Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) carries the ball during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
I have to eat my words. As a New Orleans Saints fan, I did not believe in running back Mark Ingram. I professed that he was one of the greatest drafting mistakes the Saints had made in the last decade. I wasn’t alone as other Saints fans, ESPN, and others believed the same. “He doesn’t fit the system, he doesn’t have good vision, don’t you know every Heisman winner ends up being a dud in the NFL?”, is what I said.
I don’t know if Mark will ever read this, but I was dead wrong. I didn’t believe after the Cowboys game, but I certainly believe in him now. The Saints offensive line gave him a hole and Ingram took full advantage exploding for 5.5 yards per carry outside the tackles and 5.4 yards per carry between the tackles according to profootballfocus.com.
The Saints had limited success in the first half with the run, but when they allowed Ingram to carry the load in the second half he did not disappoint. Ingram is the kind of back that gets better the more carries he gets. Ingram chose his holes, made good cuts to get past defenders, and most importantly did not allow the ball to be stripped from him when he was tackled by multiple defenders.
The Saints defeated the Eagles because they became a different team. Head coach Sean Payton became a different coach. Ingram became a different back. The Saints transformed from a team that couldn’t win any cold weather game (much-less a playoff game) on the road, to a team that has a legititmate chance to challenge the number one-seed Seattle Seahawks.
Drew Brees is the unquestionable heart of the New Orleans Saints at home. Mark Ingram may be the heart of this team on the road. The Seattle Seahawks have the number one pass defense in the NFL and a seventh-ranked run defense that gives up about 100 yards on the ground. It’s a small crack in a great defense, but it’s a crack that can be exploited.
Ingram has been waiting for his crack at being the number one back in New Orleans and he is ready to exploit any opportunity that comes his way. According to USA Today’s Jarrett Bell, head coach Sean Payton left empty gasoline cans around the locker room last week, with the message being: how much gas do you have left in the tank? Ingram has felt held back all season and his tank is full; and he has a lot of Saints fans behind his back believing in him again.
Follow me on Twitter for more analysis and NFL news @Idear_Sports.