Watching Mark Ingram running over and through the Carolina Panthers on Sunday I had a question pop in my head, “Why don’t Saints fans love Mark Ingram more?” Ingram is second to Deuce McAllister in rushing yards in Saints history and third in rushing touchdowns. If he scores eight times on the ground in 2017 he’ll be second in rushing touchdowns, if he rushes for 1,900 yards combined this year and next, he’ll be the Saints leading all-time rusher, and if he does all that he’ll probably still be the least loved historically great Saint of all time.
How and why did this happen? Maybe it’s the fact that during his time in New Orleans the Saints had Darren Sproles from 2011 to 2013. Sproles was small, electric, and probably one of the most fun players the Saints have ever had. Who wants to watch and appreciate Ingram when the five foot nothing lightning bolt can have the ball instead?
Maybe we haven’t appreciated Ingram enough because 7-9 four out of five years make anything the Saints are doing less enjoyable. Ingram quietly has averaged at least 4.3 yards-per-carry every year since 2014, caught at least 40 passes in 2015-16, and led Saints in rushing attempts. So why don’t we love him more? Why do we get more excited about the thought of Alvin Kamara or Adrian Peterson running the ball instead of boring dependable old Ingram? The last two years when the Saints rebounded from horrible starts, you know who was right in the middle of it? Mark Ingram. In 2016 Ingram had 158 yards rushing as the Saints beat San Francisco to get to 4-4, and in 2015 he had 223 combined rushing yards against the Colts and Giants as the Saints climbed to .500.
After the Saints started 0-2 I got 13 different emails screaming for Sean Payton to run Adrian Peterson more. You know how many emails I got demanding the Saints second all-time leading rusher get more carries? ZERO. So during the Saints best stretch of games the last two years Ingram played a central role but he almost feels like an afterthought to most of the fan base. My theory on why Saints fans don’t love Ingram more boils down to one word - Alabama. If Mark Ingram played for LSU in college or any other SEC team we’d love him 1,000 percent more, but he starred for the Crimson Tide, the team with the ex-LSU head coach that’s been tormenting us for almost a decade now. Is it rational? Of course not, but who ever said sports fandom had to be rational?
We should appreciate Mark Ingram more because he’s really damn good, probably will own all the Saints rushing records, and most importantly when Ingram is awesome the Saints are usually winning.
Saints Fan Mood and Meditation Music: Hold on Tight by Electric Light Orchestra
I’m debuting a new section in this column describing my Saints mood in song. Be warned my music tastes go from Mozart to Ed Sheeran so it might get weird. This week my Saints mood is courtesy Electric Light Orchestra’s Hold on Tight.
Even though music from 1981 is before my time, I love ELO so much because my older brother introduced them to me. Look at that video; it is covered in early 1980’s glory with a motor bike, tuxedos, and Tarzan swinging from a rope. We are holding on tight to our dreams of a fun 2017. Sing it Jeff Lynne. I
f you’d like to nominate a ‘Saints Fan Mood and Meditation’ song email me with a suggestion and why I should use your song.
Last week: 4-1
New Orleans (-2.5) vs. Miami: Are you ready for breakfast football? We won’t feel weird drinking at 8:30 a.m. Sunday because we do it all the time during Mardi Gras waiting for parades, but I’m not a huge fan of the morning kickoff. I like to ease into my Saints Sunday football you know? I’m not really wanting to fire up my grill at 7 a.m. Besides, a Bloody Mary with pancakes feels weird.
After the Saints started 0-2 we all sighed and mumbled something about preseason always being a lie, but what if the Saints preseason defense wasn’t a lie but a preview of 2017? Let me explain. What did the Saints first three preseason opponents all have in common? They all either had horrible or injured offensive lines, in the case of the Los Angeles Chargers, it was both. What did the Saints do in those situations? They dominated with a ferocious pass rush. Sunday in Carolina the Panthers were suddenly down two starters to their offensive line when Trai Turner left the game, and the Saints proceeded to collect four sacks and created three interceptions.
The Saints with the additions of Alex Okafor, Hau'oli Kikaha, Trey Hendrickson, and Sheldon Rankins now are equipped with an NFL average pass rush. Average might not sound great but compared to the 2015-16 Saints it feels like the Dome Patrol. So when the Saints play teams with injured or struggling offensive lines good things can happen for the defense, and guess which team has an offensive line that’s a mess right now? The Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins just gave up three sacks to the New York Jets and managed to only rush for 30 yards on 15 carries. Their star running back Jay Ajayi had 11 carries for 16 yards before leaving the Jets game with an injury. Miami receivers are banged up so if the Saints can force Jay Cutler to throw the ball a lot of good things will happen for the Saints and we’ll get to experience the European version of Jay Cutler’s ‘I don’t really care about these three interceptions’ face. Jay Cutler always looks like he cares less about football than we have cared about anything in our entire lives. The Dolphins defense is sixth in points allowed but that’s helped by having teams missing three field goals against them. Josh McCown just completed 18 of 23 passes against a beat up and kind of terrible Dolphin secondary. The Saints aren’t likely to win in a blow out because they probably won’t go four weeks without a turnover on offense, but if the infinite loop of 7-9 sadness is to be broken the Saints have to win this game. It’ll be much closer than a lot of fans expect but Wil Lutz will bang home a late winner and for the first time since 2013 the Saints will head into October not facing the abyss of a lost season.
New England (-8.5) vs Carolina: The best part of this week after the big Saints win was enjoying seeing a thousand ‘Cam Newton is terrible’ hot takes bloom. Also the Saints aren’t the worst defense in the NFL, it’s Bill Belichick’s Patriots.
Atlanta (-8.5) vs Buffalo: Sunday would have been PERFECT if the Lions had beaten the Falcons. I can’t decide if Atlanta is actually good or just incredibly lucky.
Tampa Bay (-3.5) vs New York Giants: The Giants are sneaky terrible, don’t let that almost comeback in Philadelphia fool you. Bucs 21-14 Indianapolis (+13) at Seattle: The Seahawks dynasty disintegrating is so very enjoyable. Watching the Titans wreck them was the perfect afternoon treat after a big Saints win.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at Saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at Itunes.