Believe it or not, this article actually started out as an examination of Mark Ingram's 2012 carries to see if the stats and film proved one way or another whether the term "bust" being thrown around by some Saints fans had any merit.
But as I started poring over the numbers, I was led in a different direction entirely and this post quickly transformed into a full on autopsy of the Saints offense as a whole, complete with frightening conclusions. Before we go any further, I've got to give you fair warning: some of these stats may be disturbing to some Saints fans.
I began by checking out the down and distance situations for each of Ingram's carries this year. What could they tell me? What I discovered was that a vast majority of them come on first down. In fact, of his 27 carries this season, 20 of them were first down situations. In other words, 74% of the time that Ingram touches the ball it's on first down.
Is that a lot? It seemed like it to me but I had nothing really to compare it to. So I looked at the same stats for Pierre Thomas to see if his rushing work load was any different, such as a wider variety of down and distance situations. Turns out, it's not. Out of 19 total rushes in 2012, 16 of them were on first down. In other words, 84% of the time that Thomas touches the ball it's on first down.
None of this is really a big deal. After all, one would expect a football team to run more on first down than any other. But if Ingram and PT are getting the bulk of the first down carries, what's happening on all the other downs? Here is where it gets a little worrisome.
In three games the Saints have run a total of 106 plays on second, third and fourth down this season. Would you care to guess how many of those plays were rushes? Eleven! That's right, eleven. That means that on any given 2nd, 3rd or 4th down play, there is a 90% chance the Saints will pass. That's just too predictable.
Surely they at least run more on short yardage plays, right? Wrong again. Out of 15 plays that were 2nd and 5 or less, the Saints only rushed 4 times (26%). Out of 14 plays that were 3rd and 4 or less, the Saints only rushed 3 times (21%).
I understand that Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and not a weapon to simply be ignored. I acknowledge that the Saints are a pass-first team. But it's gone too far. The numbers don't lie. And if an idiot blogger like me notices this, I'm certain opposing coaches know this, too.