Khiry Robinson received the Saints rushing opportunities he’s always wanted. And early Sunday afternoon, Robinson took advantage — part of his offense’s two-touchdown first quarter against Minnesota.
Pierre Thomas also received his share of carries, as well as a few catches.
Combined, their efforts during a 20-9 victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome showed the Saints offense’s ability to adjust to the loss of Mark Ingram, whose fractured hand is expected to keep him off the field for four weeks.
“I was just doing my job,” said Robinson, who rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries — both career highs. “It was my time to be up. It’s my job to take advantage of the opportunities I get to help the team win.”
Coach Sean Payton noted that the running game slowed down in the second half, a product of more defensive penetration, which eliminated some running lanes.
Still, Payton was pleased.
“I thought we were running it pretty well,” Payton said. “In the second half, for one reason or another, it seemed to be a bit more challenging. (But) I think the backs did a good job with their second effort and protecting the ball.”
The Saints entered Sunday unsure if the first two weeks of rushing success would continue. During Week 1, Ingram rushed for 60 yards and two TDs at Atlanta, then added 83 yards and another score last Sunday at Cleveland — both losses.
But Ingram broke his hand during the first half against the Browns, leaving rushing duties to Robinson, Thomas and Travaris Cadet.
So far, so good.
“I think we would have liked to continue running it like we started running it. I know we were real successful early,” Saints right tackle Zach Strief said. “I think their safeties got more involved in the middle of the game. But that’s what teams do to stop the run. So it’s still on us to figure out how to block that up, and I’m sure when we go back to look (on film), we’ll find plenty of stuff to fix.
“But I think Khiry ran hard, and Pierre has always been the constant that he is.”
Through the first two quarters, Robinson had six carries for 38 yards. Thomas (30 yards on eight carries) finished the first half with five rushes for 27 yards, including a 1-yard TD run with 9:36 left in the first quarter.
“The run game was fantastic,” said Thomas, who also caught three passes for 21 yards. He now has 294 career receptions with the Saints, seventh all-time and tied for first among running backs with former teammate Reggie Bush.
“The offensive line was opening up holes, the receivers and tight ends were getting on their blocks. And us running backs, we’ve been talking about how we were going to pursue it, keep our running game going (without Ingram). This game showed.”