NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints' two wins have something in common this season.
“He's such a weapon, and there's nobody else like him," said Saints quarterback Andy Dalton, who started in place of the injured Jameis Winston. "If you're a defense, you have to prepare for so much when you never know where he's going to line up.
"His performance today, it's hard to match all the stuff that he can do and all the stuff that he was able to do. ... He's special.”
The Saints (2-3) piled responsibilities on Hill. He carried the ball nine times for 112 yards and three touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass, and when kick returner Deonte Harty went out with an injury, the Saints put Hill into an extensive role at kick returner for the first time since the 2018 season.
"I was not anticipating that," Hill said. "But [special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi] said he needed some help, so I was happy to do it. It had been a while, but it was fun to be back out there."
Hill even recovered a fumble by Seahawks punter Michael Dickson in the second quarter (and then scored two plays later). His 60-yard touchdown run put the Saints up by a touchdown with 5:33 left and ended up being the difference in the game.
"That was a big play," Hill said. "They knew we were going to run the ball on third-and-short. They were clearly selling out to stop the run. If you get past the first level of defense, then there is no one left. Once I broke through I knew it was a foot race. I think if I was 5 yards farther back, then I don’t know if I would have gotten in.”
Hill became the third player since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970 to rush for at least 100 yards, run for three touchdowns and throw a touchdown in a single game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But when asked if he plans to moonlight as a running back going forward, he just laughed and said "I just work here."
It was the most extensive usage Hill had seen all season, and the most he'd done to help the Saints' struggling offense since rushing four times for 81 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1. Hill was essentially the Saints' only offense in the first quarter, rushing for 57 yards on one play and getting in the end zone on an 11-yard run two plays later.
Hill came to the Saints in 2017 after being claimed off waivers from the Green Bay Packers, and he spent three seasons playing a number of different roles. He often came in for special packages to bring a different dimension to the offense.
He came into Week 5 with a combined 25 rushing and receiving touchdowns in his Saints career. He had also thrown for eight touchdowns.
Hill made it clear his long-term goal was to play quarterback full time, and he got that opportunity when Drew Brees was injured in 2020 and Hill started four games.
Hill spent the 2021 offseason competing with Winston to be the full-time replacement to Brees after he retired, but he lost out on the job. He still ended up starting five games after Winston suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Saints coach Dennis Allen vowed in the offseason to return Hill to a role where he could be used more rather than have him standing on the sidelines as a backup, and he moved Hill to tight end with the idea that he would still take a few snaps at quarterback like he had in the past.
A rib injury in training camp delayed some of those plans, but Hill was seen taking snaps with the other Saints quarterbacks in London ahead of their Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings when Winston was also sidelined with a back injury.
“I feel like each week is a little bit different," Hill said. "Jameis got a little banged up, so I think that limited me in terms of what the plan was supposed to be at the start of the season. But I think every week I go in and prepare for what I am being asked to do. It is a fluid deal. I anticipate that at least for the rest of this season.”
While Hill is no longer listed on the depth chart at quarterback, he would likely take over if anything happened to Dalton while Winston is out. The Saints seem willing to accept the injury risk by continuing to put him all over the field. It's likely that role will continue to shift even more as Winston and wide receivers Michael Thomas (toe), Jarvis Landry (ankle) and Chris Olave (concussion) come in and out of the lineup.
Hill has been willing to be flexible his entire career. A "fluid" role is nothing new to him at this point.
"I think my mindset is that I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity," Hill said, "and I felt like I was going to get more opportunities this week so I did my part to make sure I was prepared when it came up. There's a lot of conversation about me right now, but man, when you can rush the ball for over 200 yards, those guys up front played really well against a really good defense."