Here’s the only thing you need to know about the Saints’ 30-20 victory over the Vikings in Minnesota on Sunday night: Drew Brees only once completed a pass traveling more than 20 yards downfield in the air, and attempted only two.
In an encore of Brees’ first four starts of the season, the Saints dinked and dunked their way to offensive dominance, utilizing running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in a bludgeoning short passing game that more closely resembled a power running game considering the toll it took on the clock and the Vikings.
The key difference here—between that first month of games against Tampa, Cleveland, Atlanta and the New York Giants, and today—is that Brees and Saints coach Sean Payton were able to minimize risk with a quick passing game against one of the better defenses in the NFL. Minnesota (4-3-1) boasted the NFL’s 11th-ranked defense in yards allowed heading into the weekend, and hadn’t given up more than 300 passing yards in three consecutive wins over the Eagles, Cardinals and Jets.
Kamara and Ingram combined for 10 catches and 60 hard-fought yards receiving along with 108 rushing yards on Sunday night. Their ability to convert on third down in the passing game frustrated an otherwise potent Vikings defense, and it took a physical toll on safeties and corners attempting open field tackles on the pair.
As is their tradition, Kamara and Ingram dressed side-by-side in the visitors’ locker room and conducted postgame interviews as a pair.
“We never want to be tackled by just one person,” Ingram says. “Our coach does a great job of dialing those plays up, and our line sets up some great screens, so when that opportunity comes to punish a defender, we’ll do that. That's part of the chess match.”
Separated for the first four games of the season while Ingram served a suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, the reunited running backs are showing why they’re widely considered the top backfield tandem in football, and a perfect match for their savvy, aging Hall of Fame-destined quarterback who never wowed with his arm strength. Their presence has proved a powerful antidote to blitzing defenses who must account for either to leak out of pass protection and turn a pass caught at the line of scrimmage into a 20-yard gain.
New Orleans’ convincing win on the Sunday night national platform sets the stage for a Week 8 showdown with the undefeated Rams with massive NFC playoff implications.