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New Orleans Saints Must Continue to Utilize Pierre Thomas in the Passing Game

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Oct 5, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas (23) scores on a 27-yard run in the third quarter of their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

During Sunday’s overtime thriller against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, RB Pierre Thomas showed why he is still a vital part of the New Orleans Saints‘ offense.  The eight-year veteran has proved to be one of the most consistent and productive pass-catching tail backs in the National Football League, averaging 52 receptions and 430 yards over the past three seasons.

In 2013 alone, the PT Cruiser tallied 77 catches for 513 yards and three scores, along with another 549 rushing yards.  However, after averaging only 3.7 yards on the ground last year and the emergence of Khiry Robinson, it was likely that Thomas was going to lose a hefty chunk of touches to him and Mark Ingram.

Before the past weekend, Pierre was only averaging 8.5 touches per game this season, which includes both carries and receptions.  On that pace, he would have 88 less touches than he did a year ago — even with Darren Sproles out of the picture.

After Reggie Bush, Sproles stepped onto the scene and became huge in the passing game alongside Thomas.  With the little guy bringing his talents to Philly, it was thought that Pierre would take over that role, but he had actually gone quite unnoticed until Sunday’s memorable performance against a division foe.

So what happens when he is utilized the way that he should be like he was on Sunday?  112 total yards and two touchdowns happen.  While he was limited to only four carries, the PT Cruiser finished second on the team in catches with eight and led with 77 receiving yards.

His rumbling and trucking over defenders along with his quick feet and versatility made it easy to reminisce on the past when the Black and Gold’s offense was breaking records left and right.  There are obviously some kinks still in need of repairing to get back on that track, but going forward, Thomas should not be left out again.

He’s been consistent for too long not to include him and he knows it.  “I guess you can say it’s my gift,” Thomas said during a post-game interview.  “I don’t have the top speed like some of the guys.  Consistency is my gift and what I bring to the table.  It helps me out and it helps this team out.”

It certainly does help this team as Thomas led the Saints’ rally to come from behind and score 17 unanswered points to seal the victory against the Bucs in overtime.  So will we see Pierre Thomas in an extended role throughout the rest of the season?  Sean Payton and company need to make it happen, even when Mark Ingram returns, which could possibly be in two weeks in Detroit.

I never thought I’d be saying these words, but here it goes — The Saints’ ground attack is on fire, but the passing game needs improvement.  It’s not very often we hear those words down in the Big Easy, but it’s the truth right now.

Of course, with the offensive line allowing constant pressure on Drew Brees, it’s tough to really get anything going.  However, I believe keeping Pierre in periodically in case Brees is forced to dump the ball off could improve the offense.  He’s a playmaker, so allow him to make plays.  He could help change the course of the season, proving that on Sunday.

I’m not going to say New Orleans’ offense relies on the screen, but the unit does run more smoothly when the passing game out of the backfield is present.  Keep using Thomas as a receiver — consistency is key for a successful offense, so why not use one of the most consistent pass catchers in franchise history?

When the Saints return from the bye, they will be facing one of the toughest run defenses in the NFL this season in the Detroit Lions, so the air attack may need to step it up.  Let’s see if Pierre plays a key role in what we hope to be a huge win on the road in two weeks.  The PT Cruiser can definitely help the Saints get things going.

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