Taysom Hill admitted that last week was an emotional one for him and his wife, Emily, as they reflected on his journey from undrafted rookie in 2017, to "Swiss Army knife" player for the New Orleans Saints, to starting at quarterback for the Saints on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"I felt a lot of love from a lot of people," he said. "It was overwhelming, in a good way."
Then, Hill went about the business of overwhelming the Falcons in the best ways he could in a 24-9 victory for New Orleans (8-2), the seventh straight win for the first-place team in the NFC South Division.
Hill, starting in place of the injured Drew Brees, made his first start since his senior season at BYU in 2016. And to imply he was a major influence would be an understatement: He completed 18 of 23 passes for 233 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions, and ran 10 times for a game-high 51 yards and two touchdowns. He also lost a fumble with 8:20 left in the fourth quarter and the Saints driving for another score; it was recovered at the Atlanta 18-yard line.
"Overall, I was happy with what we did," Hill said. "I think the first thing you come out, you look at turnovers and I was really disappointed that I put the ball on the ground late in the game. Felt like that was a drive where we could have just put the game away and I coughed one up and I was disappointed in that. I missed a couple of throws where the ball just kind of slid out of my hand. I think that those things are easy to fix.
"But overall, without looking at the film and really breaking everything down, I was happy the way that I played, I was happy the way that my teammates played and it was a collective effort to get this win."
Coach Sean Payton also was pleased with what he saw from Hill.
"I thought he played well," Payton said. "Had the one turnover late in the game in the four-minute (offense), we had a big touchdown pass called back. But it was a good team win. I thought we were fantastic defensively. We managed to take advantage of enough opportunities to win that game.
"Your first start ever in the NFL – I think he called one formation flipped around the wrong way – and all of that kind of calmed down and he got very comfortable with the flow of the game and did a good job. We did a good job up front, I thought, blocking them."
New Orleans ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns against a Falcons run defense that was allowing 99.7 rushing yards per game entering Sunday. That helped offset the absence of Brees, who'll miss an undetermined amount of time while recovering from fractured ribs and a punctured lung.
"It's the process we go through every week," Payton said. "It's obviously a different type of plan. Our players were good all week, rock solid. (Backup quarterback) Jameis (Winston) – I mean, all of us.
"This happens a lot to other positions and I understand when it happens to the quarterback there's more attention drawn to it, but these guys handled it well, we've been playing well and it was good to get another win."
Payton said the offense changed some to fit Hill's talents.
"We carried a lot of the same protections," he said. "Certainly, we featured some heavy play actions. We felt like it was going to be a lot of down-safety defense, I thought we threw the ball down the field well. I was proud of the execution."
The production included the best game of the season for receiver Michael Thomas (nine catches for 104 yards) and the 12th touchdown of the season for running back Alvin Kamara (13 carries for 45 yards).
Each expected Hill to play well.
"He played tremendous," Thomas said. "I could tell all throughout the week, his preparation, I could see the look in his eyes. He was ready for the moment, every day. He found a way to win today.
"He just progressed to today and everyone saw, and I'm very proud of him. I'm kind of lost for words because I know he's been waiting for that moment and he finally got it, and he showed what he could do. He's still has a lot of room for improvement, that's the exciting thing."
"He got a win, so that's not too bad," Kamara said. "He did well. Being his first start, he was calm, he was pretty composed, he settled into the game pretty quickly. And he just executed.
"This team is resilient. Whoever goes down, it is what it is. This game doesn't stop for one person. Everybody knows that, it's nothing personal. It's the nature of our game. The next person's got to step up and be ready and prepare and do what they have to do, and in that case it's Taysom having to step up and prepare and do all the things that he has to do to be able to execute and get a win. He got a win, so we're feeling good."
Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons matchup in Week 11 of the 2020 NFL season.