METAIRIE, La. — When the Saints last played Tampa Bay, there was little mention of running back Doug Martin.
The rookie was averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and had only one touchdown prior to that Oct. 21 matchup at Raymond James Stadium and registered barely a blip on the radar.
Boy have things changed.
Martin is now third in the NFL with 1,234 yards and his 10 rushing touchdowns are second-most in the league. He has raised his average to 4.7 yards per carry.
How impressed is Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt with Martin, who New Orleans (5-8) will face Sunday at noon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?
“I don’t know that I’ve seen a back in the league this year in the National Football League make more yards after contact than he does,” Vitt said. “We put some film on and you have defensive linemen and linebackers hitting him and he’s dropping those guys like third period French. They’re going down.”
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Martin is the sixth-best back in the NFL, posting positive ratings in every category except for penalties. He has had only one game, according to the site, with a rating worse than minus-1.
Since Oct. 25, Martin has recorded four games with at least 128 yards, including a 251-yard, four-touchdown day at Oakland.
Martin’s 1,234 rushing yards are most ever by a rookie in Tampa Bay history and fourth-most ever by any back by a Buccaneer.
This likely isn’t making the Saints sleep any better. New Orleans still is last in the league in run defense, allowing 152.4 yards per game on the ground.
And here comes Martin, who has 868 yards after contact and has forced defenders to miss 48 tackles, second-most in the NFL and one behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.
“(He) plays with a low pad level,” Vitt said. ‘He gets to top speed. He’s tough and he doesn’t try to make people miss. He runs over you. It’s very impressive.”