NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 06: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints calls a play during their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 6, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
NFL games are won and lost in the trenches, with the offensive linemen who work so hard for so little recognition. They are tasked with the all-important job of keeping their quarterbacks safe and providing their running backs with room to work. When a football team wins, it's usually accompanied by a stellar performance from their offensive line. The same is true of the reverse.
Which is why the Saints lost in such embarrassing fashion to the then winless Rams, only to follow that up the following week with an impressive win over division foe Tampa Bay. Because the Saints offensive line turned in their worst and best efforts of the season in those two games, respectively. It's a simple formula really.
Perhaps it was the return of Zach Strief and tight end David Thomas coupled with the absence of Charles Brown that sparked the overall improvement this week. Or maybe Sean Payton's decision to make Sunday's matchup vs. the Bucs a 'bat game' was enough to inspire. Whatever the reason, the big guys up front deserve some serious recognition for Sunday's pivotal win.
"We just wanted Drew to be clean," guard Carl Nicks said. "There shouldn't be any turf marks, scratches on his helmet or anything."
Also incredibly important is their role as run blockers, and most of the team's success running the ball Sunday vs. the Bucs can be credited to the offensive line. But just how successful of an effort was it? The answer might truly surprise you.
As far as total rushing yards in a game, this was only the Saints second best output of the season. But it was their efficiency toting the rock that sets this weekend's performance apart. Saints running backs averaged a massive 7.0 yards per rush. To put that in perspective, the last time the Saints were equally efficient running the ball was their 2009 win over St. Louis. The Saints, however, have never been more efficient than they were Sunday since a 2003 loss to Philadelphia (8.3 ypc). If you're not doing the math at home, that was eight years ago.
So for those wanting to see the Saints run the ball more, remember that it all hinges upon the talent and effort of the offensive line. But take comfort knowing that the Saints are coming off their most masterful rushing performance in quite some time. For that, we're giving credit where credit is due. The entire Saints offensive line gets this week's game ball from Canal Street Chronicles.