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Perpetually underrated Pierre Thomas comes up big once again for Saints

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

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Pierre Thomas (USA Today Sports Images)

Pierre Thomas is so underrated, he's overrated for that fact. Or, he's so overrated for being underrated that he's actually still wildly underrated.

Suspend sense and logic here, because there's no sense nor logic in the fact that Thomas is one of the more versatile and complete backs in the NFL, and yet he rarely gets recognized for that fact.

It was all on display in the New Orleans Saints' 17-13 scratch-it-out win over the rival Atlanta Falcons on Thursday.

Drew Brees broke a significant record in the game. Jimmy Graham did Graham-like, ridiculous things, and then dunked the ball over the goalpost after scoring. Cam Jordan even got some love for his continued greatness this season.

But Thomas toils, happy to live in the shadows as a key cog for another terrific Saints team. That might be the public perception, but Brees said after the game that Thomas' greatness is respected within the team's locker room.

Thomas finished this game with 130 yards from scrimmage — 73 on 10 rushes and 57 more on five catches. That's 8.7 yards a touch, most of them involving broken tackles and a frustrated defense in his wake. He had three 18-yard gains, each one a Falcons back-cracker.

The first was the catch that pushed Brees past Warren Moon on the all-time passing-yardage list, taking a screen down the right sideline on 3rd-and-3, setting up a Benjamin Watson score. The second was a third-and-1 last in the second quarter that almost got the Saints into scoring position before the half had they not burned an extra timeout earlier.

And the third was another screen early in the third quarter on 2nd-and-17 where Thomas landed just beyond the sticks and took some second-half steam out of an already beat-up Georgia Dome crowd. It had a little extra sauce on it, too, as Thomas was able to stiff-arm Falcons rookie corner Desmond Trufant in the process.

But Thomas' best play of the night came on a a gain of zero yards, an incomplete Brees pass. The Falcons sent heavy pressure at Brees, and Thomas came all the way across the pocket to pick up the blitz and protect his quarterback. The pass fell incomplete, and Thomas will get no statistics for the play. But he protected the team's best asset and was more than happy to do so.

"He meant a lot," Saints head coach Sean Payton said after the game. "He's one of those players that does a lot of things well. He's versatile, hit some big screen passes, run after the catch. I don't know what his conversions were on those third-down snaps ... but he's got good balance. Not having Darren [Sproles] changes some things."

Thomas has never gotten his due for a guy who, after Thursday's game, is now fourth all-time for the Saints in rushing yards. He is the ultimate glue guy on a team that is one of a handful of legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Sproles and even Mark Ingram have gotten more attention nationally, even though the Saints never would be where they have gotten to without Thomas. But you get the idea that he is just happy to be on a winner who doesn't get the headlines than a loser who does not.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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