New Orleans Saints use balanced approach in NFC South win

The New Orleans Saints finally broke out offensively in their 35-28 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Drew Brees exploded for 377 yards (313 in the first half) and four touchdowns to launch the Saints’ comeback, but what may be a surprise to many is that the ground game has been the impetus for New Orleans’ return to form. The “Playbook” crew breaks it down.

While the numbers aren’t very impressive, with 26 carries for just 81 yards, the Saints’ running game served a huge purpose on Sunday. New Orleans’ willingness to stick to the ground game, even when trailing 14-0 and 21-7, kept Tampa’s defense honest and opened up holes in the intermediate to deep passing game for Brees to exploit. This was the Saints’ most balanced game offensively by far in terms of play-calling. They had a ratio of 41 percent run and 59 percent pass, which marked a significant change in approach given that their average on the season coming into the game was 28 percent run and 72 percent pass.

Despite having marginal success with just 3.1 yards per carry, the steadfast commitment to the run opened things up for the Saints playaction passing game. Of Brees’ 37 pass attempts, 11 were playaction, accounting for 30 percent of their passing plays. Brees completed 10 of those 11 for 171 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs’ linebackers had to respect the run, and it opened up alleys behind them. If the Saints continue to stick to their run game when Joe Vitt returns as the interim head coach, there is no reason their offense can’t continue to roll.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (NFC) and 9 p.m. ET (AFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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