Aug 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) escapes a tackle by Indianapolis Colts safety LaRon Landry (30) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Match-up number 2: The Saints Running Game
Just in case you aren’t aware allow me to tell you that last year the Colts were in the AFC Championship game and lost to the eventual champions, the New England Patriots. The result of that game was not only a trip to the Super Bowl, but it was also the moment where one of the most ridiculously overblown media frenzies of the last few years was born: Deflategate. What is lost in the myths of that ridiculous farce is exactly how the Colts lost that game. It wasn’t a close game by any means, they got flat out WHUPPED by the Patriots on the ground. The Saints invested a lot in the ground game over the off-season this year and to this point they have yet produce up to expectations.
The Colts haven’t been very successful at stopping the run much over the last few years, and that couldn’t be better news for the Saints. As good as the Saints were on Thursday they rushed 30+ times for a mere 81 yards. The Falcons have been good against the run this year, but that is unacceptable. The Saints CANNOT afford to have the same kind of dismal performance on the ground on Sunday as they had against Atlanta. The Colts are a good team (maybe?), or at least they are supposed to be, and more importantly they are the home team. The old adage is that to win on the road in the NFL the two things you have to bring with you are a good defense and a running game. Well, the defense isn’t there yet (32 in the NFL) so that complicates things, but there is absolutely no reason that the Saints can’t bring a strong run game to Indianapolis.
The Saints have 3 extremely talented running backs, should have their offensive line finally healthy again, and are facing an opponent who has struggled to stop the run consistently. All of that should add up to the Saints being able to move the ball on the ground. Mark Ingram has established himself as the ‘feature back’ in the Saints backfield and Khiry Robinson to this point has been the number 2 guy. Robinson is a little more explosive than Mark is, he brings a little more flash to his game, but he isn’t the consistent performer Ingram is either. It makes them a nice duo, but wait, I said 3 didn’t I? The third guy in the Saints back field is the X-Factor, and I mean that in the truest sense. C.J. Spiller has yet to truly be unleashed in the Saints offense and I have to wonder if this week will be the week where they commit to using him in every way imaginable. Spiller has the rare ability to take what should be a 2 or 3 yard gain and turn it into a home run on any given play. There are only a few guys in the league who have that kind of true ‘home run’ ability. I expect Ingram to be able to move the ball for the Saints, but if they want to really get the run going they are going to have to find a way to get Spiller the ball in space. He will break the Colts.
The only way to accomplish that is for the offensive line to do their jobs and create the running lanes the Saints backs need to be successful. Ingram is a ‘run to daylight’ guy, he rarely if ever makes a big play out of nothing. Khiry lacks the instincts and the patience to truly capitalize on his abilities, and Spiller is most dangerous in space. It isn’t an exaggeration in my book to say that if the Saints can win up front along the offensive line, that they should be able to dictate the terms of this game to the Colts.
Next: 3. Sean Payton