It took three years, but it finally happened: Taysom Hill threw the first touchdown pass of his NFL career. Sean Payton has insisted for awhile now that Hill has what it takes to be the next Steve Young, and although that claim has raised some eyebrows around the NFL over the years, the Saints quarterback showed flashes of just how good he might be able to become during New Orleans' 21-16 win over Atlanta.
Not only did Hill use his feet to run all over the Falcons, but he also used his right-arm as he threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns. When these two teams met back in Week 11, Hill only threw 23 passes, but for this game, Payton decided to dial things up by having him throw 37 times and Hill responded by completing 27 of those passes.
The most impressive part of Hill's performance is that he constantly came through in the clutch. The Saints converted on six third-down plays of six or more yards in the game and five of those came on throws from Hill. That total included a third-and-13 conversion and a third-and-17 conversion on the same drive in the first half that spanned the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter. The ability to convert on third down was big reason why New Orleans won.
It was a wild Sunday in Week 13 and there's a lot to go over. Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends break down every game; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
On the Saints' first scoring drive of the game, Hill converted a third-and-6 with a seven-yard pass to Jared Cook and then one play later, he came up with one of the biggest plays of the game for New Orleans.
That's a 43-yard run and it was huge, because one play later, Hill would throw the first touchdown pass of his career.
The scoring throw to Tre'Quan Smith gave the Saints a 7-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
Hill's second touchdown pass would come on a third down late in the second quarter, and it was a big one, because if the Saints don't convert, they may have had to settle for a field goal.
Thanks to in large part to Hill, the Saints have been able to survive without Drew Brees, who has now missed three games due to a rib injury. Although Brees has been out, the Saints have still managed to go 3-0. The crazy thing about the Saints is that this team has somehow found a way to thrive when Brees is out. Since the start of last season, the Saints are 8-0 when someone other than Brees starts at quarterback.
The fact that Hill has gotten some serious playing time over the past three weeks is huge for New Orleans as it gets ready for the postseason. For one, it means that Hill will be comfortable starting if something happens to Brees, and also, if Brees is back, Payton will likely be a lot more comfortable putting in bigger packages for Hill once the Saints get to the playoffs. That will keep opposing defenses honest and make the Saints offense nearly impossible to stop in the postseason. The Hill experiment has been win-win-win for the Saints, and it might lead to a few more wins down the road.
Alright, let's get to the grades for every game from Week 13.
New Orleans 21-16 over Atlanta
|The only way the Saints could've landed a higher grade in this contest was if they stopped leaving points on the field. On more than one occasion, they found themselves in Atlanta territory but failed to come up with any points. Had they done so, they could've put this victory in the bag long before it went down to a final bobbled incompletion in the end zone by the Falcons that would've seen the Saints go home with a loss. That said, they gutted it out defensively both overall -- holding the Falcons to only one TD on the day -- and when it mattered most on the final drive of the contest. And speaking of guts, Taysom Hill proved he has plenty to spare, carving Atlanta up with a career day on both the ground and in the air. The Falcons found out the hard way he can be a quarterback when he absolutely has to be. |
|This grade was much lower through three quarters of play. To put it simply, the Falcons offense was downright anemic for much of the game -- mustering only three field goals on several visits deep into Saints territory -- failing to come alive until it was too little, too late. But when they did come alive, they pushed New Orleans to the brink and came one miraculous catch away from stealing the win away from their bitter NFC South rival. The gassed defense deserves credit for two key stops to set the offense up as the fourth quarter wound down. Had Matt Ryan and Co. woken up just a bit sooner, it might be them celebrating right now instead of having been swept by Taysom Hill.|
Saints-Falcons grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Miami 19-7 over Cincinnati
|This game almost turned into a blowout, but the Bengals were able to keep it close thanks to a defense that turned into a brick wall anytime the Dolphins reached the red zone. The Dolphins got inside of Cincinnati's 5-yard line a total of FOUR separate times in this game, but despite the great field position, they were only able to come away with one touchdown. The fact that the defense kept the game close didn't matter, because the Bengals couldn't do anything on offense. The Bengals totaled just 196 yards and 72 of those came on a touchdown pass from Brandon Allen to Tyler Boyd in the first half.|
|Yes, Tua Tagovailoa led the Dolphins to another win, but once again, but he did it without wowing anyone. Although the Dolphins rookie quarterback threw for 296 yards, many of those came in situations where he was bailed out by his receivers. The Dolphins offense also had an ugly day in the red zone, scoring just one touchdown on four trips inside of Cincinnati's 5-yard line. Despite the offensive struggles, this game was never in doubt and that's because the Bengals couldn't move the ball on Miami. The Dolphins simply overwhelmed a Bengals offensive line that was no match for a Dolphins front-seven that racked up six sacks, including three from Kyle Van Noy.|
Minnesota 27-24 over Jacksonville (OT)
|Going into this game, Mike Glennon had only made one start since 2017; against the Vikings, he played like a QB who had only started one game since 2017. Although Glennon actually looked great at times, especially early, he struggled in the second half. Not only did he lose a fumble in the third quarter, but he threw an ugly interception in overtime that end up costing Jacksonville any shot at the win. Despite Glennon's struggles, the Jaguars almost pulled off the upset thanks to a defensive performance that include four sacks and a pick-six from Joe Schobert.|
|At multiple points in this game, it looked like the Vikings were going to blow it against the lowly Jaguars, but Minnesota was able to rebound thanks to fantastic second half from Kirk Cousins, who bounced back with two touchdown passes after throwing a pick-six on Minnesota's opening possession of the third quarter. The Vikings also got off to a rough start on defense, but like Cousins, the D bounced back in the second half with a fumble recovery, a safety and an interception in overtime that helped set up Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal, a redeeming kick after a performance that included two missed extra points and a missed field goal. Like everyone else on the team, Dalvin Cook (120 rushing yards) had his ugly moments, including a fumble at the Jaguars' 1, but then he redeemed himself in OT with eight carries for 39 yards on the drive that set up Bailey's field goal. The Vikings' best performances arguably came from two rookies: Justin Jefferson (nine catches for 121 yards and a TD) and Cameron Dantzler, who picked off a pass and recovered a fumble. The win wasn't pretty, but ugly wins count the same as pretty ones and this victory will keep Minnesota in the NFC playoff race.|
Las Vegas 31-28 over N.Y. Jets
|After getting off to a rough start in this game, Henry Ruggs totally redeemed himself by catching a 46-yard TD pass with just five seconds left to clinch the win for Vegas. Before that catch. Ruggs lost a fumble and bobbled a pass that led to an interception. Besides the big TD from Ruggs, the Raiders other offensive highlight was everything Darren Waller did. The tight end had a monstrous game with 13 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns making him just the fourth tight end in NFL history to go for at least 200 yards and two TDs in a game. Defensively, the Raiders struggled to slow down what is usually an inept Jets offense, but Vegas did make several big plays including an interception and two strip-sacks from Clelin Ferrell. Those three turnovers led to 10 points for the Raiders and in a game this close, it proved to be the difference.|
|Leave it to the Jets to steal defeat from the jaws of victory. For 59 minutes and 55 seconds, it looked like the Jets were going to pull off the upset, but then they made one of the worst coaching decisions in football history: They left the Raiders' fastest offensive player (Henry Ruggs) in single coverage in a situation where Vegas needed a long touchdown, and that decision blew up in their face when Ruggs caught a 46-yard TD to win. Before the play, the Jets played nearly flawless football, especially Ty Johnson, who rushed for 104 yards and a TD on just 22 carries. Of the mistakes the Jets did make in the game, most of them came from Sam Darnold, who turned the ball over on three straight possessions in the first half (two lost fumbles and an interception).|
Indianapolis 26-20 over Houston
|If there's one team T.Y. Hilton always shows up to play, it's the Houston Texans. Hilton has been torching them for his entire career and that continued on Sunday as he caught eight passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Hilton led a diverse offensive attack from the Colts that not only saw nine different receivers catch a pass, but also saw Jonathan Taylor lead the team in rushing. For the Colts, their biggest concern following this game is probably the fact that their defense got torched for the second straight week. The Colts defense gave up nearly 400 yards but did come through with several key plays including a safety, five sacks and a fumble recovery with under two minutes left that iced the win.|
|If you want to know what it looks like when a team constantly shoots itself in the foot, just watch the second half of this game. The Texans could have absolutely beaten the Colts, but they made way too many big mistakes in the second half. The first mistake came on an interception by Deshaun Watson in Colts' territory that only happened because Brandin Cooks let Kenny Moore wrestle the ball away. The second mistake was a safety with just six minutes left to play that gave Indianapolis a 26-20 lead. The third and final mistake was the biggest: On a play from the Colts' 2-yard line with under 90 seconds left, Watson fumbled the snap -- and the game -- away. It wasn't a great snap, but with the game on the line, you have to make sure the ball ends up in your hands.|
Detroit 34-30 over Chicago
|Detroit was never able to establish any consistency on the ground but that didn't end up mattering at all. Matthew Stafford was highly effective despite the absence of Kenny Golladay, D'Andre Swift and Marvin Hall. The defense was able to come up with a big turnover and stop Chicago late to seal this victory, making the NFC North franchise 1-0 in the post-Matt Patricia era. The NFL playoffs are way off in the distance but the dream is technically alive. |
|The Bears did everything right leading up to the final three minutes of the game. They minimized penalties, took care of the football, established the run and carefully attacked the Detroit zone defense. All of their hard work was undone late with a fumble by Mitchell Trubisky that allowed the Lions to score twice in a 41-second span to take the lead. Matt Nagy's seat is sinking lower and lower into lava. His job is certainly under question, and the same is true of general manager Ryan Pace. It is safe to say their quarterback of the future is currently not on the roster.|
Lions-Bears grades by Josh Edwards (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Cleveland 41-35 over Tennessee
| Baker Mayfield completed 20 of his first 25 passing attempts for 290 yards and a whopping four touchdowns in the first half. It was a historic mark, as he became the first Browns quarterback since Otto Graham in 1951 to throw four touchdowns in the first half of a game. That's a big deal considering that this offense has been carried for the majority of the season by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns officially locked up their first winning season since 2007 and showed that they are capable of putting up points in a hurry.|
|The Titans' loss to the Browns on Sunday was eye-opening in many different ways. Still, they don't deserve a failing grade because they mounted a 28-3 run in the second half and came just an onside kick away from making this interesting. But for the majority of the matchup, Tennessee was overwhelmed defensively. The Titans' offense turned the ball over three times and the secondary made Baker Mayfield look like Patrick Mahomes. Once again, the Titans' third-down defense was embarrassing, as Mayfield and Co. converted on 10 of 16 third downs.|
Browns-Titans grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Rams 38-28 over Arizona
|After a slow start, the Rams' passing game had their way against the Cardinals' secondary during the game's final three quarters. Jared Goff completed 10 passes to Robert Woods, eight to Cooper Kupp and six to Gerald Everett. The Rams offense also got just enough production from their running game, as Los Angeles rushed for 119 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. The Rams defense, led by linebacker Troy Reeder (10 tackles), safety John Johnson (nine tackles), Aaron Donald (one sack and a tackle for loss) and Troy Hill (a 35-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter), held the Cardinals to just 18 first downs and 232 total yards. While they did have a fumble on special teams, the Rams offense did not commit a turnover after coughing it up four times in last week's loss to the 49ers. The Rams' missed field goal just before halftime, as well as their two fourth-down misses in the first half, prevented them from receiving a higher grade.|
|Outside of his 59-yard touchdown pass to Dan Arnold on the game's fifth play, Kyler Murray struggled to have success downfield against the Rams defense. And while he finished the game with eight catches and a touchdown, All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins - who was blanketed by Rams Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey for most of the game -- finished with just 52 receiving yards. The Cardinals offense also didn't get much from the running game, as Arizona finished with under 100 rushing yards for just the second time this season. Defensively, the Cardinals allowed the Rams to go 9 of 15 on third down. And after getting some early pressure on Goff, the Cardinals' pass rush was mostly a non-factor once the Rams began to have success on the ground at the start of the second quarter. Arizona did receive another strong effort from safety Budda Baker, who recorded a game-high 12 tackles that included 10 solo stops.|
Rams-Cardinals grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
N.Y. Giants 17-12 over Seattle
|In the biggest shocker of Week 13, the Giants went into Seattle with their backup quarterback and absolutely stunned the Seahawks. Although Colt McCoy and the rest of the offense got off to a disastrous start during a first half where they turned the ball over two times and gave up a safety, they bounced back with a nearly perfect second half that was led by Wayne Gallman, who rushed for 135 yards, including a back-breaking 60-yard carry that set up New York's first TD. Colt McCoy also made multiple clutch throws, including a TD pass late in the third quarter that gave the Giants a 14-5 lead. Of course, this win wouldn't have been possible without a Giants defense that absolutely shut down Russell Wilson, who was sacked five times, including 2.5 by Leonard Williams. With the win, the Giants became the first opposing team this season to win in Seattle.|
|It's not often you see the Seahawks come out and fall flat on their face, but that's exactly what happened on Sunday. The Seahawks gave an ugly performance on both sides of the ball, and the embarrassing part is that it's hard to say which side was worse. Their defense couldn't stop a Giants team that was led by a backup quarterback (Colt McCoy) and they also got steamrolled by Wayne Gallman, who ran for a career-high 135 yards. The offense also sputtered for most of the game before finally showing signs of life late in the fourth quarter, but by then, it was too little, too late. The Seahawks did have some success running the ball (five yards per carry), but they decided to Let Russ Cook and what happened is that the Giants defense went in and burnt down the kitchen.|
Green Bay 30-16 over Philadelphia
|The Eagles get this mark for one reason and one reason only: They benched Carson Wentz for Jalen Hurts, igniting a long-awaited spark in this offense. Hurts threw his first career touchdown pass on a fourth-and-18 play to Greg Ward to cut the Packers lead to two touchdowns and had several strong runs to move the chains and actually make Doug Pederson look like he has a clue. Hurts finished 5 for 12 for 109 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing for 29 yards on five carries. Hurts actually gave Philly a chance to WIN this game. The Eagles should start Hurts next week, plain and simple. Their playoff chances are dead. |
|Aaron Rodgers is a surgeon. He's the fastest quarterback in the NFL to throw 400 touchdown passes (193 games), he had a brilliant first half (just one incomplete pass) and he finished with three touchdowns in the win. Davante Adams dominated Darius Slay throughout the afternoon, catching two touchdowns and finishing with 121 yards on 10 catches. Aaron Jones spoiled the Eagles comeback with a 77-yard touchdown run late and the defense buckled down when the Eagles made it a one-score game. This team looks ready to make a deep playoff run and challenge the Saints for NFC supremacy. |
Eagles-Packers grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
New England 45-0 over L.A. Chargers
|You simply can't ask for any better than what the Patriots rolled out in Los Angeles. It was a truly dominating display in all three phases. Offensively, Cam Newton totaled three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) and played turnover-free football. On defense, the front seven smothered Justin Herbert and allowed him to complete just 49% of his throws while hitting him 11 times and recording three sacks. The cherry on top, however, was on special teams where New England scored twice. The first was a 70-yard punt return by Gunner Olszewski and the second was a blocked field goal attempt by L.A. that was picked up by Devin McCourty and taken to the house. When you put together as complete a game as that, it's hard to not come away with the win. |
|The Chargers looked like a team that forgot to practice special teams this week. On top of the two special teams touchdowns surrendered in their blowout loss to the Patriots, there were a number of occasions where Anthony Lynn's club had just 10 men on the field during a return. That sloppy play was evident by Gunner Olszewski piling up 145 punt return yards in the win. Meanwhile, the offensive line struggled to give Justin Herbert any kind of time in the pocket, which led to a couple of turnovers. The defense had no answers for what the Patriots were doing offensively as Cam Newton totaled three touchdowns. Anthony Lynn was simply outclassed by Bill Belichick in Week 13.|
Patriots-Chargers grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Kansas City 22-16 over Denver
|Hey, give 'em credit for fighting. This was nothing like the two sides' last meeting, when K.C. won by nearly four touchdowns. To be within one score and get a potential go-ahead drive at the end means you're doing something right. And they did: Melvin Gordon was really good taking advantage of Denver's push in the run game, and Vic Fangio's secondary got its hands on a couple of key Patrick Mahomes passes. Still, the little things add up. Guys have to help out Drew Lock on important downs. Lock has to be smarter from start to finish. There's reason for hope here, even if it's mostly for 2021.|
|This grade doesn't do Kansas City justice. On one hand, it feels too lenient, considering the Chiefs allowed Denver to hang around all night. On the other, anyone can plainly see that Patrick Mahomes and Co. are capable of flipping the switch whenever they want. (And they did when they needed to against the Broncos). All in all, not the prettiest of nights for everyone's Super Bowl favorite. They could afford to man up against the run, for one. But no one with a brain actually cares that they turned in a B-level performance. They remain the scariest team in the NFL.|
Broncos-Chiefs grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Washington 23-17 over Pittsburgh
|When you beat the NFL's only undefeated team on the road, you get an A+ and that's exactly what Washington did. Although they trailed 14-3 at halftime, Washington was nearly flawless in the second half in all three phases of the game. Defensively, Washington held the Steelers to just 115 yards of total offense and three points in the second half while also picking off a Ben Roethlisberger pass to ice the game with two minutes left. Offensively, Alex Smith came through in the clutch in the second half, going 16 of 24 for 174 yards and a touchdown. Smith took what the Steelers gave him, which was mostly short stuff, but he did successfully take a few shots down field. The game-winning points came from Dustin Hopkins, who hit two 45-yard field goals over the final 2:07 to clinch the win. The 1972 Dolphins can now pop their champagne bottles and let's be honest, they should probably send a bottle to Washington.|
|The Steelers offense got off to a sluggish start, then caught fire in the second quarter before falling asleep at the wheel for nearly the entire second half. After jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first half, the Steelers would only score three points over the rest of the game and a big reason for that is because they were plagued by drops and bad play-calling. One big problem the Steelers had is that they went 1-for-5 when facing third or fourth-and-1, a total that included failing on a fourth-and-1 from Washington's 28-yard line with just under five minutes to play. The Steelers struggled in short-yardage situations because they simply couldn't run the ball as they finished with just 21 yards on 14 carries. Although the Steelers defense dominated in the first half, Washington slowly broke them down in the second half. On Washington's two touchdown drives in the half, the Steelers allowed the Football Team to complete four passes of 15 yards or more. Before Monday, the Steelers were 78-1-1 at home when leading a game by 14 or more points, but now, they're 78-2-1 and their undefeated season has come to an end. |
Buffalo 34-24 over San Francisco
|When Josh Allen is on fire, there's no beating the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen was on fire against the 49res. The Bills quarterback played arguably his best game of the season. Not only did he tie his career-high by throwing four touchdowns, but he also completed 80% of his passes while throwing for 375 yards. Most importantly, Allen didn't turn the ball over. Allen's four touchdowns went to four different receivers as he kept the 49ers defense on its heels all night. One reason Allen had so much success is because Cole Beasley and Stefon Diggs ran circles around the 49ers secondary. Beasley tallied a career-high 130 yards on nine catches while Diggs totaled 92 yards on 10 catches. The Bills haven't won a playoff game since 1995, but this is starting to feel like the team that could end that 25-year drought.|
|The 49ers had a chance to get squarely back in the NFC playoff race with a win on Monday, but instead, they came out and fell flat on their face. The 49ers couldn't do anything to stop Josh Allen, who threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Due to Allen's success, the Bills were able to race out to a 27-10 lead, which means the 49ers had to play from behind and if there's one thing Nick Mullens doesn't do well, it's playing from behind. The 49ers quarterback struggled during a second half where he threw two picks, including one that came inside the Bills' five-yard line. The 49ers were simply overmatched and outcoached and they looked like a team playing out the string instead of a team fighting for a playoff berth.|
Baltimore 34-17 over Dallas
|The Cowboys offense did its best to make this game interesting, but Dallas ended up getting rolled because they were a total failure in the two phases of the game that didn't involve their offense. Defensively, the Cowboys simply had no answer for the Ravens ground game, which wasn't a surprise at all considering Dallas went into this game with the NFL's worst rushing defense. The Ravens racked up 294 rushing yards, marking the third time this season that Dallas surrendered more than 250 yards on the ground. To put that in perspective, the Cowboys only surrendered 250 or more rushing yards three times total between 2001 and 2019. As for the offense, the Cowboys were able to move the ball, but they got no help from kicker Greg Zuerlein, who missed three field goals, making him just the second kicker this season to miss three or more in a game.|
|After missing more than 10 days due to COVID, Lamar Jackson's right arm looked a little rusty, but fortunately for the Ravens his legs looked just fine. The Ravens quarterback rushed for 94 yards against Dallas and most of that total came in key situations, including a 37-yard TD run that came on a fourth-down play in the first quarter. Jackson and the Ravens rushing attack had their way with the Cowboys, rushing for 294 yards, which is the team's highest total of the season and the second-highest total since 2010. Gus Edwards did the most damage for Baltimore as he rushed for 101 yards on just seven carries. Defensively, the Ravens weren't great, but when you're playing the Cowboys, you don't have to be.|