The New Orleans Saints are awful on the road. They have not won a road playoff game, and their winning percentage in cold weather is terrible. Every Saints player, coach, and fan know the narrative. Unfortunately for the Saints, to get to the Super Bowl they will need to win three road games.
This year could be different, however. Unlike years past, they Saints have a top 5 defense to go with their top 5 offense. Besides that, one player, who is right under the Saints’ nose, could hold the key to road success in this playoff run—Mark Ingram.
Believe it or not, this year the offense has been the problem in many of the road losses. They put up 20 points or less against the Rams, Panthers, Jets, and Seahawks (even though everyone played bad in the Seattle game). Against the Patriots, they were not able to gain one first down while the defense came up with 2 three and outs in the final three minutes against Tom Brady. In most of these games, there have not been enough rushing attempts and Drew Brees has thrown it over 40 times. This imbalance doesn’t win games.
This is where Mark Ingram comes in. The much-maligned first rounder has been running the ball with purpose since the Seattle loss. In 3 of the past 4 games he has averaged over 5 yards a touch. This includes a great performance in the Carolina loss where he averaged 6.4 yards per carry on 13 carries.
For the first time since he has been drafted, Ingram looks completely healthy. He seems more trim and elusive. And most importantly, he has shown exceptional patience and vision in his running, rather than the customary 3-yard runs where he is pushing his own blockers out of the way. For the Saints to have a chance against the Philadelphia Eagles and beyond, they will need to run the ball, and Ingram is the best option.
He is the freshest back, since he has missed quite a few games this season. Also, his downhill running style is best for the cold weather and sloppy turf conditions. If Sean Payton doesn’t run Ingram into the ground I don’t know what he is waiting for. Isn’t this why the organization traded back into the first round to acquire him? For this type of game? And if his future in New Orleans is uncertain, wouldn’t you want to showcase him to gain some value on the trade market?
I understand that Drew Brees is amazing, but this year more than any other year has shown that he can’t do it all by himself on the road. Out of the eight games this season, Brees has posted a quarterback rating of 81 or less in six of them. In addition, he has thrown multiple interception in 4 of those games. Compound that with the inability of the Saints’ receivers to create separation at times, and there isn’t much optimism for consistent aerial success.
Just do the right thing Payton. There is a reason Ingram won the Heisman Trophy, there is a reason he went in the first round, and he is healthy, has been running well, and is ready to go. Don’t be that guy who buys the most expensive, extravagant liquor and just keeps it in the box for decoration in the house. Ingram is that nice whiskey that hasn’t been used or opened yet, and it is time to get drunk off his production. Do that, and there is a good chance we will head to Seattle.
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