Titans defensive end Jeffery Simmons

Titans defensive end Jeffery Simmons

Following the season-ending injury to starting quarterback Jameis Winston, you might have written off the New Orleans Saints as a possible challenge for the Tennessee Titans.

Not so fast, as New Orleans has found some offensive momentum in utilizing a quarterback tandem with former Titans backup Trevor Siemian and longtime Saints gadget QB Taysom Hill. The Saints roared back against the Atlanta Falcons after being down 24-6 with roughly six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, getting out to a 25-24 lead late thanks to Siemian’s and Hill’s combined heroics.

They’d ultimately lose that game as Atlanta fired back with a game-ending field goal, but it showed that, even without Winston, the Saints can do damage on offense.

“I think we have familiarity with Trevor [Siemian],” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said of the Saints two-man QB attack. “He did a great job when he was here for us in the role that he had. It is a challenge every week to prepare for the next opponent, certainly one that that we don’t have a ton of familiarity with. We will have to be prepared for Taysom Hill and for Trevor. They really got into a rhythm. They put Taysom in there the other day and hit some chunk plays, then went back to Trevor and really got moving there in the second half.”

Siemian had 249 yards passing and two touchdown throws Sunday, while Hill threw for 33 yards on two attempts. While that might not seem like much, Hill’s plays came down the stretch in pivotal moments for New Orleans. Saints coach Sean Payton likes to pepper Hill into the game plan in unexpected moments, leaving opposing defensive coordinators on their feet as to when he will enter the game.

The Saints had found success replacing future Hall of Famer Drew Brees with Winston, but he suffered a torn ACL and MCL damage in the Saints’ win over rival Tampa Bay. The team is 6-3 and second in the NFC South following Sunday’s home loss to the Falcons, leaving them headed to Tennessee hungry to keep pace in the treacherous NFC playoff hunt.

Helping the Saints on offense is the rushing tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, who was acquired by his old team at the trade deadline from the Houston Texans. The two rushed for nearly 100 yards Sunday and could present a challenge for Tennessee’s front seven. Kamara is also a receiving threat, going for 54 yards last Sunday on four catches.

The Titans can lean on former Saints cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins, who came over from New Orleans to Tennessee in the offseason. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill mentioned the intel might be helpful to have as they prepare for a stout Saints defense that features impact players like CB Marshon Lattimore, pass rusher Cam Jordan, linebacker Demario Davis and safety Marcus Williams.

“Yeah, having [Jenkins] on the team is going to be a good thing for us. Hopefully some good conversations can come out of that,” Tannehill said.

The Titans took down an NFC titan last Sunday in the Los Angeles Rams, and now they get another chance to bolster their national resume by hosting a playoff-ready Saints squad. To Tannehill, the noise that comes with being a likely Super Bowl contender can’t interfere with self-improvement, particularly when good teams like New Orleans are on your schedule.

“We are focused on ourselves,” the QB said. “We are focused on finding a way to win one game each and every week. Stacking wins is a great thing but the only way to continue to do that is consistently work to get better. We still have a lot of things we can be better at. We are excited for that challenge of working on the details this week and going out and playing a really good Saints team this weekend.”