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The Saints are averaging 3.3 yards per carry, which ranks 30th. They are 19th in rushing attempts, averaging 23.2 per game. The top four rushing teams in the NFL _ the New York Jets, Atlanta, Kansas City and Jacksonville _ all are running the ball more than 32 times per game.

New Orleans did not appear to have serious problems running the ball in their season opener. Although they attempted only three runs in the first half of their 14-9 win over Minnesota, Thomas carried 17 times for 70 yards in the second half, helping the Saints protect their lead.

However, New Orleans’ ground game gained only 50 yards at San Francisco, then only 43 yards the following week in an overtime loss to Atlanta. Thomas injured his ankle late in the Falcons game.

New Orleans’ best game on the ground was 121 yards in a 16-14 win over Carolina, with Betts and Ivory getting the bulk of the carries.

In Sunday’s loss at Arizona, the Saints rushed for 85 yards, which was above their average but also against a Cardinals defense that is allowing 140 yards rushing per game.

Quarterback Drew Brees said the Saints become easier to defend when they rely too much on the passing game, and they are working to find better balance.

“We were one of the top rushing teams in football last year, and I feel like any time you can be balanced … that run game sets up the play action, the down-the-field throws, the big-play opportunities,” Brees said. “All those things are critical to being a very explosive offense and we feel like we are getting back on track with the run game.”

Notes: Ivory said he does not expect a pending assault charge in the state of Washington to affect his season with the Saints. “I didn’t commit that,” Ivory said about allegations he hit a man over the head with a bottle in July 2009. “That’s something that happened almost two years ago. The Saints were aware of it. I have no further comments.” If convicted on the second-degree assault charge, Ivory could be sentenced to between three and nine months in jail. Whitman County prosecutor Denis Tracy said he’d be willing to schedule court dates in the case after the season as long as the delay does not hurt the case. … Defensive back Randall Gay missed practice with headaches that Payton said may be related to a concussion that occurred in Week 2. Safety Roman Harper, who played on Sunday after coming back from a hamstring injury, also sat out practice. Defensive end Will Smith, who missed the Cardinals game with a groin injury, was limited.