Before the 2016 season, the New Orleans Saints hadn’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since Deuce McAllister in 2006, the longest active drought across the NFL.
That would change in 2016.
Mark Ingram capped off a career year with career highs in rushing yards, total TDs, receiving TDs, and yards per carry. Ingram was able to hit the 1,000 yard mark in the final week of the 2016 regular season, finishing with 1,043 yards.
That isn’t to say it was all sunshine and rainbows for the Saints workhorse back. After back-to-back costly fumbles in Weeks 7 & 8 against Kansas City and Seattle, Ingram was benched for back-up Tim Hightower. Ingram then returned in a timeshare role for Week 9 against San Francisco and had himself a monster game, including this career-long rush for a touchdown.
Now back as the primary running back, Ingram was able to return to being handed off the ball on first downs in Weeks 10 and beyond. Surprisingly, Ingram was more than just productive on the ground. While he didn’t match his career high in receiving yards the year before, he was still able to add another 319 yards in the air, logging the first four receiving touchdowns of his career this season. One of those came on a wide open screen against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12.
Then there would be another dip in the season for Ingram the following week, where he looked to get concussed trying to gain extra yards in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions. Ingram hit the ground hard and laid motionless with players from both teams immediately signaling to the Saints bench.
The next week would see only limited action for Ingram as he was recovering from his injury, but he was back and ready for action in Week 15.
Week 15 saw the Saints travel to Arizona to face the former team of Mark Ingram’s back-up, Tim Hightower. After Ingram had a couple of great runs to set up the Saints with first and goal to go, Hightower got the call to punch it into the endzone for the second time in the game. Ingram, he of the over 75 rushing yards in the game, didn’t get a chance to score. To say Ingram was upset over this decision would be an understatement.
As the Tweet indicates, Ingram was closing in on an incentive bonus, specifically the $100,000 bonus he would get if he reached 1,000 yards. It’s possible that this reaction was related to this bonus. It’s also possible that as a competitor, he just thought he deserved the chance for the touchdown after doing most of the hard work to get the Saints in a position to score. In any event, coach Sean Payton instead chose to let the former Cardinal get a bit of revenge against his old team.
Then came the next week. One week after WR Brandin Cooks voiced displeasure with not getting any targets in the Saints win against the Rams, you could see an almost purposeful attempt to force the ball his way in the weeks that followed. After Ingram had his blowup on the sideline in Week 15, Ingram had almost 100 rushing yards, a two-point conversion, and two rushing touchdowns in Week 16 against the Tampa Bay.
He made sure to strike a pose after the touchdown to make sure the home crowd knew they were watching a talented back.
It was no secret that Ingram was still short of the 1,000 yard mark entering Week 17 against the Falcons. With the game already out of reach, the Saints fed Ingram the ball, with every Falcon in the stadium knowing exactly what was going to happen. Still, Ingram was able to find holes and burst through, making his season achievement the lone bright spot of the game.
If Ingram can continue to build on this success, continue to be a dual threat complete running back, and can try to keep his emotions in check, he might be in for an even bigger year in 2017. Let’s hope.