Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs the ball as he is pursued by Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell (21) and safety Quintin Mikell (27) during the first half of the game at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers win 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
So, New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram ran exceptionally well Sunday night. The dog in the backfield totaled 172 yards on the ground against the Green Bay Packers for a career day. The Carolina Panthers are next up on the blacklist, and even though they’re struggling, a win will not come easy.
Ingram’s animal instincts must stay intact so he can get after the cats when the two teams collide for a little Thursday night action two evenings from now. After the Black and Gold refused to exercise the tailback’s fifth-year option, the former Heisman Trophy winner is running for a check, according to former teammate and now Panthers’ safety Roman Harper.
I’m going to have to agree with Harper, who, like Ingram, also reigns from the University of Alabama. Through three seasons, Marky Mark has been sort of a disappointment to many New Orleans fans, totaling just 1,462 yards on the ground from 2011-2013. But was he really being utilized the correct way?
Since the 2014 season began, the Saints seem to be much more interested in running the ball than they have been in the past. Don’t worry, that has nothing to do with the 3-4 record they own at the moment. Pressure needed to be taken off of Drew Brees, which before Sunday night, has seemed near impossible all year.
Back to Ingram — he’s a ground-and-pound-style back, with trucking capabilities that will leave a defender flattened on the ground like a Looney Tunes character. It seems like that’s the way coach Sean Payton is using him now, and if it weren’t for the broken hand he suffered in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns, Mark could be well on his way to his first ever 1000-yard season as an NFL running back.
With a 5.7 yards per carry average, there are not too many backs playing like Ingram this year. His Heisman potency is finally starting to surface at the professional level, and those skills are going to be crucial when he goes head to head with a potentially brutal Carolina Panthers defense.
However, after dominating in 2013, the Black and Blue rank poorly at No. 28 overall when it comes to stopping the run. Don’t let that fool you — they always find a way to play well against the Saints. I mean let’s be honest, no matter the team’s record, an NFC South matchup is never a joke, especially when both teams are battling for a first-place spot.
The loss of Greg Hardy to suspension has certainly put a damper on their performance, but I have a feeling 2013’s NFC Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly, will be looking for blood. DE Charles Johnson and DT Star Lotulelei will certainly be getting after the backfield as well. Let’s not forget that the game is also on the road in a hostile environment.
I have faith in Mark Ingram as he is riding a serious cloud of momentum into this contest, but with Pierre Thomas out and the possibility of Khiry Robinson missing his second-straight game, the dog in the backfield will need to attack the cats with aggressive force.
Getting things going on the ground early will take pressure off of Drew Brees and open up the opportunity for play action, resulting in big plays downfield and limited errors. We all saw how well that worked against Green Bay with the speed of Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills factored into the equation.
They may not look all that great on the stat sheet at the moment, but I guarantee tough, lights-out play by Carolina’s defense. The good thing is Mark Ingram has the ability to excel over any opposition he faces. I admit he struggled in Detroit, but remember, he was also trying to shake the rust off against the league’s No . 1 overall run defense.
With his explosiveness, quick feet, change of direction and trucking ability, he’s got a solid shot at running the team to victory, but the Panthers should certainly not be overlooked. Thursday night’s contest is just round the corner, so let’s see if Marky Mark can help carry the offense to success for the second-straight game. He’ll be running for a contract for the remainder of the season.