The New Orleans Saints didn't need to do much to defeat the Denver Broncos, after all three quarterbacks on the Broncos' active roster were ruled out due to COVID-19. The Saints rushed for 229 yards in a blowout victory to remain atop the NFC standings. New Orleans has won eight games in a row, the longest active winning streak in the NFC.
Taysom Hill was not efficient throwing the football, completing just 9 of 16 passes for 78 yards and an interception as New Orleans finished with just 63 net passing yards in 11 possessions. Hill averaged just 4.9 yards per pass attempt, but rushed for two touchdowns and finished with 10 carries for 44 yards. Hill has four rushing touchdowns since taking over as the Saints starting quarterback two games ago.
Latavius Murray had his first multi-touchdown game since Week 4, leading the Saints with 19 carries for 124 yards and two scores. Alvin Kamara was absent for the majority of the second half as the Saints had the game in hand. He finished with 11 carries for 54 yards.
Denver used practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback after all the quarterbacks on the active roster were ruled high risk for COVID-19, following Jeff Driskel's placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier in the week. Hinton finished 1 of 9 for 13 yards with two interceptions and a passer rating of zero.
Denver became the first team to complete just one pass in a game since the 2005 San Francisco 49ers with Cody Pickett. Hinton was 0 for 7 with an interception in the first half as Denver became the first NFL team since the 2011 Broncos with Tim Tebow to finish a half without a completion.
Here's a look at the main takeaways from the Saints' victory.
Why The Saints Won
The Saints just took advantage of a decimated Broncos team, never putting the inevitable outcome in doubt. No matter who the Saints had running the football, they were efficient -- averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The Saints didn't need Alvin Kamara to carry the offense in this one, as Latavius Murray had 19 carries for 124 yards and two scores as he controlled the game in the second half. Even if Taysom Hill isn't an efficient passer, the Broncos respected his ability to throw the ball -- which opened up the run. Hill even rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the win, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The Saints ran the ball 44 times, and who could blame them.
Why The Broncos Lost
The Broncos were behind the eight-ball before the game even started with Kendall Hinton starting at quarterback. Denver just had no passing game with Hinton, as the Broncos were the first team since the 1998 San Diego Chargers to have more interceptions than completions in a game. Hinton's only completion was to Noah Fant, which was a pass to the tight end behind the line of scrimmage before Fant took it for 13 yards and a first down. The Broncos only had six first downs and 112 total yards of offense in the loss; five of those first downs were via rushing. Denver tried running out of the Wildcat to move the ball, but New Orleans caught on quickly. The Broncos just didn't have the manpower to compete on a NFL field Sunday.
The Saints only needed an early score to take care of the Broncos and make sure they were playing from behind. After gaining just five yards on their first two possessions, New Orleans went to the run to score the first touchdown of the game. The Saints went on a 13-play, 74-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead and never look back, running the ball 11 times on the possession. Alvin Kamara had runs of 15 and 14 yards on the drive, which was capped by a Taysom Hill touchdown on third-and-goal at the 1-yard line. That touchdown was all the Saints needed.
Play of the Game
This 36-yard run by Latavius Murray was the exclamation point for the Saints rushing attack, giving New Orleans a 24-3 lead and showcasing how dangerous Murray is with the ball in his hands. Murray took one cut past a diving DeMarcus Walker and was off to the end zone for the score, his first since Week 4 of the season.
"I was disappointed on several levels that our quarterbacks put us in that position, that our quarterbacks put the league in that position. We count on them to be the leaders of our team, the leaders of our offense, and those guys made a mistake." -- Broncos head coach Vic Fangio after the loss, per The Athletic's Lindsay Jones.
Drew Lock apologized for Denver's quarterbacks showing a lapse in judgment at a meeting earlier in the week, saying the Broncos quarterbacks "let our masking slip for a limited amount of time in a controlled and socially distanced area," which put all the signal callers at a high-risk for COVID-19, making them ineligible to play.
The Broncos (4-7) travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs on "Sunday Night Football" while the Saints (9-2) travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons next Sunday.