SALT LAKE CITY — The legend of Taysom Hill took another major leap Sunday, even in defeat.
The third-string New Orleans Saints quarterback and former BYU standout made several impacts plays for the Saints in their 26-20 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the NFC wild-card playoffs.
It was little consolation for Hill and the Saints, who lost for the third straight season in the playoffs on the final play of the game — this time on a 4-yard Kyle Rudolph touchdown in overtime.
“We had a great season, a great team, and it hurts to go out like that,” Hill said in a postgame interview.
Hill’s 20-yard touchdown grab from New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees with 10:31 remaining in regulation — his seventh receiving touchdown of the season — brought the Saints within 20-17.
He also set up New Orleans’ first touchdown. First, Hill carried the ball for an 11-yard gain on a run-pass option to the Saints’ 46-yard line.
On the next play, with Hill lined up in the shotgun, he connected with Deonte Harris for a 50-yard gain on the longest pass of his pro career, setting up New Orleans with a first-and-goal at the Vikings 4.
The pass covered 54.7 yards through the air and had a completion probability of 27.2%, according to Next Gen Stats.
Hill then served as the lead blocker on the next play, as Alvin Kamara scored on a 4-yard carry to give the Saints a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.
“He’s really an asset for us, a great teammate. He made a lot of plays,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said of Hill in his postgame press conference.
The former BYU quarterback had his name all over the gamebook, rushing for a team-high 50 yards on four carries and catching two passes for 25 yards, in addition to his completed pass. His four carries all went for first downs and Hill also had a special teams tackle.
“It’s a team game. They were kind of forcing our hand, doing everything they could to take away Mike T. (receiver Michael Thomas) and some of our other guys so there were a few opportunities to step up and make a few plays. At the end of the day, it’s all about doing what you can to help our team win and that’s been my mindset all year,” Hill said.
His impact could have been greater, if not for the Vikings’ heroics to earn their second playoff win over the Saints in three years.
With under six minutes in the fourth quarter, Hill took a carry for a 9-yard gain to the New Orleans 47 on a third-and-1 to keep a drive alive. Two plays later, facing a second-and-5 at the Minnesota 48, Hill took the snap left and broke through a pair of tackles before rattling off a bruising 28-yard run to the Minnesota 20.
On the next play, Brees had the ball stripped by Danielle Hunter and the Vikings recovered to end the scoring threat and maintain Minnesota’s 20-17 lead.
In the third quarter, Hill appeared to convert a fourth-and-3 on a fake punt with New Orleans trailing 20-10, but the play was wiped out by a false start.
“We didn’t capitalize on some big-play opportunities when we had the chance. At the end of the day, when you add them up, they did made more plays than we did,” Brees said in his postgame press conference.
Hill lamented the Saints’ inability to get their offense going much of the game.
“I think we struggled on third down. It was tough to get drives started, get that first first down and get going. I think that was kind of the Achilles heel tonight,” he said.
Despite this, they still had a shot to win after New Orleans forced overtime with a 49-yard Will Lutz field goal with two seconds remaining in regulation. Minnesota advanced to the NFC divisional round, though, by driving 75 yards on nine plays on the first drive of overtime and won on Kirk Cousins’ 4-yard score to Rudolph.
Hill, who’s spent his first three NFL seasons with the Saints, will be a restricted free agent this offseason.
“Minnesota played a good game and you’ve got to tip your hat to them,” Hill said.
Other NFL locals on wild-card weekend
Marcus Williams, FS, New Orleans: The former Utah defender started at free safety and had a team-high 10 tackles, including five solo stops, in the Saints’ loss.
Cody Barton, LB, Seattle: The former Utah and Brighton High standout started his first-ever playoff game at SAM linebacker and had a solid outing in the Seahawks’ 17-9 win over Philadelphia, finishing with a sack on a second-and-8 play that helped force a punt, two pass deflections and a quarterback hurry. He also had five tackles, including four solo stops.
Bobby Wagner, MLB, Seattle: The former Utah State star started at middle linebacker and had seven tackles, including six solo stops and a tackle for loss on a third-down play, in the win over the Eagles.
Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, DE, Seattle: The former BYU pass rusher had a solo tackle and a quarterback hurry before leaving the game with an injury in the second quarter.
Marquise Blair, S, Seattle: The former Utah safety played, but did not record any statistics in the Seahawks’ win.
Robert Turbin, RB, Seattle: The former Utah State back played but did not record any statistics in the Seahawks’ win.
John Ursua, WR, Seattle: The former Cedar and Westlake High standout played, but did not record any statistics in the Seahawks’ win.
Bryan Mone, DT, Seattle: The former Highland High lineman was not active for the Seahawks’ win.
Sua Opeta, OG, Philadelphia: The former Weber State and Stansbury High product was not active for the Eagles’ loss to the Seahawks.
Kyle Van Noy, LB, New England: The former BYU ’backer had a strip sack on Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the third quarter and added five tackles for the Patriots — including a stop for no gain on a third-and-3 play in the fourth — in their 20-13 loss to the Titans.
LeShaun Sims, CB, Tennessee: The former Southern Utah defensive back played 11 special-teams snaps in the Titans’ win.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Buffalo: The former Utah, Snow College and Bingham High product started at defensive tackle and had solo two tackles for the Bills in their 22-19 overtime loss to Houston. The second came on a fourth-and-1 for no gain late in the fourth quarter and helped lead to a Bills field goal that forced overtime.
Taron Johnson, CB, Buffalo: The former Weber State defensive back started and had a pass deflection on a third-down play that led to a punt before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury in the loss to the Texans.