For the past two weeks, the New Orleans Saints have turned back the clock.
After laboring through the first seven games without a run game, it has returned as New Orleans has averaged 144 yards on the ground.
And in those games, the Saints are unbeaten.
Today, when New Orleans (4-5) plays in O.co Stadium against the Oakland Raiders (3-6), it might need the run game more than ever.
With conditions expected to be cool and wet, the passing game could take a backseat to some amalgamation of Chris Ivory, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Travaris Cadet.
It may be no coincidence that that Saints run game has picked up since Ivory has been inserted into the lineup. After being inactive for five of the first seven games and not getting on the field in the other two, he has gained 120 yards on 17 carries, two of which he finished in the end zone.
Ivory believes there is a correlation.
“I do,” he said. “I feel like they change the scheme up a little bit too so they’ve made it to where we’re able to get outside and just give teams a different look.”
When the offense has had success in the past four seasons, the run game has played a big role.
In 2009, the Saints ended the season with the No. 6 run offense, averaging 132 yards per game on the ground. Two seasons later, New Orleans again was No. 6 in rushing, putting up 133 yards per game.
The end result – regular season records of 13-3 and dynamic, nearly unstoppable offenses.
The addition of Ivory could help the Saints get back to that mode.
“You see him go out there and do well, you want to do well,” Ingram said. “It’s not anything crazy, but definitely, as pros we’re competitors and you definitely want to do a good job.”
Said Raiders coach Dennis Allen, “I think Chris Ivory gives them something as far as a powerful runner. He is a guy that is really hard to get down. When I look at them, they have averaged over four yards a carry.”
Oakland allows opponents 119 yards on the ground, 11th-worst in the NFL. The Raiders have allowed more than 260 yards rushing in two games and more than 100 in two others.
In the past two games, the Saints have thrown the ball just five more times than they’ve run it. And if the Saints can establish the run and balance, even in the rain, it could open up the passing game even more.
“That’s obviously what we strive for, but the complementary nature of the run game and the pass game certainly opens up plays in the pass game that I know I appreciate,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “It gives us those big play opportunities too with our perimeter guys and gives something for the defenses to really worry about.”