With The Spotlight On Sproles, Pierre Thomas Has Flown Under The Radar

[caption id="attachment_367" align="aligncenter" width="660" caption="Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images"][/caption]

The New Orleans Saints’ backfield has been a fiasco in the 2011-2012 campaign.  There were four members total:  two were new additions, one began the year on Injured Reserve and one flew under the radar after an injury riddled 2010-2011 season.  Over the course of this past season, this backfield has had both its triumphs and its defeats.  On one end, Darren Sproles has re-emerged as one of the better RBs in the NFL and Chris Ivory returned to the roster in heroic fashion.  On the other, rookie Mark Ingram’s opening season in the NFL was cut short due to a toe injury.   All along, though, one name has slowly drifted from the minds of many members of the “Who Dat Nation.”


Anyone remember who the guy in that video is?  That, my friends, is Pierre Thomas, and he seemingly made his presence known to the New Orleans fan base once again in the team’s Wild Card Round victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.  The 27-year old RB out of Illinois has been a primary factor in the Saints’ offensive attack since he joined the team in 2007.  In 2009, he proved to be a key component of the team’s Super Bowl run, as he provided a spark from the backfield that helped to down the Colts in the franchise’s first World Championship victory.  In 2011, though, people seemed to forget exactly how much he was worth to the club.  That is until he played the role of a ping pong ball in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this past weekend, as he bounced from defender-to-defender en route to every first down marker.  In a sense, Thomas was the catalyst for an offense that couldn’t find its groove in the first half of Saturday’s contest. 

In 2011, Thomas had a quietly decent season while being a piece of the “Three-Headed Monster” in the Saints’ backfield.  He rushed 110 times for 562 yards and five TDs (He averaged a whopping 5.1 yards/carry.).  He also caught 50 passes for 425 yards and a TD, as he averaged 8.5 yards/reception.  He was the king of the screen pass, as both he and QB Drew Brees connected on multiple occasions throughout the season in order to help move the chains.  This same trend could be seen this past weekend, as Thomas dominated the stat books.  Thomas rushed for 66 yards on eight carries (8.3 average) and a TD against the Lions; he also added six receptions for 55 yards (9.2 average). 

When people think of the New Orleans Saints’ offensive weapons this season, only three names seem to come to mind:  TE Jimmy Graham, RB Darren Sproles and, of course, QB Drew Brees.  I can guarantee that the San Francisco 49ers see things a bit differently. 

When analyzing the Saints in the 2011-2012 postseason, there is one fact that everyone needs to remember.  In the Saints’ current backfield, only one member currently has World Championship experience.  With the San Diego Chargers, Sproles only got a whiff of a potential Super Bowl run in 2008, as his squad was bounced from the playoffs after losing to the New England Patriots.  Chris Ivory’s only playoff experience is one that he would likely want to forget, as the Black and Gold were upset in Seattle in last year’s “Earthquake Game.” 

In more ways than one, Thomas could be a secret weapon as the Saints progress in the playoffs.  Then again, the cat might just be out of the bag now, as he made his share of noise in Saturday night’s beat down of the Lions.  Since Week One against the Green Bay Packers, I’ve stated that Thomas would play a key role in the team’s Super Bowl chances this season.  Anyone who has sat down and watched the Saints play this year realizes one thing:  Thomas is the team’s best pure runner (probably the best back to use in short-yardage situations, too), and San Francisco is taking notes. 

So during this playoff season, be sure to keep little ole Pierre Thomas in mind.  When a team defends the run as well as the 49ers do, the screen play can become a QB's best friend.  Thankfully Thomas is the best in the business for that type of game plan.

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