RB Thomas keeps things steady as Saints look to break skid
METAIRIE — To hear New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas, he is nothing more than a role player in a crowded backfield on a record-setting NFL offense.
In his words, he is a “freakish, bow-legged, ugly runner’’ who has discovered “increased balance’’ on the football field thanks to the discipline of yoga.
Thomas provided a steadying influence in a losing cause Sunday, accounting for 143 yards from scrimmage in a 35-27 setback to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
More balancing acts like that are needed for the Saints to dig out from an 0-2 hole.
“Balance is one of God’s gifts that He gave me,’’ Thomas told reporters Thursday. “A lot of people say I have incredible balance. But sometimes I’m just walking down the street and I’ll trip. People say I have good balance but I can’t even walk right. It’s funny but i do have freaky balance. I run funny but I do have freaky balance.
“Guys joke, especially (teammate) Lance (Moore), who says I have good balance because I’m bow-legged and nobody knows which way I’m going to go because my legs don’t go straight. They bow out a little bit. I let these guys have their laugh and I play along with it.’’
A disappointing start is no laughing matter for the Saints who will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) at noon Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, then travel to play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field a week later.
Thomas said he and his teammates are determined to end the slide ASAP and hopes to build on his performance against the Panthers. Against Carolina, he rushed nine times for 110 yards, including a career-long 48-yard run in the fourth quarter. He also caught four passes for 33 yards for a robust 11.0-yard average per touch.
It was Thomas’ first 100-yard rushing game since Week 3 in 2009 when he collected 126 yards on 14 carries.
“He’s under-appreciated at times and obviously (the Carolina game) was one of those times,’’ Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said. “It was untalked about a little bit because of the final outcome of the game.
“He’s always been a productive runner, he’s always been an elusive runner and he’s been a very good running back for us. His best attribute is balance. He can get into awkward positions and stay up where a lot of guys would fall down.”
That was never more evident than Thomas’ determined 48-yard run against the Panthers when he stiff-armed his way down the Saints’ sideline, prompting Carolina coaches to chastise their players for not getting him down sooner.
“I enjoy contact. That’s the name of this game -- contact,’’ said Thomas, a stout 5-feet-11, 215 pounds. “It’s a physical game. I like to take on their biggest guy. I’m not scared of anything. You can call me David versus Goliath. I don’t care how big the guy is, I’m going to take him on.
“My whole mentality is I’m going to beat him. That’s why a lot of people say, ‘not one guy is going to take you down.’ That’s my mindset. Not one guy is going to take me down unless he gets lucky. He’s going to call his boys and get me down ‘cause it’s not going to happen by himself.’’
Though Thomas’ efforts went for naught Sunday, his performance left Who Dat Nation wanting more. In social media, many Saints fans implored the coaching staff to give Thomas more touches, beginning Sunday against the Chiefs. Even Saints quarterback Drew Brees sang Thomas’ praises at his weekly press conference.
“(Thomas) plays with a chip on his shoulder,” Brees said. “Talk about a complete back, the guy can do everything -- his balance, his ability to shed tacklers, his ability to stay on his feet. I get the best seat in the house, handing it off and watching that guy run.”
Despite those talents, Thomas still is considered a role player on the Saints 53-man roster, merely one in a long line of big-play weapons that includes Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Marques Colston, among others.
“I play my role,’’ Thomas continued. “I know what I have to do. We all have our roles right now. We have our parts and we play our parts very well. i enjoy it, i accept it. Every opportunity I get I’m going to take advantage of it.’’
But Thomas said he is more than capable of being an every-down back, acknowledging it is difficult for a running back to get in a rhythm carrying the ball “five to eight times.’’
“I think I am (an every-down back),’’ Thomas said. “But that’s up to everybody else to decide. But, I believe I’ve showed that. I can pass block, I can catch out of the backfield. I can run the ball. I’ve showed that I got all the tools that you need.
“In this offense, we have so many weapons. I say why wouldn’t you use every last weapon that we have? It confuses the defense. We all got something, a different style, a different skill that we can use. Why not put all of us out there on the field and switch it up so the defense can’t just focus on one guy?’’
Against Carolina, it turned out that Thomas ended up being a thorn in the Panthers’ side.
“It doesn’t matter if my name is getting called to touch the ball,’’ Thomas said. “Anytime I touch it, I’m going to take advantage of it.
“We got a nice rotation going. We got a lot of backs we use, so I know those touches are limited for myself. So anytime I get a chance to touch it i’m going to make sure I make it count. Last week I did that.’’
Kromer said wide receiver Marques Colston, who was limited in practice all week by a foot injury and is questionable for Sunday, will not play if he can’t run well enough to get open. “If we feel on game day that he’s ready to go, then he’ll play,” Kromer said. … DE Turk McBride (ankle) was ruled out for Sunday, while LB Jonathan Casillas (knee) is questionable along with Colston. QB Drew Brees (ankle), WR Devery Henderson (concussion) and CB Johnny Patrick (thigh) are probable. … For the Chiefs, TE Kevin Boss (head), CB Jacques Reeves (hamstring) and WR Devon Wylie (hamstring) are out, while G Ryan Lilja (back) and WR Dexter McCluster (shoulder) are among five players who are questionable. … Former Saints running back Deuce McAllister, who was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame on Friday along with owner Tom Benson, will appear at the Hall of Fame Museum from 10-11:15 a.m. The museum, which is located at Gate B on the Plaza level of the Superdome, is open to ticketholders free of charge for three hours before and 45 minutes after each home game.