It was a painful and disastrous start for Taysom Hill.
Starting at quarterback for this first time this season, Hill injured his finger early on and hurt any chances of a New Orleans Saints comeback against the Dallas Cowboys with four interceptions in a 27-17 loss.
At night's end, Hill's toughness and ability running the ball was reason for praise, but his four-INT outing was a dubious showing that proved paramount in the Saints losing their fifth consecutive game for the first time in the Sean Payton regime.
"It's very frustrating. It's very unfamiliar territory for us," Hill said. "It's my fifth year and I've never experienced something like this since I've been a Saint."
Hill's evening concluded with him completing 19 of 41 passes for 264 yards, two touchdowns, the aforementioned four picks, a horrendous 44.2 QB rating and 11 carries for a game-best 101 yards.
"I feel like we did some things really well tonight and then we did some things really poorly," Hill said. "Obviously it's tough to win a game when you turn the ball over four times and soon as you look at the stats, you look at what we did, that's obviously the thing that jumps out to you, that's disappointing. You know the drive at the end of the first half, disappointing having the turnover there, not getting any points out of that drive."
Early in the game, Hill's throwing hand banged against a Cowboys pass rusher's helmet. Hill headed into the medical tent in between drives, but didn't miss any time. He said after the game he was doing all right, but would need to have his hand looked at. It was an added ailment as he's been dealing with a foot injury.
"It's doing OK ... we'll get it accessed, figure out a plan tomorrow," Hill said of his finger. "Went to throw a ball and I hit it on the hand. Foot's OK. I made it OK. Like I said earlier in the week, it's to the point where the pain is manageable. I'm not limiting what I felt like I needed to do and that was the case tonight."
While Hill said the finger didn't hinder him, his passes most certainly hindered the Saints. Hill floated attempts aplenty and held onto the ball too long too often. Nonetheless, Payton defended Hill's showing for the most part and cited wide receiver Kenny Stills' drop of Hill's initial interception in the first half as evidence that the Saints' offensive woes aren't all shouldered by Hill.
"He hurt his finger, we had to splint it, somewhere in the first half," Payton said. "He felt good enough to go, but our plan was to play him. Look, I don't know, you'd have to ask him, but I thought he played with a lot of heart, a lot of guts. We didn't help him any in the first half. I'll be honest with you, we gotta catch that first interception. We got a perfect coverage look, we drop the ball, they make a good play on it, that's unfortunate."
The Cowboys had no problems catching interceptions in the second half, as New Orleans was doomed by Hill's errant throws.
With the Saints trailing, 20-10, Hill threw the first of his three fourth-quarter interceptions when he was picked off by Trevon Diggs. It was the next one that proved the most disastrous, though, as the Saints defense had held the Cowboys, and New Orleans still had only a 10-point deficit to overcome. But it ballooned to 17 when Hill's short pass to Deonte Harris was picked by defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and returned 27 yards for a touchdown. Another INT followed on the Saints' ensuing drive.
In the span of 11 plays, Hill had thrown three interceptions. They came on consecutive drives and crippled any hopes of a Saints rally.
With the loss, the Saints have slipped from 5-2 to the NFC's 12th seed, having lost three in a row by double digits with Hill taking the reins as the third starting quarterback of the season for New Orleans.
There were no answers found for the Saints on Thursday with Hill taking over under center, just a bevy of interceptions and another loss stacked up.
Hill's health is in question going forward, but so too is if he gives the Saints the best chance at salvaging their season.