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NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Saints’ hellish season continues.
Saints quarterback Taysom Hill injured the middle finger on his throwing hand in the first quarter and went on to throw four interceptions in a 27-17 loss to Dallas Thursday night at the Superdome. The Saints lost five straight games for the first time since 2005, which was the season before coach Sean Payton arrived.
“It’s difficult,” Payton said after his team dropped to 5-7. “It’s difficult losing.”
Carlos Watkins returned a Hill interception 29 yards for a touchdown and a 27-10 lead with 2:52 to play.
The Saints cut Dallas’ lead to 27-17 with 2:47 to play on a short pass from Hill to wide receiver Deonte Harris, who turned it into a 70-yard touchdown. Hill finished 19-of-41 passing for 264 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 101 yards around the four picks.
“I thought he played with a lot of heart and guts,” Payton said. “We had to splint it (the finger). He felt good enough to go.”
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott completed 26 of 40 passes for 238 yards with a touchdown and one interception.
“It’s tough to win when you turn it over four times,” Hill said.
Interim Dallas coach Dan Quinn particularly enjoyed the turnovers as he is the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator. He served as head coach for the game to replace regular head coach Mike McCarthy because of COVID-19 protocols after McCarthy caught the virus. Five Dallas assistant coaches also sat out the game because of COVID.
Dallas (8-4) went up 20-10 late in the third quarter on a 58-yard touchdown run by Tony Pollard.
Hill started his first game since late last season after recovering from a recent foot injury. Journeyman quarterback Trevor Siemian had started the Saints’ last four losses in place of Jameis Winston, who injured his knee and was lost for the season during the Saints’ last win — 36-27 over Tampa Bay on Halloween.
Payton said he never considered replacing Hill with Siemian.
“No, he was going to play quarterback,” he said.
Hill started off fast and completed 12 of 21 passes for 144 yards in the first half, including a 24-yard touchdown to Lil’Jordan Humphrey to tie the game 7-7 with 13:20 to go in the second quarter.
But in the first quarter, Hill accidentally slammed his right middle finger into the arm of a Dallas defender and jammed it. It was taped up during a visit to the medical tent, and he seemed fine.
After Dallas took a 10-7 lead on a Greg Zuerlein 55-yard field goal with 9:09 to go in the second quarter, Hill drove the Saints inside the Dallas 30-yard line with a chance to tie or take the lead. But he was intercepted on second down from the 26-yard line on a pass to wide receiver Kenny Stills. Jayron Kearse picked it off with 2:28 to go.
Dallas then drove 79 yards in 12 plays to take a 13-7 halftime lead on a 34-yard field goal by Zuerlein as time expired.
“That turnover before the half was a significant play,” Payton said.
Then the finger injury bothered Hill profusely from the third quarter on as he threw three interceptions in the second half.
The Saints drew within 13-10 with 8:26 to play in the third quarter on a 42-yard field goal by Brett Maher. Hill — with his finger hurting — rushed four times for 42 yards on the drive and pulled on his aggravated finger in between plays.
His last three passes on the drive were incomplete and off-target, and the Saints had to settle for a field goal.
The Saints were without leading rusher Alvin Kamara for the fourth straight game. Both starting offensive tackles — Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead — missed the game with injuries.
“We need to get some of those guys back,” Payton said.
The Saints play at the New York Jets on Dec. 12.
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