The New Orleans Saints continued to appear determined to run the ball, as they defeated the Atlanta Falcons 31-27 at home on Sunday, November 11. With 148 rushing yards, the game marked the second consecutive week and the third time this season that New Orleans has rushed for at least 100 yards. As a Saints fan, I believe the running game gives the Saints a better chance to win and hope to see this trend continue.
Last season, the Saints finished the regular season 13-3. The team totaled at least 100 rushing yards in 12 of the 16 games, including seven times during the eight-game winning streak New Orleans put together in the second half of the 2011 season. The team rushed for under 100 yards in all three losses. It is clear that this Saints team needs to run the ball to have a better chance of winning.
This year has been difficult for the Saints due to the suspension of head coach Sean Payton. It has taken weeks for the running game to get going. Aside from a 163-yard performance in a loss to the Carolina Panthers, the team has failed to run the ball efficiently, managing fewer than 60 rushing yards in four game.
It is not a coincidence that the current surge of rushing yards began with Chris Ivory’s 2012 debut last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Ivory, the team’s 2010 rushing leader, has had to fight for his opportunities in a crowded Saints offense, but the team seems to have success whenever Ivory is given the ball. After rushing for 48 yards and a score on 10 attempts last week, Ivory had seven carries for 72 yards and another touchdown against the Falcons.
Ivory adds another dimension to the Saints’ offense, which opens things up for Mark Ingram and other runners. While his current playing time is possible due to Darren Sproles’ injury, the Saints will have to find a way to keep Ivory involved when Sproles returns.
The Saints’ offense is one of the best in the league, and that is mainly due to quarterback Drew Brees. However, Brees and the passing game are even better when New Orleans establishes an effective running attack. As the Saints make a push for the playoffs over the rest of this season, I am hoping to see the team remain committed to running the ball.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints’ first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.