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Saints must run to survive

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Drew Brees is the unquestioned star of the Saints, but the team's offense is really firing when he has a dependable run game to keep opposing defenses honest. Mark Ingram delivered that Sunday against the Packers, and we should see much more of it.

Stacy Revere

When people have asked me my opinion on what has been wrong with the Saints offense, I have consistently pointed to one thing -- they haven't been as committed to running the ball as they were in past years.

See, everyone thinks of the Saints as this high-powered offense with quarterback Drew Brees chucking the ball all over the place and tight end Jimmy Graham making all these fantastic plays, and they aren't exactly wrong. However, most of the success the Saints have had on offense since Sean Payton was named head coach still had running the ball as the central element of the whole deal. That is why they have had a stable of running backs for years. Guys like Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles helped to give the offensive explosiveness out of the running game as well as the passing game and also to keep opposing defenses honest.

Now the Saints have had some injuries at running back, most notably Mark Ingram, who had been out for several games. But there was still no reason for their run-to-pass ratio to be as unbalanced as it has been in most games so far this season. The few times they had run the ball prior to Sunday's game against the Packers just so happened to also be the games that they won. I am pretty sure that isn't a coincidence.

If you had told me before the game that Ingram, coming right back from an injury, would rush for 172 yards on 24 carries, I would have predicted that the Saints would beat the brakes off the Packers, just as they did in real life. The problem is there is no way anybody could have predicted that Payton would ride the run that day when he hadn't most of the season. You can't tell me there isn't a major correlation on Brees going 27-32 for 311 and three touchdowns against zero interceptions and the fact that the running game forced the Packers to play it honest on defense instead of favoring their pass coverage. It all goes together.

There is no real mystery in New Orleans about why the team isn't performing up to expectations. Their defense is made to play with a lead and pressure the quarterback. Their offense is built to put up points in bunches. With the running game neglected and the offense not scoring at its normal output, along with some key injuries of course, the defense has been predictably exposed. If Payton continues on committing to running the ball on offense, I am betting we will all of a sudden see the "old" Saints from last year before too long. And a lot of folks will act as if a miracle occurred.

Nope, just getting back to playing old-fashioned football is all.