By HCR Staff | Sept. 26, 2018
Football is a team sport but it’s often just the stars that make the headlines. However, when it comes to coaching, it’s not always about putting your stars in crucial situations. It’s also about choosing the best players suited for those situations. Sometimes it takes more than your franchise players. In the New Orleans Saints’ overtime win over the Atlanta falcons on Sunday, head coach Sean Payton demonstrated this perfectly by pulling future Hall of Famer Drew Brees in favor of backup QB Taysom Hill for a vital third-down conversion. He showed not only knowledge of his personnel, but also his trust in his players.
The Saints and the Falcons faced off in an important NFC South showdown in Atlanta. Both teams came into the matchup 1-1 in a division that seems increasingly up for grabs. The Saints had a difficult challenge in trying to snatch a road win against their division rivals in front of an electric Atlanta crowd, but Payton came prepared to face off against an equally prepared Dan Quinn.
After the Saints scored a touchdown on the opening drive, the lead went back and forth and remained a one-possession game throughout. The two head coaches made good calls in a tight game, but the call of the game and the week goes to Payton.
Brees captured the headlines in this game for becoming the NFL’s all-time leader in completions and winning the game in overtime, but his heroics came after another Saints quarterback was put in a critical situation that could have seriously impacted the game and the division race.
On a third-and-2 from the Saints’ 46, with 12:17 left in the game and the Saints chasing a 6-point deficit, Payton called Hill’s number. Taking out a future Hall of Famer and the face of your franchise on a game-deciding third-down is one of those calls that if unsuccessful is hard to explain. Not to mention, if the Saints did not convert, it would give the Falcons a chance to go up two possessions.
Payton clearly knows what Hill brings to the table as he is used as a kick returner as well. Despite only seeing two NFL snaps on offense prior to Sunday, Payton knew what to call and had the confidence he’d be able to execute.
Payton called an RPO, which Hill decided to keep and ran for a 35-yard gain. The Saints weren’t getting much out of the passing game on this drive so the RPO play call to throw the defense off was a good call. But putting in a better runner in Hill, who can execute a short pass if necessary, was what made this an excellent call. The Saints would score a touchdown at the end of the drive and reclaim the lead.
Similar to Hill’s role, this week’s situational call wasn’t a headline but it was just as impactful on the division race. It is a testament to good coaching when anyone can be called on at any time to execute the little things in the big moments. Well done by Sean Payton showing what coaching is all about.