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  • But the New Orleans running backs don't deserve all of the attention, as the defense has pulled itself out of the basement of the NFL.
By Michael Beller
October 22, 2017

Three thoughts on the Saints 26–17 win over the Packers.

1. The Saints do, in fact, have a run game. New Orleans lost their first two games of the season, running for just 60 and 81 yards in those contests. But since then, the team has won four straight, picking up at least 149 yards on the ground in three of them. The rushing attack took off for the Saints after they sent Adrian Peterson to Arizona. Mark Ingram ran for 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in the win over the Packers, his second straight game breaking the century mark. Alvin Kamara, meanwhile, has ripped off chunk plays, totaling 132 yards on the ground on 19 totes. All told, since streamlining the backfield, the Saints primary two backs have rushed for 351 yards and three touchdowns on 66 carries, and caught 17 passes for 103 yards.

Drew Brees is still doing his thing in his 17th season, but the Saints, and every team for that matter, are better when they’re getting sustained production from their run game. With Ingram back in command of the backfield and Kamara providing an explosive element, they once again have it.

2. Game one of the Brett Hundley era did not go as hoped. All week, Mike McCarthy and everyone of note on the Packers stressed how much confidence they had in Hundley to run the offense, building up the now-starting quarterback as much as possible. To be fair, they couldn’t really say anything else, no matter if it was coach-speak, if they genuinely believed it or if it was some combination of the two.

It might not be quite so easy to sell the optimism this week, because while Hundley made a nice play on a 14-yard touchdown run, he was wholly ineffective as a passer. Hundley went 12-for-25 for 87 yards, 3.48 yards per attempt, zero touchdowns and one interception, and Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb combined for five receptions for 40 yards. It’s clear that the Packers can’t, and won’t try to run the same offense with Aaron Rodgers out for at least seven more weeks. Still, even if they shift focus to the run game—a likelihood after Aaron Jones ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries—they’re going to need a lot more out of Hundley to stay in the NFC North race. The Vikings moved to 5–2 with a win over the Ravens on Sunday, the Lions are 3–3, and even the Bears are 3–4, just one game behind the Packers, after upending the Panthers in Week 7.

3. A new favorite in the NFC South? Let’s get back to that Saints’ four-game winning streak. They began the season with losses to the Vikings and Patriots, but have toppled the Panthers, Dolphins, Lions and Packers in their last four games, the first and last of which came on the road. At worst, the Saints will be tied with the Falcons atop the NFC South at the end of the week. At best, they’ll be a game ahead of the Falcons, and a half-game clear of the Panthers, with a win over them at Carolina in hand. In other words, the Saints are in the driver’s seat in the NFC South just shy of the halfway point of the season.

While Brees and the reenergized run game get most of the attention, the defense has pulled itself up out of the league’s cellar. During the Saints four-game win streak, they defense has held its opponents to 17 or fewer points three times. They also kept the Panthers, Dolphins and Packers south of 300 total yards of offense. All too often since winning the Super Bowl at the end of the 2009 season, Brees and the offense have been let down by the defense. Through six games, it looks like that won’t be the case this year. 

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