Saints’ ground game taking off with Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara (rear) and Mark Ingram (front) have given the Saints a productive — and unpredictable — rushing attack. 

METAIRIE, La. — It’s mostly a coincidence that the New Orleans Saints‘ ground game has taken flight since they traded away Adrian Peterson two weeks ago.

“We’ve just been committing to the run. And the offensive line’s been doing a great job. And we’ve been scheming up well, and we’ve been executing,” said Mark Ingram, who had his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games since 2014 in wins over Detroit and Green Bay — and could make it three in a row if the Saints try to stay conservative Sunday against a Chicago Bears defense that has been feasting on turnovers.

And more than anything, the Saints (4-2) have been winning. It’s much easier to stick with the run game when they don’t fall behind early like they did in Weeks 1 and 2. Peterson probably would have feasted, too, when the Saints were running all over the Lions while building a 35-point lead two weeks ago.

But the performance of Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara has further emphasized why the Saints deemed one of the NFL’s all-time great rushers expendable. Not only are Ingram and Kamara playing great football, they are also both versatile and unpredictable.

Ingram has 389 rushing yards this year and 166 receiving yards. Kamara has 215 rushing and 209 receiving. Last week, both of them went over 100 yards from scrimmage on a cold, wet day in Green Bay.

“Both guys are so versatile, both guys can do everything,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. Brees stressed that the versatility makes New Orleans’ offense less predictable since defenses like to try and key in on which back is in the game.

“If you asked me which running back’s gonna be in on goal line, I don’t know. It could be either one. Who’s gonna be in on third down? I don’t know. It could be either one. Base offense? It could be either one,” Brees said. “They’re both so versatile in what they can do. It’s a good thing to have.

“When you’re able to mix and match the backs and do it in a way where you’re very comfortable … basically just opening up the playbook to them and saying, no matter what we’re running, we feel comfortable with that guy in the game, that’s a good thing.”

Ingram is on pace for his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season (1,037 yards, to be exact, plus 64 for catches for 443 yards, which would be career highs). Kamara is on pace for 573 rushing yards and 75 catches for 557 receiving yards.

The Saints are averaging 121.7 rushing yards per game — their highest total since 2011 — which ranks 11th in the NFL. Since Week 2, they rank sixth in the NFL with 134 rushing yards per game and seventh with 4.62 yards per carry.

Ingram loves those numbers, since he has naturally always pushed for more dedication and patience with the run game, which allows him and the other backs to settle into a groove and wear down a defense.

Last week, the Saints ran out the final 4 minutes, 20 seconds of clock at Green Bay before Brees was able to take a knee — something that everyone appreciates.

“That’s what we want to do,” Ingram said. “It just shows the grit, the aggression, the physicality of an offense when you can ice a game out (like that).”

Leave a Response