Sean Payton: QB Trevor Siemian has 'graded out well' despite Saints' consecutive losses

The Saints' season appeared to reach a fork in the road when Jameis Winston was lost for the rest of 2021.

With Trevor Siemian now leading the way, that fork's two paths might end up joining back together to make one way forward. Siemian has played adequately, if not better than Winston, completing 57.7% of his passes for 706 yards and a perfect 5-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio in three games (two starts) so far this season. The Saints are 0-2 with Siemian as a starter, but it's not due to his performance.

Both losses have come by just two points. New Orleans likely wins or at least reaches overtime in Week 10 if it has a kicker it could count on to make extra-point attempts. And Siemian led a furious fourth-quarter comeback in Week 9 that erased a 24-6 deficit and fell short only because the Saints couldn't prevent the Falcons from covering 64 yards in one minute, enough to set up Younghoe Koo for a game-winning 29-yard field goal.

"Trevor's doing a great job," Saints receiver Marquez Callaway said Wednesday, via the Associated Press. "There's things we've got to work through, things we've got to overcome, but Trevor's been playing lights out."

Coach Sean Payton told reporters Siemian has "graded out well" in his time on the field this season. It's likely Siemian is exceeding most everyone's expectations both inside the Saints' building and beyond.

Siemian looks calm, cool and confident this season, seemingly improving in those departments in his second start of 2021. His touchdown pass to Callaway was placed perfectly between two defenders and came on a pivotal third-and-8 with just 1:25 left to play. Though he wasn't able to connect with Mark Ingram on a two-point conversion from seven yards out (following a false start on tight end Adam Trautman), the second-half comeback attempt was the Saints' second in two weeks, both with Siemian at the controls.

"He never gets flustered," receiver Tre'Quan Smith said. "I've never seen him get out of character. You kind of look for that in your quarterback."

This type of composure and quick decision-making once saw the Broncos name him their starter in 2016, Denver's first season after Peyton Manning's retirement. As the receiver of the quarterbacking torch, Siemian recorded a record of 8-6 as a starter, but the Broncos failed to return to the postseason.

With time has come maturity, or at least more time to develop the strengths that Payton once saw as qualities of a starting quarterback.

"We saw him as someone who was real quick and accurate with his decisions," Payton said. "Those are some of the things initially -- his athleticism and the tape we had seen when he was a starter."

Quickness and accuracy are paramount for backup quarterbacks, who are often off-the-bench snowballs thrown into the blazing fire of an NFL game. So far, Siemian hasn't melted.

In a suddenly tight NFC South, New Orleans is in a prime position to capitalize. Now, Siemian just needs to lead the Saints to a win -- and start stringing them together.

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