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Run/Pass Balance Key to Victories for the Saints

Balance is the key to victories. When we call as many runs as passes, whether we gain a lot of rushing yards or not, it seems to key victories. Brees will get his yards regardless.

We couldn’t depend on the defense, and that’s what ultimately cost us most of our losses last year. Sure a FG made here or a third-and-one run made there would’ve guaranteed us victory in some of those 8 losses, but a defensive stop in any of those games would’ve secured victory as well.

I think our defense will play much better this season, and as long as we have balance on offense, points will still come to us in mounds. We might not score 463 points again, but we definitely won’t allow 393 points.

Only six teams rushed the ball fewer times than the Saints last year, but when we did run, the HBs all together averaged 4.0 yards per carry for 1,594 yards and 20 TDs. We passed 636 times and rushed only 398 times.

You’ll see below in my breakdowns how a balanced offensive attack was key in our 8 victories.

24-20 vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Saints defense struggled against the run, allowing 146 yards to Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn. The Saints offense, however, was balanced with 27 runs and 32 passes. Reggie Bush may have had his best day all year in the opener with 14 carries for 51 yards and 8 catches for 112 yards and a TD. P.T. gained 52 yards on only 10 carries. Drew Brees was 23/32 for 343 yards and 3 TDs and 1 INT. The dink and dunk passes to Bush opened up the passing lanes with Devery Henderson catching an 84-yard strike for a score, David Patten catching a 39-yard strike for a score, and TE Jeremy Shockey snagging 6 balls for 54 yards. Had our defense played better vs the run, the score would not have been this close.

31-17 vs San Francisco 49ers – The Saints score 21 second-quarter points behind Drew Brees with two TD passes to Lance Moore and one to Robert Meachem to take a 21-6 halftime lead. The ground game for the Saints totaled 104 yards. We ran the ball 32 times, and a ton in the second half, to preserve the lead (which was key), but it was Drew who came through when we needed it. He is our best player by far.

34-3 vs Oakland Raiders – We were only up 10-3 at halftime, and Oakland missed a few FG attempts which would’ve made the score closer. But they were going for FGs due to our dominating defensive effort, which held the Raiders to 226 total yards and forced two turnovers. The Saints ran the ball 33 times compared to just 30 pass attempts. We gained a decent 122 yards on the ground, but it was Brees’ efforts which blew the game away, completing 26/30 for 320 yards and 3 TDs. This is a great example of the perfect game for the Saints. Run the ball, achieve success through the air, and play sound defense. Deuce ran 13 times for 65 yards, Bush ran 14 times for 27 yards and a score, and Brees completed passes to 9 different receivers, with 5 players having 3 or more receptions.

37-32 vs San Diego Chargers – Our defense was awful, and we only gained 70 yards rushing on 26 carries, but we ran just enough to keep the Chargers off balance. Needless to say, it was Drew Brees who won the game for us, going 30/41 for 339 yards and 3 TDs. The play of the game was the strip by Chris Reis of Darren Sproles on a kick return which was recovered by Usama Young. We went up 16-3 after scoring off of that turnover. Reggie didn’t play, so Deuce carried the load, running for 55 yards on 18 carries. Eight players caught balls for the Saints, including 4 players with 4 or more receptions. Billy Miller had 7 catches for 85 yards.

30-20 vs Kansas City Chiefs – Our defense allowed 124 yards rushing, but 45 of them came on 3 QB scrambles by Tyler Thigpen. Larry Johnson was held to 67 yards on 19 carries. On offense, our running game was working better than our passing game. This was one of those rare instances when the running game was keyed on by their defense, allowing the passing game to work. Pierre Thomas had 16 carries for 88 yards and 1 TD and 4 catches for 56 yards. Lance Moore stole the show after Thomas, catching 8 balls for 102 yards and a TD. Brees went 25/36 for 266 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. McAllister had 8 carries for 18 yards and a score. We passed 36 times and rushed 28 times, but Thomas’ dominance kept K.C.’s defense in check. Also, we had only 2 penalties all day. That’s helps any day.

51-29 vs Green Bay Packers – Our defense was nowhere to be found until CB Jason David snagged two 2nd half interceptions. Balance on offense was the key again. We ran the ball 26 times and passed the ball 27 times. 98 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs kept the Pack defense off balance. Brees was 20/26 for 323 yards and 4 TDs. Lance Moore caught 5 balls for 115 yards and 2 TDs. Shockey had 5 catches for 57 yards. Thomas was the ground game warrior, rushing 15 times for 87 yards and 2 TDs.

29-25 vs Atlanta Falcons – Our defense was horrible again, but our offense showed what it could do as a complete unit. We ran the ball 30 times and passed the ball 32 times. Bush had a good day on the ground, carrying the ball 10 times for 80 yards. Thomas had 16 carries for 102 yards and a score. Both Bush and Thomas caught TD passes. Brees looked human, going 18/32 for 230 yards and 2 TDs, but when you don’t turn the ball over and the running game is working, you don’t need much passing or defense to win a close game vs a divisional opponent. At the time, the Falcons were considered one of the best teams in the NFC.

42-7 vs Detroit Lions – Our best game of the year came after we were elliminated from the playoffs and against the worst team ever. Still, Detroit had much more to play for than the Saints. We ran the ball 30 times and threw 40 times. We gained 181 yards on the ground with 4 rushing TDs led by Pierre Thomas (13 for 77 and 1 TD) and Deuce (9 for 61 and 1 TD). Brees completed 30/40 for 351 to 9 different players for 2 TDs, both going to Colston, who had 9 grabs for 99 yards. The defense allowed 255 total yards. We scored a TD on six straight possessions (the NFL record is 7).

These are our eight victories, and they are all good examples of how balance is key when playcalling. The ground game does a good job overall, but it’s that balance with playcalling that works more than just overall rushing yards. Drew Brees gets it done regardless, but when we call as many running plays as passing plays (and the defense plays just a little), we are unstoppable.

Sean Payton is getting better at balance, even though we are getting away from a power running game altogether. I think it will all come together this year with Gregg Williams, FB Heath Evans, a healthy Shockey and an overachieving Billy Miller, Pierre Thomas as our featured back, a solid kicker in Garrett Hartley, and the best QB in the league… Drew Brees.

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