Two weeks of consistent work and back-to-back games with explosive touchdowns has New Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory becoming a bigger part of the revival currently underway in the bayous of Louisiana.
Ivory, a third-year back, hadn't received a carry or reception in the Saints' first seven games, a difficult stretch where New Orleans went just 2-5.
Content with giving carries to 2011 first-round pick Mark Ingram, leading rusher Pierre Thomas and receptions to Darren Sproles, Ivory's punishing style mostly wasted away on the Saints' bench.
The rushing results for New Orleans were disastrous.
In the seven games without Ivory playing any kind of role, the Saints rushed for an average of just 72.6 yards a game (last in the NFL after eight weeks). In four of those seven games, New Orleans was held under 55 yards rushing.
Finally, in a win-or-the-season's-over game with the Philadelphia Eagles, Ivory got his chance.
To start the second quarter, Ivory received his first carry of the 2012 season. It went nine yards off the right side. A play later, he took a well-blocked counter to the house for a 22-yard touchdown that put the Saints up 14-3.
Overall, Ivory finished with 10 carries for 48 yards and a score. And the Saints rushed for 140 yards—their highest total since Week 2—in a season-saving, 28-13 win over the Eagles.
However, Ivory was just getting started.
With the then-undefeated Atlanta Falcons up 10-0 Sunday in New Orleans, Ivory exploded for a 56-yard touchdown that included a number of missed tackles and a stiff arm of Dunta Robinson to punctuate the run.
It was the spark New Orleans needed against their NFC South rival.
Eight minutes later, Drew Brees found Jimmy Graham for a touchdown that put the Saints into the lead, and New Orleans would later hold on for a 31-27 win. Ivory led all rushers with seven carries for 72 yards and a score as New Orleans rushed for 148 total yards.
At 4-5, and with seven games to play, the Saints are momentarily back from the dead. It's no secret that turning to Ivory and re-committing to the run has played a role in the revival.
Ivory now has 17 carries for 120 yards and two scores in 2012, plus two catches for 15 yards. The Saints are also averaging 144 rushing yards over that two-game span.
While Sproles (hand) is working his way back from injury, it's clear that Ivory has carved himself out a solidified role in the running game moving forward.
A physical, punishing running back, Ivory may not receive 15-20 carries in a given game. But in his current role—eight to 12 total touches a week—Ivory can help continue the Saints climb back into the NFC playoff picture.
Given the results of the last two weeks, the Saints would be crazy to not continue giving Ivory chances to help the now jump-started running game.