Photo by modenadude
Something interesting has happened with the Saints over the past couple of weeks. Somehow, they’ve managed to dominate two straight games after being kind of a mess to start the season. The one obvious difference between those two games has been the effectiveness of running back Mark Ingram. I do not think this is a coincidence, but I do think the Saints have stumbled into it, and I’m not sure they will continue to do it.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
- In the last two games, both wins, Ingram has 54 carries, 272 yards and 3 TDs rushing.
- In the previous 3 games in which he played, all losses, Ingram had 34 carries, 159 yards and 3 TDs rushing
- In the previous three seasons, Ingram has played a total of 37 games, carrying the ball a total of 356 times
In essence, what’s different over the last two weeks is that Mark Ingram is carrying the ball 27 times per game, versus his career average of just under 10 times per game. The Saints are winning, and Ingram looks like the player he was at Alabama all of the sudden. Imagine that.
Unfortunately, I think the Saints have only allowed him to carry the ball that much over the last two weeks because Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas have been injured, and Darren Sproles is in Philly. As all fantasy football owners know, the Saints like to play a lot of running backs, and spread the ball around. (They also like to throw the ball a lot, including to those other running backs.) The lack of those options has forced Sean Payton to ride Ingram as the feature back, and Ingram has been great. When Robinson and Thomas come back, however, will the Saints old play calling patterns come back with them?
It’s only a small sample size for now, but clearly there is evidence that the Saints should keep running Ingram. Old habits die hard, however.