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New Orleans Saints must be more commited to the run game, not pass

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Saints RB Pierre Thomas (Source: daylife.com)

The Saints worked hard this off-season to rethink their offensive strategy, and re-build their group of runningbacks after putting an emphasis on getting better at running the ball after a disastrous 2010 season on the ground.

Stats don’t lie and last season the Saints ranked near the bottom of the league rushing the football — 28th to be exact.

Injuries played a large role in this ranking as both Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush were knocked out for significant portions of the season, leaving the bulk of the carries to Chris Ivory, Ladell Betts, and Julius Jones.

However scheme has allot to do with it as well, and head coach Sean Payton would always lean on the passing game and Drew Brees last season before trusting his runningbacks to lead the offense to points.

In 2009, with a healthy group of runningbacks, the Saints ranked fifth in total rushing. It’s no coincidence that they won the Superbowl that year because they had balance on offense, unlike any they have had before.

Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, and Joique Bell comprise the Saints 2011 runningback group. All are capable and talented in their own way, Payton just has to trust them and start calling on the run over the pass to be successful regardless of the situation.

Against the Packers the Saints were lopsided once more in their ratio of pass attempts to rush attempts, throwing considerably more then they ran the ball by a large margin.

It’s easy to argue the point that they where playing catch up for most of the game after surrendering 21 points in the first quarter, but they lacked ever important balance and it likely contributed to the tough loss.

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Topics: 2011 NFL Regular Season, Chicago Bears, Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles, Drew Brees, Green Bay Packers, Joique Bell, Julius Jones, Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, Pierre Thomas, Sean Payton

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  • Jdiddy

    This is one of the great football misconceptions of all time. One of those things someone said at one time and people just started repeating. “Balance” is overrated. If a team’s running game stinks, like the Saints’ has most of the time Payton and Brees have been there, it is not advantageous to keep running the ball for “balance’” sake. The Saints did not lose to the Packers because they didn’t run the ball enough. They lost because their defense stinks and because when they did run they got nothing out of it. They scored 34 points–more than enough to win most weeks–and could have easily scored 42, if they had NOT run the ball on the last play. It did not matter how many more times the Saints may have run the ball, they were not good enough to get through Green Bay’s line. Brees, on the other hand, strafed ‘em. The third-quarter fourth-down pass call was not a bad call because it was a pass, it was a bad call because it was too complicated and slow-developing for that situation. Saints more committed to the run game–why? The run game isn’t good enough to merit more commitment. Seriously, people need to watch games and watch what works, and stop repeating cliches, some of which may have been true 30 years ago but no longer are, and some of which were never really valid to begin with. End of rant.

  • Jdiddy

    Their success in 2009 had nothing to do with “balance,” or how much they ran the ball, but that when they did run they ran effectively. Use what works, period.

  • Jdiddy

    Oh man, did he actually say that resting Brees arm is the way to go against the Bears? Crazy talk. The Saints’ running back are lower-tier. Ingram may become a better back, but he’s not good yet. Brees is simply one of the best players in the league. So let’s trust our lower-tier players to help us be more effective than our only superstar on the team. Makes sense.

  • Jdiddy

    And–only half-related–can we stop talking about “all of the weapons the Saints have”? They have one elite player–Brees. People say Jahri Evans is pretty good, and obviously Vilma is good, but they have only one truly transcendent player. Their receivers in particular are below average for the NFL. There are no superstars–I love Colston and Moore, but really, they’re #2 and #3 or 4 on most good teams–and Meachem and Henderson aren’t very good, just fast. Do people who say these things actually watch the Saints? Real Saints fans know that Payton and Brees can have perennial backups plugged into their offense and they will look good–duh, that’s because of Payton’s offense and Brees’ abilities, not the “weapons” they reload with. Remember Brees attacking passing records with David Patten and Terrance Copper? Brees has never had a top-quality go-to receiver with the Saints, which makes it even more impressive that he’s been the most efficient passer in the league since he’s been with the Saints. Can you imagine what he could do with the real weapons the other great quarterbacks have at their disposal. Look at the following combos the other guys have been playing with:

    Brady: Moss, Welker, Grankowski and Hernandez

    Manning: Harrison, Wayne, and Dallas Clark

    Vick: Desean Jackson, Maclin, McCoy, and now Steve Smith

    Big Ben: Wallace and those other speed freaks in Pittsburgh

    Rivers: Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, and Antonio Gates

    Rodgers: Driver, Jennings, Jermichael Finley

    And now Brees:

    Colston (now hurt), Moore (hurt a lot), Graham (a lot of hype and some good potential, but not great)

    Even when they’re healthy, they cannot begin to compare to the top receiving corps around the league. Henderson and Meachem don’t even see playing time on most teams.

    Quit the “Saints have a ton of weapons” nonsense. Payton has a great offense, Brees is the most underrated quarterback in the league, and most of the rest of the team is below-average.

  • Jdiddy

    Okay, that was a bit negative. I’ll shut up now.

  • Keith Null

    @Jdiddy Wow, calm down there killer…too much caffeine today? Say what you want and what you will, opinions are encouraged and accepted. I watch all the games by the way. You have taken two things from this article way out of context.

    1. I know what makes the Sains offense succesful, Drew Bress and the passing game. A little more trust in the run game wouldn’t kill Payton, which is the point I was trying to get across,

    2. The part about “resting Brees arm” means he shouldn’t be throwing the ball 50 times a game….ever. I certainly did not imply he should just hand it off every snap of the game. I never implied the Saints should get away from their bread and butter passing plays either

    I won’t debate with you how good any of the Saints players are or are not. I beleive in the talent Sean Payton has assembled, not only as fan, but as a writer. There is good talent on this football team.

    Also the reason the Saints last play against the Packers failed wasn’t because of Mark Ingram, but right tackle Charles Brown. Payton began utilizing Brown as a blocking tight end during the second quarter.

    On the play Kruetz, Evans, and NIcks stalmated their defender, Brown went to block towards the inside and literally fell down to the turf. With Brown on the ground Clay Matthews and Morgan Burnett were able to knife in and stop Ingram just as he left the ground.

  • Jdiddy

    Hahaha. Actually, I stayed up till 3:30 this morning cleaning the garage and had to down a doubleshot espresso coffee-flavored (disgusting) energy drink to get going at 8:00. So, you’re right on about the caffeine, and I’m not fully accountable for anything I say today. You’re right about everything you said; I got a little excited and carried away on my FIRST EVER POST on any sport website. Hahaha. No, I don’t want Brees throwing 50 times a game, either. Keith 1, Jdiddy 0. Thanks for writing back. By the way, I think you should let me be a contributing writer. Keep up the good work; you do a great job. @Keith Null

  • Keith Null

    @Jdiddy I though those rants had the mark of “excessive” energy writtten all over them, but again thanks for the comments. If you would like to be a contributor just shoot me an email ([email protected]) and I’ll tell you what you need to do to get started and join the team. BTW — stay away from those energy drinks!

  • Jdiddy

    Man, this is great. This is the most fun I’ve ever had on the internet. Peace. @Keith Null

  • Keith Null

    @Jdiddy I’ll throw another little nugget about the Saints/Packers game and you can tell if you think it played a factor. New Orleans threw the ball 71% and ran it 29% of the time. That statistic tells me that Dom Capers know most times the Saints would throw it and thus adjsuted the defense accordingly. Against Brees he committed more players to the blitz and played more zone defense because of the imbalance. Is “balance” going to win every game? No it’s not, but it sure would have helped.

  • Jdiddy

    Keith, are you not content with your victory? Must you keep rubbing it in?

    Okay, let me respond. First, I do like statistics–they often tell more of the story than some people think. Speaking of statistics, I have been watching the Saints since 2006 and remember a lot of fourth and short run plays failing. Of course, there was Pierre’s leap against the Vikings in the NFC Championship game that helped seal the deal. I wonder what percentage of fourth and short runs have been successful for the Saints. Anyway…

    1. Surely everyone agrees that an offense is more dangerous if it is effective in both the passing and running games. I am simply arguing that if one component is clearly weaker than the other, “balance” can me misconstrued. The Vikings should rely mostly on running. The Saints should rely mostly on passing. And the Broncos should just down the ball on offense and hope for safeties and good kick returns. Yes, ideally, the Saints would have run the ball better and more often against the Packers. But the ideal game plan goes out the window when you’re down early two scores to the second best offense in football (as you referenced in your article), AND when your offensive line gets little push against the beasts on GB.

    2. True, relying on one facet of the offense makes it easier for defensive coordinators to scheme against it, and in some situations results in the defense owning the one-dimensional offense. But really, that didn’t happen Thursday night. It didn’t matter that Capers knew the Saints were going to pass a lot–he still couldn’t stop the best offense and quarterback in the game. Even though Brees faced a lot of pressure most of the night, he simply dominated the Packers. So, while loading up on passing could potentially make things easier for the defense to figure out, who cares if they still can’t stop you? Capers adjusted to NO’s pass-happy offense and still got scored on easily.

    3. I do think the Saints need a good running game to go deep this year, but IF the running game is not working, I like my chances with Payton and Brees passing on a defense that expects it more than I do running where it hasn’t worked.

    4. Off subject, since the Super Bowl, Brees never seems to have much time to throw–pass protection is struggling. D-line is also generating no pressure. I really thing the lack of pressure is the D’s greatest concern.

    5. Wow, this was way too long, but you asked for it…