Saints vs. Broncos had promise as the weirdest game of Week 12, and in some ways, it didn’t disappoint.
Denver was without all of its rostered quarterbacks due to COVID-19 protocols and lost to New Orleans, 31-3, on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High. Kendall Hinton, a promoted practice squad receiver, got the passing duties for the Broncos while they also let Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay take snaps in quarterback alignment. With Taysom Hill on the other side, that meant that the NFL’s 2020 pass-heavy identity was nowhere to be found.
The Broncos became the first team with more passes intercepted than completions since the Chargers in 1998 against the Chiefs.
Ryan Leaf started that game for San Diego. pic.twitter.com/GEAYix0Ax6
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 29, 2020
Such a crazy matchup meant some weird stats. We broke down the oddest aspects of the Saints’ win.
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Kendall Hinton’s rough day
Hinton had one day to prepare for his first NFL start, but even more, he had one day to prepare for his first game as a quarterback since 2018. He matched up against one of the best defenses in the NFL — the Saints had allowed the third-fewest yards in the league entering Week 12.
The final stats for Hinton aligned with the difficult sledding it was projected to be. Hinton completed 1-of-9 passes for 13 yards. He threw two interceptions, completing more throws to the opposing team than to his own squad. Almost immediately after Hinton’s first career completion, he threw his second pick.
Hinton’s statline resembled that of 49ers’ quarterback Cody Pickett in 2005, when he completed one out of 13 passes for 28 yards and an interception at a windy Soldier Field.
Run, run, run some more
Entering Week 12, the average NFL team was attempting 35.2 passes per game, according to Pro Football Reference. The Saints and Broncos combined to throw fewer passes than that Sunday, finishing with a total of 25 throws attempted.
Not only were Hill and Hinton both better equipped to lead rushing attacks than to throw a lot, but the game also got out of hand quickly. That meant the more competent starting quarterback, Hill, could just hand off for much of the second half after the Saints put up a 17-spot in the second quarter.
While Hill’s passing was better than Hinton’s, it wasn’t exactly top notch. Hill had an encouraging first start in Week 11, when he completed 18-of-23 passes for 223 yards. But he wasn’t as good through the air in Week 12.
Hill connected on just 9-of-16 passes for 78 yards and an interception. That meant Hill and Hinton combined to be 10-for-25 (40 percent) for 91 yards with three interceptions (12 percent interception rate). The NFL average entering Week 12 was a 65.7 completion percentage and interceptions thrown on 2.2 percent of passes.
Chiefs make Saints vs. Broncos stats look silly
The Saints and Broncos combined for 91 passing yards in Week 12. Patrick Mahomes, playing quarterback for the Chiefs against the Buccaneers, threw for 359 on his own just in the first half in Tampa.
Mahomes’ teammate, Tyreek Hill, caught 210 of Mahomes’ first-half yards by himself. That’s 1.875 times the Broncos’ final full-game yardage total of 112.