It won't be much consolation for the New Orleans Saints that they had several individual performances worth noting in Sunday's season-ending, 26-20 overtime loss to Minnesota in their NFC Wild Card playoff game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But here are a few for the Saints (13-4), who have suffered last-play losses in the playoffs the last three years.
OFFENSE: The offense was grinding gears most of the day but quarterback Taysom Hill supplied much of the excitement on the two touchdown drives. He completed a 50-yard pass to Deonte Harris to set up Alvin Kamara's 4-yard touchdown run, and he caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees in the fourth quarter to help the Saints pull to within 20-17. Hill ran four times for 50 yards (including a 28-yard run), completed the pass for 50 yards and caught two passes for another 25 yards, and the touchdown. New Orleans struggled on offense, but Hill managed to find some openings, or create some with his punishing runs.
DEFENSE: Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was a really, really good waiver pickup for the Saints at the end of the regular season. He had an end zone interception – and earned a game ball – in the regular-season finale, and he forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Vonn Bell on Minnesota's second offensive play. It led to a Saints field goal and 3-0 lead. "Jackrabbit" finished with a half-sack, a quarterback hit, the forced fumble and eight tackles as he started his second straight game in place of injured Eli Apple. He has ball skills and doesn't shy away from contact, good traits to have at cornerback.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Hopefully, Deonte Harris enjoyed his rookie season as an All-Pro punt returner and Pro Bowl returner for the NFC. Because teams won't likely be giving him many opportunities next year. Harris returned four punts for 44 yards against Minnesota but did even more damage on kickoffs, with 133 yards on four returns. He popped loose for a 54-yard return near the end of the first half – New Orleans failed to capitalize, as Wil Lutz missed a 43-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the second quarter – but the Vikings learned their lesson. Minnesota's second-half kickoff was a short blooper fielded by fullback Ricky Ortiz. Harris, an undrafted rookie, was the equivalent of found money this season.