The Saints’ offensive gameplan going into this weekend’s road game at Carolina may call for them to do things they’re not used to doing. That is, run the ball consistently. Carolina has been gashed all season against the run and they currently rank 31st in the NFL against the run. Forget about Cam Newton for a second and all those yards he’s already thrown for, to me the key to this game is simple: Sean Payton needs to discipline himself to run the ball more than he naturally wants to as a play caller. Not only are the Panthers 31st in yards allowed on the ground, they’re allowing an alarming 5.2 yards per carry. That’s 4th worst in the NFL (somehow Oakland gives up 5.9 yards per carry so far!!!). Those are not good run defense stats. Compare that with the Saints run defense, which has been passable, which is giving up 4.6 yards per rush and ranks 9th in yards per game allowed. If you were to gauge the Saints’ run D as mediocre, that puts the Panthers by comparison somewhere between God awful and beyond any semblance hope.
So to me it’s simple. Run the ball often and well on the Panthers and you win. Problem is, the Saints currently lead the NFL in passing attempts with 174. By comparison, they’ve rushed the ball 106 times, so they’re running the ball ~38% of the time. That’s not going to cut it in this game, they have to run more than 38% of the time. The Panthers’ run defense is too weak not to take advantage.
Last year, the Saints were second in the NFL with 661 pass attempts and 30th in rushing attempts with 384. That means last year they ran the ball for an entire season 36.7% of the time. The Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, despite not having their best rusher Ryan Grant most of last season, still ran the ball 44% of the time. Oh and in case you were curious, the year the Saints won the Super Bowl, they ran the ball 46% of the time. Notice a trend here? Granted, it’s easier to run when you’re blowing people out and you’re milking a big lead, but offensive play calling balance is and will always continue to be Sean Payton’s achilles heel. He needs to combat his urge to throw every play now more than ever against this team this weekend.
So here’s my advice to coach Sean for Sunday: give PT and Mark Ingram the rock over and over and over and over.