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New Orleans Saints' offensive line paves way for Mark Ingram, ground game

By Les East, The Sports Xchange
New Orleans Saints' offensive line paves way for Mark Ingram, ground game
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) picks up short yardage before Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith (51) can make the stop in the third quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans November 5, 2017. File photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints' offensive line was healthier Sunday and it showed in the running game.

Right guard Larry Warford returned after a two-game absence due to an injured abdomen, and left tackle Terron Armstead returned after missing much of last week's game due to a chest injury.

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The line paved the way for 298 rushing yards and a franchise-record six rushing touchdowns in a 47-10 rout of the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Mark Ingram II and rookie Alvin Kamara both had 100-yard rushing days and Ingram ran for a career-high three touchdowns.

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"I think overall, the runners played well," Saints head coach Sean Payton said Monday. "There was some good yards after contact. I thought we had one of our better days on the perimeter blocking, with the receivers. The offensive linemen did a good job."

New Orleans' longest drive of the game went for 94 yards and was comprised exclusively of runs. The 10th rush was Drew Brees' 7-yard scramble to the end zone.

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"It was one after the next, just first down, first down," fullback Zach Line said. "I've never seen a drive like that. Our offensive line, credit to them, were on point. Our tight ends, our running backs were trusting their eyes. Even if you go back and watch the film like I did last night, the receivers were getting to the second level and blocking their secondary.

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"It takes a unit so it's collective when it comes to the running game. Passing game it doesn't take everybody, but the running game it's all 11 guys doing their job to have a successful drive like that. I mean it was the whole game, but if you just look at that one drive that was a big drive for the points."

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An ankle injury to starting linebacker A.J. Klein and the opportunity to rest starters because of the lopsided score led to linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti seeing their most action on defense this season. Hodges played 11 snaps and Mauti, a special teams stalwart, played four.

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When the Saints faced a fourth-and-1 from the Bills 30 on their first possession, head coach Sean Payton chose to go for the first down rather than try a long field goal. Mark Ingram II broke loose for a 25-yard gain, setting up a touchdown and setting the tone for the rest of the game. New Orleans finished 2-for-2 on fourth-down conversions and is 6-for-8 for the season.

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NOTES: RB Daniel Lasco will miss the rest of the season because of a neck injury suffered covering a kickoff Sunday. "He's got a bulging disk and it's a procedure they'll do that will put him out for the year, but won't be career-threatening," head coach Sean Payton said. "He flew home with us last night on the plane and the prognosis is good and we're fortunate that it wasn't more severe and I know his teammates and everyone, coaching staff, all of us felt relieved that he was able to come back on the plane with us and can have this surgery ASAP, probably within the week." ... WR Michael Thomas had his first 100-yard receiving game of the season, finishing with 117 yards on nine receptions. He has consistently been Drew Brees' primary target, catching at least three passes in every game and averaging more than six receptions per game. But he had a season-high in catches Sunday in addition to surpassing his previous high in yards by 28. ... RB Trey Edmunds made the roster as an undrafted rookie primarily because of his ability to play special teams. He did not touch the ball on offense before Sunday, but got an opportunity in the fourth quarter. Edmunds ran 41 yards for a touchdown and finished with nine carries for 48 yards.

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REPORT CARD VS. BILLS

--PASSING OFFENSE: A - The Saints didn't have to pass much because the running game was so dominant, but it was effective when it was utilized. QB Drew Brees completed 18-of-25 passes for 184 yards. Even though WR Michael Thomas had half of the catches, Brees still was able to connect with five other targets. The only blemish was a lost fumble by TE Josh Hill.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus - The Saints rushed for 298 yards, the first time they have exceeded 250 rushing yards since 1986. New Orleans averaged 6.2 yards per carry as the offensive line dominated the Buffalo front, especially right up the middle.

--PASS DEFENSE: A - Bills QB Tyrod Taylor was just 9 of 18 for 56 yards before being replaced by rookie Nathan Peterman. Taylor was intercepted by defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, whose 27-yard return to the Buffalo 3 set up a touchdown. The Saints didn't have a sack, but they had an effective rush and the coverage was outstanding.

--RUSH DEFENSE: A - LeSean McCoy broke free for a 36-yard gain on the Bills' first possession, but otherwise had 13 yards on seven carries. Buffalo totaled just 69 rushing yards as it ran the ball just 15 times for a respectable 4.6 average. But New Orleans held the ball for more than 41 minutes and the Bills running game was never a factor.

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--SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus - P Thomas Morstead didn't participate except as the holder. Wil Lutz made both of his field goals, from 23 and 53 yards, but he was wide on an extra point a week after one of his extra points was blocked by Tampa Bay.

--COACHING: A-plus - The Saints dominated against an opponent that was 5-3 and 4-0 at home coming into the game. The cold weather was more conducive to an outdoor team from the North than an indoor team from the South, but New Orleans came in prepared to dominate on both lines of scrimmage. Head coach Sean Payton and his staff embraced the circumstances and had the team primed from the opening kickoff.

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