Saints vs. Cowboys Sunday Night Football: Mark Ingram Finally Goes Off

Mark Ingram had the game of his career against the Cowboys Sunday night. - Stacy Revere

After struggling mightily this season, Mark Ingram absolutely went off on the Cowboys, averaging over 10 yards per carry.

I think I speak for the entire Saints' fan base when I say, "its about time!"

Still, give Mark Ingram all the credit in the world for his career best game last night against the Cowboys. It's been a rough year (to put it lightly) for the former Heisman winner who has received an abundance of criticism for his lack of production this season. It'd be foolish to simply speculate so, but one would hope that this was just the kind of confidence-boosting performance that Ingram needed to get going, as he finally looked like the player the Saints traded up to get in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.

Sure, the Saints' blocking was the best its been all season in Sunday night's game, but Ingram ran with determination that has been non-existent to-date. He burst through his lanes without hesitation, shed tacklers and finished his runs strong, and THAT is something you could not have said about him prior to last night. A look at some simple numbers illustrates just what kind of day Ingram had relative to what he's previously produced:

Career before week 10 Weeks 1-9 Against Cowboys
Total Carries 278 21 14
Total Yards 1,076 50 145
Yards after contact 682 27 48
Longest Run 35 13 34
Yards Per Carry 3.9 2.4 10.4
YPC after contact 2.5 1.3 2.9
Missed Tackles forced 34 3 7

To do the math for you, Ingram's performance in Sunday night's game alone yielded 17% of his career missed tackles and 11% of his career rushing yards. To put that into perspective, he has appeared in 30 games in his career, so last night's game makes up only for 3.3% his career games.

The night did not start out well at all for Ingram, however, as a costly drop on the Saints' opening possession stopped the drive dead in its tracks on third down. The ball was perfectly thrown by Brees (shocking, I know) after Ingram beat a linebacker, and that play looked as if it would have easily netted 15+ yards had Ingram made the routine catch. Admittedly, I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking, "way to go, Ingram," as this play only perpetuated my frustration with the struggling running back. Ingram, too, was visibly upset with himself, but maintained his composure en route to an outstanding performance.

One run in particular comes to mind that I think helped him get going; a run that, on the stat sheet, doesn't look like much of anything at all. In the second quarter, Ingram shed a tackle in the backfield and another at the line of scrimmage before refusing to go down and dragging three or four Cowboys defender a few yards down field. Again, nothing that added much to his stats or moved the chains. But what it did do is transform the crowd's recent boos into cheers and provided us (and more importantly, Ingram) with a reminder of what he is actually capable of.

Again, I'm not speculating that his career will suddenly turn around and he will be an elite RB. But I'd be lying if I said i wasn't far more optimistic about Ingram's future after Sunday night's performance. I don't think I'm alone in saying that I can't wait to see he can do next week against a tough 49er's defense. Let's hope he keeps it going.

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