Five numbers that will make you want to dance and celebrate, or binge-eat cheeseburgers after the Saints’ 23-21 loss against the Tennessee Titans.
6.124 - All Hail King Ingram II.
Although he left for a little over two years, Mark Ingram seemingly never lost the adulation of the New Orleans Saints fanbase when he returned to the team mid-season in 2021. It is eerie, because when he was first drafted by New Orleans in 2011, the former Alabama running back was not exactly a favorite of the heavy LSU-leaning Saints crowd. Making it worse, Ingram combined for only 1,462 rushing yards in his first three seasons in NOLA, while spending the better part of these years in the training room with injuries. But then, Ingram had a renaissance of sorts from 2014 on. That year he nearly reached a 1,000-yard season (964) for the first time as a Saint. He finally accomplished that feat in 2016 (1,043) and again in 2017 (1,124), his best rushing year in a Saints uniform. But after a subpar 2018 (645 yards), Ingram left as a free agent for the Baltimore Ravens, and excelled in his first year in Baltimore (1,018). The honeymoon did not last however, and after getting released by the Ravens following the 2020 season, he found himself on the dreadful Houston Texans roster. An injury to Saints’ running back Tony Jones Jr. made New Orleans take a flyer on their old running back, and yesterday, albeit in a gutting 23-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Ingram rushed for 47 yards, which took him to a total of 6,124 rushing yards as a New Orleans Saint. That made Ingram the Saints’ franchise leader in rushing yards as he passed the legendary Deuce McAllister (6,096). Television broadcast of the game showed McAllister standing up in the commentators’ booth to salute Ingram’s accomplishment. We salute you too, Mark.
8 - Back to the Drawing Board?
On Sunday in Nashville, the Saints could not convert a two-point attempt late in the fourth quarter, trailing 23-21 and having no timeouts left. the failure sent Tennessee to 8-2 on the season and the Saints to a two-game losing streak. Oh yeah, two Sundays ago, a two-point conversion that would have given the Saints a three-point lead over the Atlanta Falcons was also missed, and New Orleans ended up losing the game by two points after Matt Ryan engineered a lightning-fast field goal drive with only about a minute left in the game.
New Orleans’ two-point conversion failure in Tennessee was the 8th in a row in the regular season, with the last successful attempt coming all the way back in 2018. I am looking for something clever to say here, and my brain is numb. As imaginative an offensive play caller as Sean Payton is, I cannot fathom that his team has not been able to successfully run a dead ball play into the end zone from the two-yard line eight times in a row. I guess that is why the numbers featured in these pieces are noteworthy (insert shrug emoji here).
3 - Alive and Not Kicking
Ever since it was announced that Saints starting placekicker Wil Lutz would miss the beginning of the season, the position looked like a giant uncertainty for the Saints, and boy has it been. Aldrick Rosas, who started the year with the Saints, missed his way off the team, going 1-for-4 on field goals before getting released. Enter Cody Parkey, who was on the team for a single game (against Washington) and promptly missed two extra points, leading to his release during the bye week, disguised as a hip injury. After learning that Lutz would miss the entire season, the Saints signed Brian Johnson, kicker number 3 for the Saints this season. A rookie who had not kicked in a single NFL regular season game, Johnson has been perfect on field goals, 8-for-8. Well then what is the problem? Against Tennessee on Sunday, Johnson missed two extra points in a game that New Orleans lost by two points. He also missed an extra point in the game against Tampa Bay in the Dome and is now 5-of-8 in extra points in his short time with the Saints. As a team, the Saints have now missed a combined five extra points on the season, and maybe...counting. Not good.
202.2. - Next to Last
These are the New Orleans Saints we are talking about here, but are we sure? Alas, the numbers do not lie in this instance: the Saints average 202.2 passing yards per game, which ranks 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL. I had to rub my eyes a couple of times when I read this statistic. Yes, I know the Saints hardly have any experienced or credentialed wide receivers, and Drew Brees is now on television, calling games for NBC. But I would have never thought that I’d see a Sean Payton-led team being this bad through the air. Average? Middle of the pack? Okay, I could have fathomed that. But next to last? How do we explain such a drop off? Did we just grossly underestimate how incredible Drew Brees was even with half an arm? It certainly appears so.
3.07 - Best of the Best
From last to first. Although the Saints did not face Derrick Henry on Sunday in Nashville, they still flexed their rush defense muscles against a decidedly rush-oriented team in Tennessee. The Titans called 29 rushing plays, and averaged 2.3 yards-per-attempt, for 66 total yards. On the season, the Saints allow 72.9 rushing yards-per-game (1st in the NFL), and 3.07 rushing yards-per-play, also first in the league. The next best rushing defense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers allows 3.72 yards-per-play, nearly a full yard more, and 79.8 rushing yards per game. For a team that had question marks at the defensive tackle position coming into the season with the loss of players like Malcom Brown and Sheldon Rankins, the Saints’ rush defense has exceeded expectations this season and forced teams to rely on the pass much more heavily to be able to move the ball. So, on a decidedly mediocre season thus far, one unit has stood above all else. The Saints would love it if other units followed suit.
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