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The Saints Biggest Strength is Running the Ball

At the halfway point in the season, the Saints have been most successful this year when they commit to running the ball.

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall Faulk wants to know what each team's strength is so far this season:

To be GMC Professional Grade you must build upon your strengths. Look at your team now and assess what it does best.
Is it running the football? How about pass defense? How about throwing the ball deep? Do they find creative ways to win?
Let me know how you would build on that success to get your team into the playoffs.

Surprisingly, the biggest strength for the Saints this year has undoubtedly been the running game. Despite injuries to Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, and Pierre Thomas that have cost them all at least two games, the Saints have consistently been able to run the ball effectively.

That has been especially true in the last two games as Mark Ingram has completely taken control on the ground for New Orleans. Ingram has carried it 54 times for 272 yards and three touchdowns in the previous two weeks. It's something that Saints fans have been waiting to see ever since he was selected in the first round in 2011. His great vision combined with power running has looked almost unstoppable for opposing defenses.

A good amount of the success can be credited to the offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, the Saints have a run block rating of 13.4, which is fifth best in the league. Their overall rush rating is 10.0, which is third best in the league. The pass block is ranked 10th worst in the league right now. The difference is blocking effectiveness points to why the running game has been more efficient than the passing game.

At the halfway point, all of the team running stats look very promising. Only the Seahawks average more yards per carry than the Saints' 4.8. Their 12 rushing touchdowns are tied for the most in the league. They are averaging 129.5 yards per game, which is good for seventh best in the NFL.

It's pretty apparent that Ingram has deserved to receive the bulk of the Saints carries for the rest of the season, but getting the rest of the backfield healthy to compliment him should make the running game even more dangerous. Sean Payton has shown he is willing to be a run-first team. If the Saints can continue to run it well, it will open up the passing game even more like it has the last two weeks. Drew Brees has been able to throw the ball downfield more in the last two games than he had been all season because of how much the defense has to respect the run game.

At 4-4, the Saints lead the division and will play the first of three home games in row on Sunday. If they can continue to run the ball early and well, they shouldn't have a problem taking control of the weak NFC South and proving themselves as a contender in the NFL. All of the best seasons from the Saints have come when they had a balanced offense, and it may be as balanced as ever this season.

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