The Broncos used a practice-squad wide receiver at quarterback and things went just about as you’d expect.

Denver um, quarterback Kendall Hinton had more interceptions than completions and the Saints marched to a 31-3 road win to maintain the top seed in the NFC.

It was an unusual game in a most unusual NFL season as the top four Broncos quarterbacks all were ruled out on Saturday following a positive COVID test for third-stringer Jeff Driskel. The other three guys, including starter Drew Lock, were considered high risk because they were around Driskel during the week and not always following the protocols clearly laid out. Sigh.

Lock apologized on Twitter for letting “our masking slip for a limited amount of time. An honest mistake, but one I will own.”

Denver’s only points came on a 58-yard field goal by Brandon McManus as the Saints easily covered a point spread that had been six earlier in the week but up to 17 at kickoff.

McManus’ field goal also kept the Broncos from being shut out for the first time ever at home, an impressive span of 465 games.

Hinton was officially added to the roster two hours before kickoff and, despite having a passer rating of zero, earned the admiration of his coach.

“He did everything he could,” Vic Fangio said. “That was a big, big ask.”

Playoff picture

Through Sunday

NFC: 1-New Orleans (bye)

7-Arizona at 2-Green Bay

6-Tampa Bay at 3-Seattle

5-L.A. Rams at 4-N.Y. Giants

AFC: 1-Pittsburgh (bye)

7-Indianapolis at 2-Kansas City

6-Miami at 3-Tennessee

5-Cleveland at 4-Buffalo

Winners & Losers

  • CBS is hoping so bad that the Chiefs-Buccaneers game was a preview of Super Bowl that analyst Tony Romo was tripping all over himself trying to declare Tom Brady’s 7-5 Bucs strong contenders to come out of the NFC.

  • Tyreek Hill had 269 yards receiving and three touchdowns as Patrick Mahomes outdueled Tom Brady for what likely will be the final time in a regular-season game. Mahomes passed for 462 yards to 345 for Brady, who also had three TDs (but two interceptions.)

Video highlights of Tyreek Hill’s touchdowns: No. 1 | No. 2 | No. 3

  • The Giants beat Cincy to move into first place in the NFC East, but quarterback Daniel Jones had to leave with a hamstring injury. He will have an MRI on Monday. New York (4-7) is at Seattle next week.

  • A rare fumble by Red Zone on the NFL Network, which completely cut away from the Buffalo-Chargers game with 6 seconds left. The Chargers had the ball on the 1-yard line after hitting a wild 55-yard completion, but were down by 10 points. The game itself may have been decided, but anybody with action was left scrambling. The Bills were laying 4.5 points but eventually turned the Chargers away and won 27-17. Red Zone usually keeps viewers better informed.

  • The Raiders nearly beat the mighty Chiefs beat in Week 11, before Patrick Mahomes engineered a touchdown drive in the final minute. So how’d they respond? They went to Atlanta and lost 43-6. “I apologize to Raider nation, and really compliment the Falcons,” a glum coach Jon Gruden said. “They played a hell of a football game and we did not.”

  • Atlanta thumped the Raiders without Julio Jones (hamstring) and Todd Gurley (knee). They are 4-2 under Raheem Morris, who deserves to have the “interim” tag dropped from his title. It was the 200th regular-season game for Matt Ryan, who is 113-87 as a starter.

  • Bad beat alert: The Browns did not cover a seven-point line after Jacksonville scored a garbage-time touchdown on a drive that was kept alive by an extremely questionable Olivier Vernon roughing-the-passer penalty. Cleveland won, 27-25, but tell that to the 88% of bettors at PointsBet who were on the Browns.

  • But the more egregious penalty was Isaiah Simmons helmet-to-helmet shot on Cam Newton in the final minute that set up New England’s game-winning field goal. Newton threw for 84 yards, had two interceptions, and a passer rating of 23.6. And still won.

  • Thoughts and prayers to anyone who lost a fantasy game when Tennessee’s A.J. Brown returned an onside kick 42 yards for a touchdown.

  • Carolina kicker Joey Slye’s missed 54-yard field goal spoiled a monster game by Panthers rookie safety Jeremy Chinn. Chinn had 13 tackles and is believed to be the first defensive player to score touchdowns on fumble recoveries on consecutive plays. Chinn, a second-round pick out of Southern Illinois, has gone through life known as the nephew of Hall of Fame safety Steve Atwater. If Chinn, who is in the running for defensive rookie of the year, keeps this up, Atwater will become better known as Chinn’s uncle.

  • Green Bay’s Davante Adams has caught a touchdown pass in six consecutive games.

  • Owner Shad Khan fired general manager Dave Caldwell after Jacksonville lost its 10th consecutive game. Looks like he’ll keep the coaching staff for the rest of the season, however, as the Jags (1-10) fight the Jets (0-11) for the No. 1 pick … a.k.a. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

  • Derrick Henry (178 yards rushing, three touchdowns) had his eighth consecutive road game with at least 100 yards, tying Chris Johnson for second most since 1970. Only Barry Sanders (10 in 1996-97) has a longer streak.

  • Henry (1,267 yards) now leads the NFL in rushing by 367 yards over Jacksonville’s James Robinson (890).

  • The Chargers are 3-8 and coach Anthony Lynn’s clock management is a big reason.

  • The Browns called up chief of staff Callie Brownson to coach the tight ends after Drew Petzing left to be with his wife, who gave birth on Saturday. Brownson became the first woman to coach a positional group in an NFL regular-season game.

  • Joey Bosa had three sacks to move past Junior Seau and into fifth place on the Chargers all-time list. Yeah, I know they play different positions, but the idea that Joey Bosa has more sacks than Junior Seau will take some getting used to.

  • Alvin Kamara had more tackles (one) than touchdowns (zero) on Sunday. Kamara, who was held to 54 rushing yards and one reception for minus-2 yards, pushed Denver cornerback Essang Bassey out of bounds after an interception. And yes, Kamara is on my fantasy team. You’d be salty, too.

They said it

“It’s special to be a part of this rivalry. There’s few rivalries like this in all of sports -- one or two in just about every league. This is one of the premier ones.”

-- Aaron Rodgers after thumping the Bears on Sunday night and running his career record to 20-5 against Chicago. Not much of a rivalry when only one side wins 80 percent of the time.

***

“She’s a great utility player for us and she can fill in anywhere. I’m proud of her and proud of her journey and it’s going to continue here.”

-- Browns coach Kevin Stefanski on chief of staff Callie Brownson, who coached the tight ends on Sunday.

***

“I mean, 0-11. No one at the beginning of the season thought that we’d find ourselves in this position at this point in the season.”

-- Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. (Editor’s note: You sure about that, Sam?)

***

“If you can get the guys to believe in themselves, believe in what they can do, those things usually work out in your favor.”

-- Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris.

***

Look it, late-November, December, January -- that’s where this guy eats. [Defenders] making business decisions on whether they want to tackle him.

-- NFL Red Zone host Scott Hanson on bruising Titans running back Derrick Henry, who had four 100-yard rushing days in Tennessee’s five November games.

***

“It is mind blowing to ask a guy that plays wide receiver to go in and play quarterback. I don’t care that he played quarterback in college. Stop this right now. This is the NFL.”

-- NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin in the pregame show segment on Kendall Hinton and the Broncos.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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