The Ravens’ streak of not allowing a single opponent to rush for 100 yards this season remains intact, but that was of little consolation after Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints at M&T Bank Stadium.
The defense surrendered a season-worst 134 rushing yards to New Orleans, including 76 yards in the second half. Running back Alvin Kamara carried the ball 17 times for 64 yards and scored on a 2-yard run that helped launch a rally that overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
“It’s very frustrating,” nose tackle Michael Pierce said. “We got bled, especially in the run game. They made critical plays all day. Fourth downs, third-and-longs, they just found a way to get open. They were better than us today.”
The Saints began to rely on the running game in the final period, carrying the ball 13 times compared with nine drop-backs. The offense gained 60 yards on the ground, and running back Mark Ingram applauded coach Sean Payton for sticking with what he called “some dirty runs.”
“They have a great front,” said Ingram, who had 32 yards on 12 attempts. “We just stayed with it. We were able to get that going in the fourth quarter, gash them a couple times. We knew it was going to be a dirty game, and we just kept wearing on them, wearing on them. We just moved the ball, maintained our composure, time of possession, converted on third down and made the plays we were supposed to to get the ‘W.’ ”
Quarterback Drew Brees, wide receiver Michael Thomas and tight end Benjamin Watson spark a New Orleans passing attack that ranks sixth in the NFL and draws a significant amount of attention. But the presence of Kamara and Ingram means defenses have to worry about the run and the pass, which the team used to its advantage, according to Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr.
“They kept us off balance,” he said. “They schemed us up pretty good. Some plays we’d like to have back out there on the field. They have a good offense. They know how to move the ball down the field and have success, and they found ways to have success on us today.”
Informed of New Orleans’ 134 yards, Ravens coach John Harbaugh replied: “So it was a good, good game, a good running game, for them. But it wasn’t like they gashed us. So I thought they did a really good job at stuff they needed to do they felt against our defense, and I’m sure every team we play will feel that way, that if they can get the running game going a little bit, that kind of keeps the pressure at bay. So that’s what you always want to do. A good offensive coach is always going to think that.”