – Hill's effectiveness has been on display against two of the league's stingiest defenses.

"This team was different," Coach Sean Payton said of Tampa Bay. "We got him a handful of throws, especially early on – he hit the seam (pass) to Jared (Cook). And then, if we can get his body moving forward the right way, he's a tough out.

"I thought we blocked them well up front. His numbers had a lot to do with how we ended up with (138) yards rushing, against a team that's hard to do (that against)."

Hill's impact is reason enough for Brees, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, to defer in the times when he's asked to line up as a receiver, or come off the field, so that Hill can get an at-bat.

"I think if you just look at the productivity," Brees said Wednesday. "And look, I think what people don't realize, too, is the stress that that puts on a defense.

"The defense has to have a plan for when Taysom is in the game at the quarterback position, and the myriad of things that we can do. You know, we can run read-option stuff, we can do (run/pass options). Sometimes he's handing off, sometimes he's running it. Sometimes it's designed quarterback runs. Sometimes we're throwing it, sometimes it's short, sometimes it's deep.

"We have the opportunity to do so many things when he's in the game and when he's at the quarterback position. So, it's just that much more stress on the defense and there's big play opportunities and big play ability there. So that just becomes a great element for the offense."

It wouldn't work if Hill wasn't a willing, and able, participant. From the moment he agreed to step on the field in any capacity – initially, on special teams as a kickoff returner and member of the cover teams – teammates have gravitated toward him and marveled at the blunt force he provides.

"I think it's all-encompassing," Kamara said. "His toughness is one thing that I think separates him from a lot of guys. He's the type of dude, he'll run into a wall and get back up and be like, 'All right, what's the next play?' He's just very tough, he's got a lot of grit. He just is going to do whatever he's got to do to help us win."

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