Upon a hot August evening in New Orleans, the Saints hosted their first home game -- preseason or regular season -- without Drew Brees on their roster since all the way back in 2005.
As it has for much of the offseason and preseason, the competition to fill Brees' vacancy took center stage as the quarterback competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill carried on with the former garnering the start.
When it all concluded, Winston came away sparkling, while Hill still looked very much like a work in progress during the Saints' 23-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night.
Despite Winston's sparkling showing, Saints head coach Sean Payton did not name a starting quarterback following the game or give a timeframe for when he would.
"I don't have a timeframe. When we know what direction we're going, we'll let you guys know," Payton said. "We're not going to try to anticipate saying, 'Hey it's gonna be midweek or next week.' That's, I think, the best way for us to handle it. It's kind of how we've always handled something like this, but I was pleased with not just the quarterbacks. I was pleased with how we played as a team for the most part."
Finding burgeoning wide receiver Marquez Callaway for a pair of highlight-reel touchdowns, Winston completed nine of 10 passes for 123 yards with a 157.5 QB rating as he led the Saints to 14 points over three drives.
Hill came on at the end of the first quarter and played into the second half, compiling a line of 11-for-20 passing for 138 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a 93.3 rating.
It was a huge stride ahead for Winston in the QB1 battle.
"I haven't started a football game in so long, so I was just so excited to get an opportunity to start and lead the pack," Winston said. "It was exciting and the rhythm was great."
Winston, starting for the first time in any game since he was a Tampa Bay Buccaneer in 2019, looked poised and sound. He completed his first four passes, culminating with a beautiful long ball into double coverage that drew a pass-interference flag and was hauled in for a beautiful 43-yard score by Callaway.
While the play did as much to amplify Callaway's legitimacy within a shallow Saints receiving corps, it was also a shining start for Winston.
It was an emphatic statement drive for Winston that foreshadowed an all-around stellar showing.
Winston hit on his first five passes before a drop stalled that streak and the second Saints' drive.
Winston and the offense bounced back as he completed all four of his throws on the Saints' third offensive drive, with three going to Callaway, who hauled in his second TD with a jaw-dropping, one-handed grab that somehow once again upstaged a beautiful throw from Winston.
While Winston marched against the Jaguars defense, Hill stumbled.
Hill's throws were usually low line drives, his body language often leaning to that of being uncomfortable and rushed even if he had time to scan the field. He wasn't without his positives and most of those landed in the hands of Lil'Jordan Humphrey, who turned a short-yardage grab on the outside into a 25-yard gain and then got an underthrown lob in traffic for another 25-yarder on the same drive. Later in the game, Humphrey went airborne to make a terrific catch for a second-half TD from Hill.
Over two preseason games, Winston has completed 16 of 22 passes (72 percent) for 219 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Hill has thrown for 219 yards on 19-of-32 passing (59 percent) with one TD and one interception.
It's never apples to apples in the preseason because it matters what string of teammates you're playing with and what string of opponents you're playing against.
Nevertheless, Winston was wonderful on Monday. He didn't look like he should win a QB competition, he looked like he could still be the standout QB the Buccaneers always thought he would be if he could just limit the turnovers.