Don't overlook Saints' running game

N.O. was 6th in NFL in rushing in regular season, kept it up in playoffs

February 02, 2010|By Omar Kelly | Tribune Newspapers

DAVIE, Fla. — — A lot is made of the New Orleans Saints' passing game, and rightly so, considering quarterback Drew Brees has shattered team and NFL records this season.

But the Saints' ground game is no laughing matter. New Orleans averages 131.6 rushing yards per game, 4.5 yards per carry this season, and has scored 21 of its 64 touchdowns on the ground.

Part of the reason the Saints' rushing attack might get overlooked is that three tailbacks - Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush - share the workload.

"We like to think we set the tone every time we touch the ball. The running backs set the tone for the offense," said Bush, who serves as the pass-catching specialist of the group.

Bush, the starter, has gained 482 yards off 82 carries in the 18 games he has played, and caught 53 passes for 392 yards.

"It's possible we get overlooked," Bush said, "but it's OK because we have a great passing offense."

New Orleans finished the regular season sixth in the NFL with 2,106 rushing yards, and the ground game hasn't slowed down much in the postseason. The Saints average 119.5 rushing yards and have scored three rushing touchdowns in their two playoff games.

"When you've got Drew Brees back there, you've got to let him sling it, especially when he's feeling it," said right guard Jahri Evans. "But it's good to have a balance, and that's what we have."

Warm welcomes
Since the Saints' seven Pro Bowl players arrived in South Florida a day ahead of their teammates, Brees and a few others welcomed their colleagues at the team's hotel - dressed as bellhops.

"It was [Jonathan Vilma's] idea," Brees said. "Initially, it was just going to be Jon, but the fact that all the Pro Bowl guys were at the hotel anyway, and were planning on being out there to greet the team as they came in, he asked us if we'd join in."

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