It's become something of a truism among Saints fans that when it comes to rushing, our team is...shall we say, subpar? Our inability to convert crucial third downs cost us dearly on several occasions, and our lack of a power running game in the fourth quarter meant that nearly every victory had to be a shootout.
But in looking over rushing stats, I made some puzzling discoveries. Puzzling, hell: startling would be more like it. Maybe even astonishing.
For instance: did you realize that, judged by scoring, three of the top five ground attacks were in the NFC South...and that one of them was--the Saints? That's right: New Orleans scored 20 rushing touchdowns last year, behind only Carolina, Tennessee, Atlanta, and New England. We scored on the ground better than half the NFL did through the air.
The Saints are way down near the bottom of the list in total yards, yards per game, yards per carry, and attempts. Yet we're actually 14th in first downs by rushing. By percentage of first downs--that is, the total of runs compared to those that resulted in firsts--we're third.
What in the world could all of this mean? Am I remembering wrong? Didn't we lose games because we couldn't pick up a yard when we needed it most? And yet here we are scoring more touchdowns and making a better percentage of first downs on the ground than nearly any other team.
Let's compare different parts of the season. We know that our offense became more balanced late in the year, right? Wrong: in the first 8 games, we rushed 206 times. In the second 8 games, after making "a renewed commitment to the ground game," we rushed 192 times. Yet we made more yardage: in the first half of the season, we gained a total of 710 yards on the ground, for an average of 3.4 yards per carry. In the second half, we gained 884 yards and a 4.6 average. W. T. And let me add, F.
I don't know what to make of all this, except that the Saints are an engine for boggling men's brains. Does all this mean that we can rush...or that we can't?