Two teams with big pre season expectations and thus far disappointing seasons will look to get back on track on Sunday afternoon. The Saints have had to rebound from a slow start just to get to their current 4-4 record. They have now won 2 straight games and the source of that success may be the emergence of running back Mark Ingram. After rushing for 172 yards the week before against the Packers he carried the ball 30 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the teams 28-10 victory over Carolina last week. He was injured early in the season and has returned determined to prove his value. He has helped stabilize the offense that had been far too reliant on the pass. Saints quarterback Drew Brees was highly complimentary of Ingram an pointed out that his ability to run in between the tackles as well as bounce it outside makes the defense account for the run on every play and it opens up passing lanes for their high powered attack. Brees was 24-24 for 297 yards and a touchdown last week. Tight End Jimmy Graham also showed he was finally recovered from a leg injury and had 7 catches for 83 yards including Brees’s only touchdown pass. San Francisco is coming off 2 consecutive losses including last weeks lost to the Rams. For a team with SuperBowl aspirations, a loss to the Rams is not going to get it done. They did lose in controversial fashion as quarterback Colin Kaepernick tried a quarterback sneak to win the game and was ruled to have fumbled the ball before he crossed the goal line. Replays were inconclusive and the 49ers ended the game with a 4-4 record and with many questions about their offense as a whole.
The 49ers are a team built on the run, yet they have seem to have gotten way from that. Its one thing to abandon the running game when you are trailing and feel the need to pass to catch up. However last weeks game was close throughout yet they only ran the ball a combined 16 times for 66 yards. Kaepernick was 22-33 for 237 yards and a touchdown and that was about it for an offense that only managed 10 points. The defense has been solid but will have to again play without star linebacker Patrick Willis who has an injured big left toe.
The Saints are known for their offense, however it is their defense that has stepped up big time. They have totaled 11 sacks over their last 3 games and that was against some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Cam Newton, Aaron Rogers, and Matthew Stafford. Last week they allowed only a combined 231 yards and their run defense over the last 4 games has only allowed 80 yards per contest. It will be important for Ingram to stay healthy and active as both Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson will miss this week’s game.
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