P.J. Williams jumped Tom Brady’s fourth-quarter pass and headed to the end zone. The New Orleans Saints were on their way to defeating Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 36-27, and further on their way to reminding the NFL of their power and potential.
New Orleans is 5-2, just a half game back of the Bucs (and with the tiebreaker for now), and, considering this vanquishing of the reigning Super Bowl champions, very capable of not just reaching the playoffs but defeating anyone in it.
Well, that is if the Saints have a quarterback.
Enthusiasm over Sunday’s victory was tempered by news the injury that knocked starter Jameis Winston out of the game was serious.
“I think it’s significant,” coach Sean Payton said. “He felt something and he’s on crutches right now but I don't want to say until I've had a chance to talk to the doctors. When he got up and had to go back down, you were a little concerned.”
The Saints won this game with Trevor Siemian filling in and somehow outdueling Brady. Siemian was able to lead a touchdown drive and generally hold the offense together. He went 16-of-29 for 159 yards and one touchdown.
It was the first time the 2015 seventh-round draft pick had played since 2019 (with the New York Jets) and the first touchdown he had thrown since 2017 (with the Denver Broncos).
Great win for Siemian. But that isn’t a formula that can last.
The most obvious option is Taysom Hill, a multi-purpose talent who battled Winston for the starting quarterback job before switching back to being used as a rusher and receiver. Hill was out with a concussion Sunday. Perhaps he’s back for Atlanta next week.
Or perhaps the Saints will want to keep using him across the offense and consider a separate option. The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday. New Orleans could cobble something together quickly for a more experienced backup somewhere.
Or else they should at least consider grabbing the one guy who is sitting out there, free and, he says, ready to go.
The 32-year-old hasn’t played since getting cut by New England after the third preseason game. That’s when Bill Belichick decided to push forward with rookie Mac Jones.
Newton has sat unclaimed since, even though it wasn’t that he played poorly in the preseason and lost his job. It’s just Jones played well enough to convince Belichick that he was worth going with immediately.
Newton went 14-of-21 in the preseason for 163 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was particularly sharp in the second game against Philadelphia when he went 8-of-9 for 103 yards.
A year ago, he completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Pro Football Focus graded him out at a mediocre 70.9.
That said, Newton had multiple weeks where he played well on a Patriots team that lacked receivers and was in flux after the departure of Tom Brady. Belichick loved him. So did his teammates. A bout with COVID-19 seemed to knock him off his game for a stretch. New England still managed a 7-9 record.
Cam was a long way from his 2015 MVP season with Carolina, but he wasn’t that bad in 2020 or this preseason.
“There’s not 32 guys out there better than me,” Newton said after being cut. “Let’s be honest.”
He’s probably right about that. And there may not be a better option for the Saints, who have too much at stake to sit tight with Siemian and just hope for the best.
Newton said he was willing to stay in New England as a backup but theorized the Patriots feared he’d be “a distraction” and it was better to give Jones the job. Cam even said he understood and sort of agreed.
“Just my aura,” Newton said. “That’s my gift and my curse. When you bring a Cam Newton to your facility, you bring a Cam Newton to your franchise, people are interested by the mere fact, ‘Who is he?’”
Well, he’d be the starter now, perhaps the entire season depending on how it goes with Winston’s knee. Newton, who ran into NFL COVID-19 protocols this preseason, has said he has since gotten vaccinated so that wouldn’t be an obstacle to another team signing him.
Otherwise, he has spent his fall working out, staying prepared and producing content for his social media channels. He was waiting for an opportunity.
The Saints may have one. Perhaps they want to go with Hill, or try to ride Siemian for as long as they can. But this is, at the very least, a conversation they should have because this team is too good not to consider all of its options.