Nov 9, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) carries the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Ingram is quietly having his best year in the NFL. His presence largely goes unnoticed as fans often focus on Drew Brees and the Saints high-powered passing attack. But Mark Ingram’s contribution to this offense shouldn’t be underappreciated. He’s helped the Saints quietly establish themselves as the league’s sixth best rushing offense while they average the third best yards/rush average at 4.7.
Ingram himself is averaging 4.8 yards/carry, third best in the NFL, and 91.8 yards/game, which is also third best in the NFL. It’s by far his best year thus far in the NFL as Ingram has nearly matched his career high of 602 yards through nine games. Ingram’s 4.8 yards/carry average is also second-best for his career, though his best came last year (4.9) when Ingram only had 78 carries for the year.
Stopping Ingram this Sunday will be no easy task as the Bengals have struggled against the run thus far this year. The Bengals have surrendered the sixth most yards/carry this year (4.5), the second most yards overall (1,287 yards), and the fourth most touchdowns (12). As a matter of fact, the Bengals haven’t given up less than 100 yards rushing in a game since Week 2. But regardless of their struggles, stopping Mark Ingram on Sunday will be vital if the Bengals are to emerge victorious.
With an unrecognizable defense this year, the Bengals have been far from stellar against the pass. And while the Saints possess an extremely potent aerial attack, allowing them to also “ground and pound” would spell disaster for the Bengals. In order to stop the run on Sunday, the Bengals will need “all hands on deck.” It’s convenient then that Brandon Thompson returned last week as he seems to be the Bengals best defensive tackle next to Geno Atkins; Domata Peko has simply been pushed off the ball and out of running lanes too many times this year. Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga’s returns would also help, but there’s been no updates recently indicating whether or not their return will take place this week.
The Bengals’ defensive line will simply need to “muscle up” and outfight the Saints line on Sunday. Any secondary would need all the help it could get against the Saints passing attack, so the battle on Sunday may ironically come down to the ground game. The Bengals cannot afford to be pushed off the ball the way they have all year.
The Bengals need to show more fight the way they have in the past. They need to absorb blockers while holding their ground allowing the linebackers to do their job. In the past, the Bengals have been able to rely on their front four to handle the line while the linebackers were free to roam. The line has struggled to show this ability this year, but that must change on Sunday. The effort must be there.
Sunday will tell a lot about the Bengals’ defense heading down the stretch of the season. If they hope to make the playoffs once again this year, the Bengals need to start with stopping the opposition’s run game by showing some fight along the line.