This Sunday night, the New Orleans Saints will be welcoming the Dallas Cowboys to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a primetime matchup of current division leaders. The Cowboys, at 5-4, are currently ahead in the NFC East in a division that is anything but decided. Meanwhile, the Saints got off to a great 5-0 start before dropping two of their last three games with the Carolina Panthers nipping at their heels.
Last week New Orleans lost a game they should have had, but played sloppy, one-dimensional football against the New York Jets. Saints fans will probably never forget the third-and-inches and fourth-and-inches late in the game that saw head coach Sean Payton call a short pass followed by a tight end reverse. Neither worked and the reverse to Josh Hill with such a short way to go was just painful to watch.
This could have all been avoided if New Orleans would dedicate some time to fixing their running game woes. As it stands right now, the Saints have rushed for a total of 638 yards, are averaging 3.3 yards per carry and have three rushing touchdowns to their credit. Their rushers and running game in general have repeatedly been unable to gain short yardage to extend drives and help close out games.
The dismal numbers persist, yet New Orleans continues to keep several backs on the roster. Nobody is arguing that Pierre Thomas or Darren Sproles shouldn’t be kept around, but what about the likes of Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet? Robinson has shown some explosive running in a few games this season, but has been used sparingly.
The Cowboys rushing defense is No. 25 in the league, having allowed 1,026 yards, eight touchdowns and a 4.6 yard per carry average. Not exactly stellar, so perhaps New Orleans will take advantage of this and get their backs and blockers some added reps and confidence.
But, then again, they might not.
Dallas’ passing defense is next to last, having allowed 16 touchdowns and 2,747 yards through their first nine games. It will be hard to fight the temptation to throw against a secondary with lousy numbers like that. But, Drew Brees being Drew Brees, I’m fine if they continue to go pass-heavy for one more week if it means a 7-3 record.