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Thanks to Saints O-Line, Mark Ingram is Becoming “The Big Bully on the Block”

It was as dominant a performance of any, in the entire 51-year history of the New Orleans Saints franchise. 

That performance of course was the one given this past Sunday at Buffalo, New York by the Saints offensive line, which at this moment might just be the best offensive line in all of Pro Football.

The Saints O-Line eviscerated the Bills run defense by rolling up with 298 rushing yards (10 yards short of a franchise record). They also scored a total of 6 rushing TD's, which broke a franchise record.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Germano, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

As a result, the Saints became the first NFL team since 1941 with six rushing TDs and zero punts in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

But perhaps even more impressive: the dynamic RB duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara became the 3rd pair of Saints RB's in team history with more than 100 yards and a touchdown in the same game since Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister in 2006; and Reuben Mayes and the late, great Craig "Ironhead" Heyward in 1990.

Ingram and Kamara each surpassed 100 rushing yards and 130 yards from scrimmage. Ingram's 3 rushing TD's were a career high, and he finished with 21 carries for 131 yards.

Kamara, who as ESPN beat writer Mike Triplett noted had come into the Buffalo game leading the NFL with 6.0 yards per carry, improved that number with 106 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries. Kamara also caught five passes for 32 yards.

And it was all thanks to the dominance of the Saints O-Line, which very quietly has become one of the NFL's best, in spite of some recent re-shuffling due to injury.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

"We take pride in it," starting left tackle Terron Armstead said to reporters in the locker room afterwards.

"We take pride in going forward and imposing our will on defensive fronts. We have two great backs in Mark and A.K. and we do everything we can to give those guys a lane to run."

Added center Max Unger

"If you can do that, you're going to have a good game. Any time you can run the ball that successfully, that's where you want to be.".

It was a sentiment echoed by Ingram as well.

"We’re actually committing to it, as a coaching staff, everybody’s buying into it as players," Ingram said of the team's running game this season behind that O-Line, in the locker room after the game.

"The big boys up front did a great job executing and the coaches did a great job of calling the runs."

When asked by Triplett about how the traditional "thunder and lightning" tag doesn't really apply to him and Kamara since they're both so versatile, Ingram said:

"We go together, we feed off each other, we push each other, we compete against each other ... both make people miss, both can catch the ball, both can run inside. It’s a great combination. I'm glad we’re a good duo together."

While Ingram and Kamara do in fact make a terrific tandem, there isn't any doubt that out of everyone who is reaping the benefits of this newfound success, NO ONE person is enjoying the results any more than Ingram is.

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Last year appeared to be a 'breakthrough' season for the former two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy-winning RB at the University of Alabama; as Ingram finally broke the mythical 1,000 yards rushing in a season barrier on a professional career high 205 carries (with 6 TD's), while averaging 5.1 yards per carry —  which included 3.53 per carry AFTER contact by a defender in 2016.

But yet coming into this season, he still had to put up with the many doubters within the team's own "Who Dat Nation" fan-base, who have long been critical of Ingram ever since his arrival in NOLA as a rookie in 2011.

It's one thing when supporters from the other 32 NFL teams demonstratively show their contempt for an opponent from another team, that in their eyes is that Sunday's "enemy" on Game Day.

But it's a whole other different thing entirely when a large segment of your own fans dislike you --- and for no apparent good reason other than to simply say that "he hasn't done enough".

However, this season is slowly turning into a total blessing for Ingram because finally he has an O-Line in front of him that can allow him to showcase his true talent — and to fully utilize his rare blend of pure unadulterated power and great athleticism that made him a college football "superstar" not all that long ago.

For the haters and doubters of Ingram, it's viewed as "finally living up to his potential".

But for everyone else, it's the Ingram that they always knew existed, but who was just simply waiting for all of the pieces (i.e., a solid offensive line in front of him) to finally come together.

And as we saw this past Sunday in Buffalo, Mark Ingram is now running unencumbered. For a lack of a better term: he's become "the big bully on the block".

Photo courtesy of Michael DeMocker, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

As in: RUNNING OVER people.

That's the player that fans remember during that 2009 Heisman Trophy season, in which he was the youngest player to ever win the award as a sophomore thanks in part to a handful of games in which he literally STEAMROLLED the competition.

In fact, Ingram's day against Buffalo this past Sunday brought to mind the 2009 SEC Championship Game in which Ingram and the Crimson Tide on that day beat the undefeated and top-ranked Florida Gators.

Ingram rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns, while also catching two passes for 76 receiving yards to combine for 189 all-purpose yards. In the game, Ingram also broke the school single-season rushing record for the Crimson Tide, reaching 1,542 rushing yards for the season.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

That game just 8 years ago was vintage Ingram at his finest, when he was able to showcase his true abilities behind a dominant Alabama offensive line.

And it's the same Ingram that we saw again this past Sunday at Orchard Park in upstate New York.

With the 131 yards against the Bills, Ingram is now up to 672 rushing yards on the 2017 season.

Ingram is already the 2nd greatest RB in Saints team history, having already surpassed former 1980's Saints RB George Rogers earlier this season for the 2nd most rushing yards ever in the team record books.

Ingram now has rushed for 4,910 yards in his Saints career, and likely will catch the Saints' all-time leading rusher — living Saints legend Deuce McAllister — sometime next year. Ingram needs 1,186 more yards to surpass McAllister, who is 1st in the Saints record book at 6,096 career rushing yards.

Photo courtesy of Michael DeMocker, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

For the moment however, the focus will stay upon the next 7 games still remaining for a (7-2) Saints team that appears headed for the post-season, which would be the team's first trip to the NFL Playoffs since 2013.

And as long as that Saints O-Line can remain relatively healthy and continue to perform at the high level that they've been able to do for a majority of the season thus far, then the post-season as of now appears to be an obtainable goal.

Especially if they can continue clearing the way for Mark Ingram to be "the biggest bully on the block"........


Big Easy Magazine contributing writer and Saints News Network columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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