On Sunday night, the New Orleans Saints put on a 49-17 beat-down of the Dallas Cowboys that left many in awe as they picked up an NFL record 40 consecutive first downs and a franchise record 625 yards. And while the team’s offense is almost always amongst the best in all of football, there was an added element to the team that allowed them to compile this historic night and makes them extremely dangerous moving forward: third year running back Mark Ingram.
Throughout the game, Ingram was a human wrecking ball, picking up 145 yards and a touchdown on a mere 14 rushing attempts, his first 100 yard night since entering the NFL. His harsh style led to a plethora of broken tackles and forced the Cowboys to respect a Saints rushing game that has been lackluster at best in 2013.
This respect opened up lanes for the team’s secondary running backs, who rely on much more of a finesse style attack. For the entirety of the night, the Saints picked up a total of 242 rushing yards, with Pierre Thomas leading the team’s secondary rushing attack with 87 yards on the ground.
There was no doubting that this was an incredible night for a New Orleans team that has made a habit of relying on passing the ball, which was perfectly exemplified by the fact that the franchise had not had a running back compile more than 100 yards since Week 2 of the 2012 season. In 2013, the the Saints had averaged the 26th-most rushing yards per game in the NFL at 79.8, with Thomas being the team’s leading rusher at 277 yards.
While some would surely think that a good night running the ball would at the very least curtail this spectacular passing game, it did nothing of the sort. Drew Brees threw for 392 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in large part due to the extra space and open receivers provided by the threat of a varied rushing attack.
Of course, relying on passing the ball was not an issue as the Saints jumped out to a 6-2 record, but there is no doubting that variation will be beneficial to the team.
Luckily for New Orleans, they now have the knowledge that they can ride the back of Ingram to maintain possession and open up big holes for both the passing and rushing attacks. After watching his breakout performance on Sunday night, it is obvious that he has much to offer the Saints moving forward, and that his harsh running style will improve an already great offense and translate into playoff success this season.