The Saints' ground attack only averaged 2.7 yards per carry last week, but expect the Black and Gold to stay patient and committed to the rush this Sunday in Tampa Bay, for several reasons.
"The run game added a whole lot. It opened up a lot of passing for the offense," running back Pierre Thomas said. "If we get our run game going, we're going to be more of a balanced team, and that's what we want."
If the Saints can stay committed to the rush, the time of possession should also be skewed in New Orleans' favor, which should wear down the Bucs defense while giving the Saints "D" more time to breathe - an important factor in the broiling humidity of Raymond James Stadium.
Last Sunday against the Falcons, the Saints ran the ball 29 times and passed it 35 times. It's a balance that makes sense to quarterback Drew Brees.
"That makes a point that we are committed to the run, and we are not going to abandon it," Brees said. "We have no excuse to why we shouldn't be a good run team. We are going to be complementary. It's just even more reason why I want the passing game as efficient as possible, so that run game can be at its best."
Head coach Sean Payton isn't ready to commit to an ideal balance ration, only to the concept of greater balance, especially depending on the opponent.
"There's no specific number," Payton said. "Each game you go in maybe with an idea of how you'd like it to unfold, but we don't set a goal. I think it's important that you do have some balance. Some weeks it might be more than others, but I thought that from a time of possession standpoint, particularly the fourth quarter, that helped us."
While the Saints running back corps is no doubt thrilled with its return to relevancy under Payton's new watch, Thomas wants to improve production.
"As a running back corps, we just have to work on our reads a lot more: getting our right depth, how our offensive line takes on the blocks, and how our receivers are blocking too on the outside," Thomas said. "We really try to press the outside game and really get that going. We're doing a good job at it, and we're going to keep working each week."
Thomas says focusing on the outside run game is key, even though the Saints haven't been overly successful with it in the past. Establishing the outside zone run is a priority this season.
"I think we're getting to that point where we can run the ball outside and inside," Thomas said. "We're working on it, and we're progressing. They're not scared to call the play, and it showed last week. He just kept calling it, kept calling it, kept forcing it, which we need because you're not going to get it one time. It needs several times just to hit, and finally you're going to break through and get good yards. We've got to keep pressing and keep getting better each week."
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