Saints' running game has been key

NEW ORLEANS -- We’ve talked plenty about Drew Brees' performance in Monday night’s 49-24 victory against the New York Giants.

But we’d be terribly wrong not to mention the support the quarterback got from his running game. If there is such a thing as very quietly running for 205 yards, the Saints did that.

They didn’t have a 100-yard rusher. But that’s not really their style. They use a rotation in their backfield --and that’s a backfield that’s so deep that Chris Ivory, last season’s leading rusher, was on the inactive list Monday night, even though he was healthy.

Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas all were active and each of them played a significant role. Ingram had 80 yards on 13 carries and ran for a touchdown. Thomas had 63 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Sproles had 54 yards on eight carries. Brees added 8 yards and a touchdown on his only run of the night.

Again, the running game sometimes gets lost in Brees’ significant shadow. But the Saints have a much better running game than they did last season when they struggled with injuries and basically ran out of healthy running backs in a first-round playoff loss to Seattle.

That’s why the Saints went out and drafted Ingram and signed Sproles as a free agent. The results have been impressive.

The Saints are averaging 125.5 rushing yards per game this season. They’re averaging 26 rushes a game and 4.8 yards per carry. Through 11 games, they already have 12 rushing touchdowns.

In 2010, the Saints scored only nine rushing touchdowns. They averaged 94.9 rushing yards per game. They also averaged 23.8 runs per game and 4.0 yards per carry.

By the way, according to ESPN Stats & Information, 22 has been the magic number of carries per game for the Saints this season. In games in which they have run 22 or more times, they’re 7-0 and average 37.3 points. In games in which they have run 21 or fewer times, they’re 1-3 and average 25.3 points.