Broncos become first team since Tim Tebow's Broncos in 2011 to not complete a pass in first half

The Denver Broncos-New Orleans Saints game was as weird as expected. Maybe even more.

The Broncos found out Saturday that all four of their quarterbacks would be ineligible to play due to COVID-19 tests and close contacts. They had to use practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton as their regular quarterback.

The Broncos didn’t complete a pass in the first half. The last team to do that was the Broncos in 2011, with Tim Tebow at quarterback against the Kansas City Chiefs. They also became the first team since the 1998 Chargers to finish a game with more interceptions than completions. The Broncos completed just one pass in a 31-3 loss.

Everyone knew the Broncos wouldn’t be able to throw the ball. The Saints decided they wouldn’t pass the ball either.

The first half produced a line that would have fit well in the NFL in the 1920s. Maybe. The Saints were 6 of 11 for 38 passing yards in the first half. They got 24 yards on a pass to Michael Thomas with five seconds left in the half. The Broncos were 0 of 7 passing with an interception before halftime. The Broncos had one first down in the first half and that came on their opening possession.

Hinton completed one pass, a short catch-and-run by Noah Fant early in the third quarter for a 13-yard gain. That was it for the passing game. Denver finished with 112 yards and six first downs. Hinton threw two picks.

Denver Broncos quarterback Kendall Hinton (2) throws against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Neither team passed midfield until the Saints did on the final play of the first quarter. The first quarter had the fewest completions, attempts and passing yards in any quarter of an NFL game this season, Fox’s broadcast said. Hinton didn’t throw a pass that came close to being complete, unless you count the pass that was picked off by Janoris Jenkins or the two that were dropped by Saints defenders.

It was ugly. Late in the second quarter on a third down, running back Phillip Lindsay lined up for a direct snap. Lindsay officially started the game taking a direct snap. But this snap was on the ground, Lindsay was hit as he tried to pick it up, he fumbled and the Saints scooped it up.

Taysom Hill can throw the ball. He did just fine last week. But the Saints — perhaps because they knew they wouldn’t need many points to win, maybe to take it easy on a team that lost all its quarterbacks a day before a game, or just because Sean Payton trying out something new — decided to also ditch the passing game. The Saints had 21 passes and six passes in the first 27 minutes of the half. Hill had 3 passing yards at that point. One of his three completions lost 2 yards.

Hill did get two rushing touchdowns in the first half. The second came after the fumble on the direct snap to Lindsay. The Saints had a 17-0 lead at halftime.

Given how the Broncos offense looked in the first half, it was incalculable how long it might take them to make up a 17-point deficit.

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