Abandon the Run, Ye Saints Who Enter Here
About the issue of the Saints and their running game, I am simultaneously feeling vindicated and disturbed. You don’t need a reminder of the neverending run/pass ratio debate, but I will remind you of my stance on the issue by re-endorsing the work of B&G co-founder Ryan.
From his article “The Run/Pass Ratio Doesn’t Matter” –
So, again, for the record, once and for all, the run/pass ratio doesn’t matter. It doesn’t dictate winning. It is effect, not cause.
And from his article “The Saints’ New Don’t Panic Game” –
Did you realize that we had two giveaways? That Drew had 45 pass attempts? That our pass/run ratio was 70/30? The game against Tampa had every single hallmark of a classic Panic Game–a classic Saints loss. And yet, we won.
The latter was written after our close call vs Tampa. Since then, the Saints have bullied Arizona and Miami. The Saints are 4-0 for only the second time in the Payton era.1 They haven’t lost and, more importantly for my current purposes, they haven’t really been threatened with a loss for two weeks.
And yet their pass/run ratio is 65/35.
Their pass/run ratio in 2012? 65/35.
The Saints aren’t running the ball. The Saints can’t run the ball. And it doesn’t matter: The Saints are off to their best start since 20092 regardless.
So yeah, this is me saying “We told you so” — just a little. But also it’s not: I’m not exactly thrilled about our inability to run the ball. I’d like us to have the ability to produce yards and points every way that doing so is possible, like we did in 2011. Sometimes, as was the case in Tampa, our passing game just doesn’t work, and we need something else to rely on.
Of course, that something, so far, has been the defense. But how good is that defense, really?
Well, if you follow a line of logic offered by Junior Galette, we might have to conclude it’s not very good at all.
“It was a nice win,” Galette said, “but I don’t think that team was as good as everybody was saying. We just abused their offensive line all game.”
Junior, no, you didn’t. The Miami offensive line dominated the Saints defense for much of the first half, particularly on the ground, where the Dolphins averaged nearly seven yards per carry on 14 attempts.
Not until the Dolphins became so terrified of Darren Sproles that they decided to take their chances with Jimmy Graham did the Saints truly take over the football game. Only then did the Saints defensive front begin to “abuse” the Miami offensive line, producing a bunch of sacks and pressures and, as a result, sealing a victory through turnovers.
So if Junior’s right, his compatriots were shoved around by a bad football team for a full half. Meh.
None of this is new. For the season, the Saints have the sixth-worst rushing offense by yards per carry and the worst rushing defense by that same stat. It hasn’t mattered. The world, maybe, has moved on.
The Saints have one of the worst rushing offenses; 1-3 Philadelphia, 1-3 Oakland, 1-3 Washington, and 1-3 Minnesota are all among the best rushing offenses. The Saints, by yards per carry, have one of the worst rushing defenses; the combined record, so far, of the four worst rushing defenses by yards per carry (New Orleans, Kansas City, Detroit, San Diego) is 13-3.
The Saints offense is great because of passing. The Saints defense? It has allowed a cumulative passer rating of 65.1. The other teams on the aforementioned list of terrible run defenses are up there too: Kansas City allows a 63.8, Detroit a 69.4. They are 4-0 and 3-1, respectively.
Run the ball. Stop the run. Still lose.
The Saints must improve along the offensive line, of course–they have to keep Drew Brees upright. The 12 sacks they’ve allowed so far in 2013 almost equal the 13 they allowed in all of 2008. And it sure would be nice to not have the worst rushing offense in the history of the Payton era.
I’m bothered by these problems. They are weaknesses. They could cost us football games we’d otherwise win.
But. You know.
In 2009, the Saints defense allowed a 68.6 passer rating. It was the number 25 run defense in the league by yards per carry.
Photo via Pro Football Schedules