The Emerging New Consciousness
7 Posted on October 2nd, 2013 by Himself
All things must pass. Especially champion NFL teams. So go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what little value there may be in a running game. Like, far out, man.
In the wake of the Saints’ dismantling of the Miami Dolphins, amid the euphoria of starting 4-0 and the sweet, sweet schadenfreude of seeing the Falcons implode all over the rug, a brand new meme has emerged. It’s this: who the hell needs a running game, anyway? We’re doing juuuuusssst fine as things are.
Forget those old shibboleths…like, “to be a champion you need to run the ball and stop the run.” Or, “a strong running game sets up the pass.” Or even, “everything starts with the line.” Those are, like, so yesterday, man. A useless vestige of a corrupt and oppressive past. We want to be free to throw the ball whenever we feel like it, without having to worry if great-grandpa might not approve. This is the dawn of a new age, man—a new consciousness, even. So mellow out, because, you know, a running game is not healthy for children and other living things. Or something.
So if you’re a Saints fan, rejoice! No longer need you worry that your team currently ranks a paltry 25th in rushing, or that the offensive line is allowing sacks at almost twice the rate of last season. Just bomb ‘em back to the stone age, baby! Or, to use one of those newfangled phrases: it’s all good.
Here’s the thing: I think they’re right.
First, credit where it’s due. It was Angry Who Dat who brought this to my attention. He referenced The Goat over at Girod Street End Zone, who pondered the implications of the Saints’ current youth movement on defense; but it was AWD who pulled it all together. Do, by all means, give close attention to both posts…but here’s the money quote:
Can a team with a top-10 defense, allowing under 20 points a game, with a passing attack that is arguably the best professional football has ever seen, survive and win everything without even a hint of a running game?
Well, why the fuck not?
Why indeed? For years, we pined for the chance to see Drew paired with a defense that could play like it wasn’t a black-and-gold turnstile. Now, suddenly, he’s paired with a defense that plays like a black-and-gold Kursk salient. And we’re going to cry about the running game?
I did some checking, because it seemed to me I remembered some other teams with running problems recently. Teams like, oh, the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, and the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Seems that in the past dozen years since the dawning of this here millennium, champions with good running games have been anomalies.
There are a few good teams sprinkled through there: a 4th, a 5th, a 6th, a 7th. But no real juggernauts, any of them. And then there are the appallingly bad running teams—a 23rd, a 24th, two 27ths, a 32nd! What the hell business did the Giants have in the Super Bowl when they could only rush for 3.5 yards per carry?
The Saints currently aren’t quite playing at the Giants’ level: they’re only gaining 3.4 yards per carry—exactly what the 2003 Patriots averaged when they won their second Lombardi. Those Patriots also were the 9th-ranked passing team—and, more importantly, the 7th-ranked defense. Currently, the Saints are ranked 2nd in passing and 6th in defense. I’d say this constitutes an inside track to our second Lombardi. Maybe.
It will all depend on two things: luck on the injury front (we don’t want to lose…hah, you thought I was going to speak names), and continuing stellar play by the defense. If those two trends continue, the Saints are going to be a difficult out. For anyone.
And there’s no reason to believe things won’t keep on keeping on. I suggested a couple weeks ago that you could tell who the Saints were going to be pretty much from the beginning. Well, maybe I was full of shit, because at that time I misdiagnosed 2013 as a repeat of 2010. Actually, the team is playing significantly better—the point differential is more than 5 points in favor of the 2013 squad. That extra 5 points wouldn’t have gained us a whole lot in 2010—just one more victory, to improve to 12-4. But that win would have come against the Falcons, earning us the division title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. And what a difference that would have been.
AWD sorta backhandedly endorsed my thesis that the Saints give us an early tell:
Frankly, I don’t see the running game getting better. The offensive line isn’t going to experience any enormous changes this year, Mark Ingram is what he is, Khiry Robinson can close but apparently not do much else, and Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are too busy demoralizing secondaries to fuck around with 4-yard runs between the tackles.
So this offense may just be what it’s going to be already – I hope I’m wrong – but I’m okay with that.
I’m okay with that, too…just so long as the defense is what it’s going to be already. And there’s also this: even if the Saints start out as a Ford or a Ferrari, and never change from one to the other in-season, they also start in first gear. I figure they’re in third right about now. Just think of the mess in the NFL when they shift into fifth.