EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – While former New Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory was running wild against them Sunday in the New York Jets' 26-20 victory, the Saints’ own running game was practically nonexistent.
The Saints ran the ball well, when they did; Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram and fullback Jed Collins combined for 50 yards on 11 carries, an average of 4.5 yards per carry. But the Saints (6-2) never stuck with the run game for a handful of reasons.
For one, the Saints went into Sunday’s game with a plan to attack the Jets’ secondary, which was a no-brainer since the Jets have struggled to stop the pass, whereas they boasted the NFL’s No. 1-ranked run defense. And that plan was mostly successful early, with Drew Brees throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns (and also two interceptions) in the first half.
For another thing, the Saints kept putting themselves into long-yardage situations with too many penalties in the second half (a total of seven offensive penalties for 49 yards).
And lastly, the Saints were forced to play catch-up, down by nine points for much of the second half.
“When we ran it, I thought we did some pretty good things,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We knew they were going to be a good run front coming in, but I thought we did some things that helped give us some balance. But overall, late in the game, all of a sudden you find yourself [with a first-and-20, a second-and-15 and a second-and-19 on the final three drives]. Those are the types of things that I think just make it difficult. They make it difficult for the quarterback, I know that.”
Offensive tackle Zach Strief added: “I think, for one, we became one-dimensional because of mistakes that we made.”
In hindsight, maybe the Saints wish they had tried a traditional run play when they failed to convert a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. But the Saints didn’t do too much second-guessing on that series of plays.
They actually tried a belly handoff to Collins on third-and-1, which appeared to gain a yard – but the play was nullified when the Jets were awarded a last-second timeout. On the play that counted, the Saints went with a pass to Collins, which also would have worked easily, but Collins dropped the ball.
Then on fourth-and-1, the Saints tried an exotic trick play that failed miserably – an end around to tight end Josh Hill that lost 8 yards. Payton and players all defended the play call, saying they installed it this week and felt confident it would work. But they credited the Jets' defense for staying disciplined instead of selling out to stop the run.
“I’ve been here eight years. I’ve seen reverses work, I’ve seen reverses score,” guard Jahri Evans said. “We tried to just catch then in an aggressive situation, and they made a play.”