OAKLAND, Calif. — After a slow start to the season, New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has run the football with authority the past two weeks.
He’s not lacking in confidence, either, as evidenced by his 27-yard scoring run in the opening seconds of the second half of Sunday’s game with the Oakland Raiders.
Ingram, who had 67 rushing yards for the second straight game, bounced a simple off-tackle run outside and headed to the end zone of O.co Coliseum that’s famously known as The Black Hole because of its rowdy occupants.
After drawing a penalty for taunting Raiders safety Matt Giordano as he approached the goal line, Ingram celebrated some more by firing the ball at a sign that reads: “The Black Hole — The Most Notorious Fans in Football.”
As inhabitants of The Black Hole screamed and flashed gestures at him, he jogged back to the sideline after giving the Saints a commanding 28-7 lead of an eventual 38-17 victory.
“I feel good. … The running game’s getting going,” Ingram said after averaging 5.6 yards per carry on a dozen attempts and leading a Saints’ ground game that pounded out 153 yards. “We’re drawing up a lot of different looks for the running game, so it’s just a team effort.
“Getting a few carries to get into a rhythm has been good these past few weeks,” he added.
The Saints certainly realize it.
After rushing for 100 yards as a team just once in the first seven games, they reached triple digits for the third straight week after getting 140 and 148 yards, respectively, in wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.
“I think it’s his confidence,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said of Ingram’s performance. “The more you carry the ball, the more looks you get and the more confidence you get.
“Obviously, his play to start the second half was huge for us. He’s got great vision, he’s got great balance. He has the ability to run over people or drop his pads and make people miss. He’ll continue to work to get better.”
But he’s gotten a lot better in the last two weeks. After rushing for 178 yards in the first eight games, he has 134 in his last two.
“We’re just doing a great job of practicing the schemes,” said Ingram, whose performance was supplemented by Chris Ivory’s 37 yards and Pierre Thomas’ 30 yards. “The line is doing a great job blocking.
“They’re creating seams for us to run through and we’re running hard making some big plays. It’s good to have the running game going.”