Saints Running On All Cylinders
By Greg Barber
At the end of October, I wrote an article called “5 Games The Saints Must Flex Their Muscles In”. The New Orleans Saints have played three of these games and are 3-0 so far with the Seattle Seahawks ahead. However, there has been one important element that has been missing in the previous eight games for the Saints - the running game.
There has been plenty of blame to go around for the Saints running woes, some of which could be attributed to the offensive line for some porous run blocking. The running backs could be of partial blame also. Mark Ingram, for one, has been the main whipping boy for Saints fans for his inability to run the ball as well as expected.
Over these last three games, some things have changed with the Saints running game that seemed unlikely to happen when you look back at their first eight games.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, the New Orleans offensive line played its best game all season. The Saints offense amassed a total of 625 yards with 392 yards passing and 242 yards rushing. The pleasant surprise was Ingram, who had the best game of his career as he galloped for 145 yards and a touchdown. It did not start off well for him at first, but he stuck it out and had a career game.
Of course, Pierre Thomas played well also, running for 87 yards and a touchdown. The Saints running backs could have run backwards through the Dallas defense. Granted it was a Cowboys defense that had lost a few key players to injury, but that very well may have been one of the worst games you will ever see a Dallas defense play.
The San Francisco 49ers presented a much tougher task compared to the Cowboys. The 49ers have a punishing defense, as this was a huge litmus test for the Saints offensive line and they played pretty solid throughout the game. The running backs had an uphill battle in this game as well, but they ran the ball 23 times and managed to get 92 yards at a pace of four yards per carry. On the surface, 92 yards does not seem to be an indication that the running game is back back on track, but the high yards per carry average is nothing to ignore.
Also, even though the individual rushing numbers of the Saints running backs are not considered impressive by NFL standards, they made timely runs throughout the whole game which helped the offense win the time of possession battle.
Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints ran the football for 103 yards led by Thomas, who tallied 73 yards on just 10 carries while Ingram chipped in with 32 yards on nine carries. Once again, New Orleans used to run when it needed to, especially at the end of the game to help close it out.
Over the last three games, the Saints have shown some improvement running the football and it has been very helpful towards winning all three of those tough matchups.
Against the Seahawks, do not be surprised if head coach Sean Payton tries to lean toward the run a little more to take Seattle’s secondary out of the game. Also, the Saints will need to have play action passes available to win this game. If the Saints offense can rush between 120-140 yards on the Seattle defense, they will win this game hands down, but expect them to rush closer to 100- 110, which will be just enough to keep the Seahawks off balance and score on them.
But then again, I am of only a few (if any) who believes the New Orleans Saints will go to Seattle and defeat the Seahawks.
Prediction: Saints 21-17