Taysom Hill got the first start of the preseason. Jameis Winston threw the first touchdown pass. But neither of the New Orleans Saints’ quarterback contenders was able to avoid the turnover epidemic that doomed a 17-14 loss at the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday.
Each QB threw an interception as part of the Saints’ whopping total of six turnovers.
“I’m not making comparisons with the quarterbacks right now,” coach Sean Payton said after the game. “It doesn’t matter who [played better], really, with six turnovers, right?”
Unofficially, it was probably a tie or a slight win for Winston after both QBs mixed in some nice plays as well. But the battle is still too close to call as they head into Round 2, with Winston expected to get his turn to start next Monday night at Jacksonville.
Payton, Hill and Winston all acknowledged that they will actually find some good things when they review the film, including Winston’s stellar touchdown drive before the two-minute warning and Hill’s impressive opening drive that ended with a Latavius Murray fumble inside the Ravens’ 10-yard line.
And neither quarterback was solely to blame for the interceptions.
Hill and receiver Ty Montgomery got their signals crossed on a hot-read throw when Montgomery sat in the middle of the field and Hill expected him to keep running.
Winston, meanwhile, threw a deep ball to Humphrey that appeared to be slightly underthrown but bounced out of Humphrey’s hands and into the waiting arms of a safety.
All told, Hill completed 8 of 12 passes for 81 yards with no TD drives and the interception. Winston completed 7 of 12 passes for 96 yards while leading two TD drives with one TD pass and one interception.
“At first glance, it’s hard to talk about anything other than six turnovers. But I think there are a lot of really good things that we can all learn from [and] some really good things overall,” said Hill, who said there was “just a little confusion” on the interception.
“I was expecting him to stay on the move in that look, and he thought he should settle,” Hill said. “I think those are the things it’s nice to see in a preseason game, so we can make sure that between our room and that room that we’re all on the same page.”
Winston was even more blunt when asked to describe his interception, saying, “Has to be a batter ball — and it will be.”
As for his TD pass, in which he patiently looked to the right flat before turning and hitting a well-covered Humphrey in the middle of the end zone, Winston credited Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.
“Great play call by Pete,” said Winston, who also praised the offensive line and running back Tony Jones Jr. for their work on the scoring drives. “We ran it a little farther out than I was expecting, but just great timing. LJ got open on the back end. Had pressure on us, they were in man-to-man coverage, and we got us a good one.”
Winston also made two great throws earlier on that TD drive — a 26-yarder on third-and-9 to Montgomery between two defenders, and a 33-yard strike to tight end Juwan Johnson.
Hill’s best throws came early to New Orleans’ summer breakout receiver Marquez Callaway, who caught three passes for 61 yards on the opening drive, including conversions on third-and-9 and third-and-7.
Both QBs had some nice moments where they had to avoid pressure or get deeper into their progressions. Each had one or two off-target throws. Each took one sack.
The game mirrored the first two weeks of training camp practices, where Winston has also reached some higher highs with a few flash plays and standout practice sessions. But neither QB has done anything dramatic enough to truly “win” or “lose” the competition yet.
“Look, the talk of a competition is right here,” Hill said, pointing to the media assembled in the postgame news conference area, when asked if his mindset is different while battling for the starting job. “I think for me, it’s going out there and playing my best football every night. I don’t like when things don’t go well if I’m in a competition or not in a competition. At the end of the day, I’m trying to be as good as I possibly can for my teammates. So it’s all the same [as any other year].”