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Mark Ingram bounces back in big way after benching

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A week after being benched for fumbling, Mark Ingram proved he doesn't belong sitting on pine.

"I definitely wanted to bounce back and show what I'm really capable of doing and not letting fumbles define me," Ingram said after Sunday's 41-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, via The Times-Picayune.

Ingram plowed through a pathetic Niners' defense for 158 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He also added two receptions for 13 yards and a score.

"It was fantastic," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "You know it was. He did a really good job."

Ingram's biggest burst came on a 75-yard touchdown scamper, the fourth-longest run in Saints history.

"I was just running, man," Ingram said. "And then I looked up at the scoreboard and I was like, 'They're not going to get me,' and I finished."

Tim Hightower started the game and earned more snaps and carries. The veteran toted 23 times for 87 yards.

"To see him respond the way he did, man, I'm proud of him," Hightower said of Ingram. "That's not easy to do, but he did it. I'm proud of him."

Ingram benefited from returning to the lineup against a terrible 49ers run defense. San Francisco is allowing 190.3 rushing yards per game this season, which would be the most allowed in a season since the 1980 Saints gave up 194.1. Ingram's performance marked the first time since 1970 a team allowed a 100-plus yard rusher in seven consecutive games, per NFL Research.

Even against a toilet paper defense, Ingram deserves credit for getting over a mental hurdle. With the Saints' offense focusing more on the ground attack to cover for their own bad defense, Ingram will get plenty of chances in the coming weeks against better defenses to prove he's fully bounced back.

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