Taysom Hill, Saints outdueled by Cowboys

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

saints cowboys
The Saints have lost five games straight. (Matthew Tate)

The Dallas Cowboys defeated the New Orleans Saints 27-17 in the Caesars Superdome on Thursday night. After losing on Thanksgiving to a rampant Buffalo Bills team, New Orleans failed to rebound and now risks missing the playoffs entirely. 

For the first time this year, the Saints decided to start quarterback Taysom Hill following the Saints’ fourth consecutive loss. On the ground, he was his tough self, running for 101 yards on 11 carries. However, he was poor through the air. 

Even though Hill threw for two touchdowns and 264 yards, he completed less than half his passes, and four of the passes he did complete were to players brandishing that famous Cowboy star on their helmet.

The game started brightly for the Saints. Hill completed several short passes, but their first two possessions ended in a punt and a missed 56-yard field goal by Brett Maher. Defensively, New Orleans forced a three-and-out, then stopped Dallas on fourth down.

The normally explosive Cowboys offense looked pedestrian against New Orleans. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw one touchdown and one interception and went 26-40 for 238 yards. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott only had 45 yards on the ground and was outshone by his teammate Tony Pollard, who had 71 yards rushing. Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb also had a good game, gaining 89 yards on seven catches.

After the Saints punted again, Dallas quickly drove down the field, starting with Prescott connecting with Amari Cooper for a 41-yard gain. Prescott then threw a screen pass to Lamb, who broke a defender’s ankles before being tackled at the 1-yard line. 

The next play, Prescott lobbed a ball to the back corner of the endzone, which Michael Gallup made an incredible catch for a touchdown.

New Orleans responded with a touchdown drive of their own. Hill threw a laser to Juwan Johnson for 27 yards before later finding a wide open Lil’Jordan Humphrey for a 24-yard score.

Dallas responded with a seven-play drive that ended with a 55-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein, before both offenses exchanged three-and-outs. Near the end of the half, Hill drove the Saints down the field. However, while looking for Kenny Stills along the sideline, his slightly overthrown ball was intercepted by a diving Jayron Kearse.  

With just over two minutes left in the half, Prescott led the Dallas offense down the field, which resulted in a 34-yard field goal, giving the Cowboys a 13-7 halftime lead.

Dallas punted to begin the second half, and the Saints capitalized by converting on a 42-yard field goal. Hill showed off his running ability, including a 24-yard scramble where he evaded several Cowboy defenders.

Both teams again traded three-and-outs, but Dallas struck next. A left-sided pitch to Tony Pollard resulted in a 58-yard touchdown run, as the running back’s speed proved too much for New Orleans. 

Following the touchdown, the next three possessions all resulted in punts. Prescott then threw an interception, when his deep pass attempt was easily undercut by Marshon Lattimore. 

The ensuing drive started well for the Saints, as the offense managed to convert a fourth-and-8. However, Hill’s next pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, resulting in an easy interception for Damontae Kazee. Dallas, however, went immediately three-and-out. 

The Saints next possession lasted only two plays, as Trevon Diggs intercepted a poor floated pass by Hill. This was Diggs’ ninth interception of the season. Dallas failed to capitalize and again went three-and-out.  

Hill would finish off a dismal second half when he threw his fourth interception of the game. Carlos Watkins picked off the ball at the line of scrimmage, before taking it all the way back for a Dallas touchdown.  

New Orleans restored some pride when Deontae Harris caught a short pass and managed to break free for a 70-yard touchdown. Dallas recovered the ensuing onside kick, ending the game 27-17.

For Saints fans, this game was frustrating to watch. The defense played well and for the most part, limited the explosive playmakers of the Cowboy’s offense. Lattimore’s interception should have been the spark to jumpstart New Orleans back into the game.

However, the offensive play calling was baffling. Despite being more known for his tough running rather than his passing, Hill threw the ball 41 times and only completed 19 of them to his own teammates. It was as if the Saints assumed they still had Drew Brees or even Jameis Winston under center. In fact when he was healthy, Winston did not even have 41 pass attempts in a game this season despite being a superior thrower. 

With New Orleans’ season quickly spiraling, head coach Sean Payton needs to quickly figure out how to fix his offense. Next week, the Saints will be traveling to face the New York Jets.  The game will be on Dec. 12 at noon central time and will be broadcast on CBS.