While all the talk will be about the Saints come-from-behind win, Sean Payton being in the building and Drew Brees breaking Johnny Unitas' record, the thing that continues to stand out to me is how far the Saints running game has fallen off. In 2010, the Saints were 28th in the league in rushing after being effective on the ground in 2009.
Last year, the Saints bounced back with 132.9 yards rushing per game to finish 6th, but this year they are averaging 75.2 yards per game and have been disastrous on the ground for the most part. I know the loss of Carl Nicks has hurt this run game, but so has the blocking at on the perimeter. Mark Ingram looks like a waste of a first round pick and the addition of Ben Grubbs hasn't made up for the departure of Carl Nicks.
The Saints aren't the only team having a hard time getting it going on the ground. While that isn't a surprise, the teams and the running backs who are struggling should be. What in the hell is wrong in Oakland? Since 2007, the Raiders have failed to finish inside the top 10 in rushing just once, but this year they are managing just 60.8 yards per game and only 3.4 yards per carry. Tennessee, the Jets, the Steelers and the Cowboys all expected to get their running games going in 2012 and not one team is averaging more than 3.5 ypc.
Despite the addition of Trent Richardson, the Cleveland Browns have found that their running game isn't as big a part of the offense as they had hoped, but they are their own worse enemy in that regard. Over their first five games, the Browns are averaging just 18.8 rushing attempts per game and over their last three games, just 16.3. I understand that the Browns find themselves behind in many games and feel like they have to abandon the run, but they are getting away from the ground way too early and they don't seem to have a very clear focus in terms of their offensive philosophy. If this is who they want to be, then I believe their philosophy is flawed.