Mark Ingram showed few signs of rust in the New Orleans Saints’ 43-19 win over the Washington Redskins in week five. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner returned from a four-game suspension and promptly reasserted himself in head coach Sean Payton’s offense. Ingram scampered for 53 yards on 16 carries while finding the end zone twice. The running back’s return saw Alvin Kamara relegated to just six carries and 24 yards. It was a season low for last season’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Ingram’s re-emergence in the Saints’ backfield gives the team a one-two punch it was missing in the opening weeks of the season. While Kamara had performed well in Ingram’s absence, the Saints did struggle in weeks one and two without suspended running back. Week one saw the Saints lose 48-40 to the Tampa Buccaneers with just 43 total yards on the ground. Week two’s 21-18 win over the Cleveland Browns featured another sputtering run game with 64 yards gained. While the two subsequent games were improvements, Ingram now gives the backfield far more firepower.
Ingram shaking off the rust
Ingram’s workload surprised fans. His number of carries wasn’t expected to top Kamara’s total quite as it did. However, New Orleans’ dominance of the Redskins allowed Ingram to receive more touches than first planned. The Saints eased to victory in the end and Ingram was able to shake off the suspension he served.
Despite the abundance of work against the Redskins, New Orleans’ offense will be balanced between the two star running backs in the future, according to reports this week. Last season saw the dynamic duo combine for 1,852 yards on the ground and 20 rushing touchdowns. It was a combination envied by the rest of the NFL as it powered the Saints to 11-5 during the regular season and first place in a highly competitive NFC South.
New Orleans’ offense has been explosive in the first five weeks of the season. Although much of its success has come through the air. The Saints are third in total offense averaging 424 yards per game. Drew Brees has been excellent through the air once again this season as the team averages 320.8 yards passing.
For all the excitement around the offense, however, Ingram’s re-introduction makes the Saints better. While Kamara had run for over 270 yards prior to the team’s win over Washington, the Saints still ranked in the lower half of the NFL in terms of rushing yards per game. Following their week 5 win, the Saints are now up to 19th in the NFL in rushing yards with 103.2 a game. The suspension of Ingram hit the team’s run game heavily. In 2017, the Saints ended the season with the fifth best ground game with 129.4 yards per game. Now with their two-headed run attack back, the Saints can thrive on the ground once more.
A difficult road to the playoffs
The Saints will enter a difficult stretch of games in week seven. An away game against the AFC’s Baltimore Ravens is up first. John Harbaugh’s team is fresh off a 21-0 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Last season’s playoff foes the Minnesota Vikings will follow. The Vikings are better than their 3-2-1 record indicates and playing at U.S. Bank Stadium will not be easy for New Orleans.
The Los Angeles Rams will then arrive at the Superdome for week nine. If the Saints can come away with at least two wins from this terrible trio of games then they will certainly solidify themselves as the NFC’s top team. If New Orleans is unable to navigate the three games and fall into troubled waters, the NFC South will be wide open.
The good news for Sean Payton and his team is the duo of Ingram and Kamara are back together. Now stronger than before, and rested from a bye week, the Saints are ready to drive forward towards the NFL Playoffs.