Coming into their game this past Monday Night against the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints were missing 7 out of 22 starters from their original season-opening line-up, and were coming off back-to-back one possession losses.
However in the NFL, life isn’t always fair — and the games still have to be played, nevertheless.
No one is going to cut the Saints any “slack”, just because they have a bunch of injuries.
This game against Atlanta however, was hoped to yield different results. After all, this was the 10th anniversary of the greatest moment in franchise history (yes, even greater than the Super Bowl XLIV win back in 2009.)
Alas, it was a special teams play that changed the course of the game played 10 years later; but not one that went in the Saints favor.
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After a Cameron Jordan sack on a third down play early in the 1st quarter with the Saints leading 7-0, the Falcons were forced to punt — and in that very moment, the wheels started to fall off.
Let’s be completely honest: there was not a whole lot that occurred after the Jordan sack, to say was anything “positive” for New Orleans from that point on.
Given, there was some bright spots (mostly on offense) that included, Coby Fleener’s breakout game, a few TommyLee Lewis “sightings”, and even Brandon Coleman managing to play well.
However, the biggest “bright spot” besides QB Drew Brees — who started off 5 for 5 on the opening drive and ultimately finished 36 out of 54 for 376 Yards and 3 TD’s — was a player that hadn’t made much of an impact coming into Monday Night’s contest: RB Mark Ingram.
Sep 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) carries the ball as Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (56) defends in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Ingram, the former Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Alabama during the 2009 season, came into Monday Night’s contest with a grand total of 21 carries in two games; indicative of a team that is built around the philosophy of a ‘pass first’ mentality.
“You have to feed him the ball, he was a former Heisman Trophy winner for a reason”, I kept thinking to myself as the Saints fed Ingram a few carries early in the 1st half.
New Orleans has to find a way to balance the offense, and take some pressure off of Drew Brees. The Saints seemed to have found that early on Monday Night, especially with the draw play.
Draw plays were the key to success in early part of the game and as a result it did exactly what it is supposed to: slow the Atlanta pass rush and apply pressure to rookie Falcons linebacker (and NOLA native) Deion Jones of the Falcons.
Sep 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) is defended by Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Deion Jones (45) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
The Saints may have gone to this for a few different reasons: first, Saints head coach Sean Payton himself said after the Giants loss that they had to run the ball more; and also without starting left tackle Terron Armstead in the line-up, there was a lot of movement on the line.
I’d personally like to believe that it was a mix of both, but nevertheless, Ingram at times looked like the Alabama legend this past Monday night.
Ingram’s stat line for the evening included 15 carries for 77 yards; along with an additional 4 catches for 30 yards and a TD receiving out of the backfield.
Now don’t get me wrong: it is extremely hard to say the Saints were “balanced” on Monday, when Brees threw over 50 passes.
However, seeing Ingram actually have a chance to shine for that brief time against the Falcons; illustrates that the “recipe” for success is having at least 20 touches for the running backs.
Will this continue?
Only time will tell, but more importantly can the defense keep the Saints in games long enough for the offense to “feed the beast”?
Sep 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) scores a touchdown past Atlanta Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds (53) during the fourth quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 45-32. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
As the Saints head out west to San Diego, hopefully we see something we have not seen since January: a Saints “W”.
And if we’re lucky?
Perhaps the Saints don’t fall behind in this one, and we get to see the Saints “pound the rock” with Ingram — and utilize the “recipe for success” that so far, has been nothing more than an appetizer, rather than a 3-course meal.
If the New Orleans wants to win and win consistently, perhaps it’s time to start “feeding the beast”, a little more often……..