EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Alvin Kamara might finally get a breather when backfield mate Mark Ingram returns from his four-game suspension next week.
But the New Orleans Saints sure are fortunate that he lived up to his leading-man role when they kept needing him in September.
Kamara’s 49-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 6 seconds remaining finally sent the New York Giants fans flooding for the exits as the Saints held on for a sometimes-sloppy 33-18 victory on Sunday.
It was the third touchdown run of the day for Kamara, who carried the ball a career-high 19 times for a career-high 134 yards. Kamara also caught five passes for 47 yards.
“He was able to take it all the way to the house -- that’s what he do,” Saints left tackle Terron Armstead said. “He always gets us going, man. Any time he touches the ball it could be six. At any point, no matter the play, no matter the situation.”
Kamara, in turn, repeatedly stressed how much credit belongs to the offensive line -- which opened a monster hole for his game-clinching run.
“It was a perfect look. The O-line handled their business, the fullback, Zach Line, got through and got the block. I could’ve scored that ball with my eyes closed,” Kamara said. “It starts with that O-line. Our O-line is tremendous. They want to run the ball. When we call a run play, they act like they’re getting the ball. It makes it easy for me to be able to get behind them. When I score, it’s like they score a touchdown."
Kamara already was leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage heading into Sunday’s game with 430. And he now has gained at least 99 yards from scrimmage in all four games this season.
“He’s special. He works at it,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, who stressed the importance of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. “When you can finish the game like that on a power play, I’m proud of them. I’m proud of how these guys work.”
The Saints, however, are still seeking that perfect game after barely surviving an ugly 21-18 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 and outlasting the Atlanta Falcons in a 43-37 overtime track meet in Week 3.
But that should make them feel all the better about sitting here at 3-1 with their best still (likely) to come over the next three months.
And they’ll have every reason to get up for Week 5, at home on Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins. Not only will Ingram return, but quarterback Drew Brees is poised to become the leading passer in NFL history in front of the home crowd and the national prime-time audience.
Brees needs 201 yards to break Peyton Manning’s NFL record for career passing yards.
“Listen, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. But I also know that at the start of every season you have high hopes and aspirations and the way you think it’s going to go. And typically, you know, you encounter situations where you learn something and you build something -- both good and, ‘We’ve gotta work on this,’” Brees said. “When you can take all those things and package it up and be here with a 3-1 record and a three-game win streak and heading in the right direction, that’s what you want.”
Brees didn’t have his best day in New York on Sunday -- not by a long shot. He finished 18-of-32 for 217 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. And the Saints were 0-for-4 in their first four trips into the red zone before Kamara started crossing the goal line.
Brees was off target on a handful of throws, but dropped passes also plagued New Orleans’ offense -- in addition to the Giants' stingy pass defense.
The Saints’ bad hands almost cost them even more on special teams, where return men Brandon Tate and Ted Ginn Jr. both fumbled kick returns, but luckily recovered them. Ginn recovered his on his own 3-yard line while the Saints were clinging to an eight-point lead in the final minutes. Luckily the offense got hot, starting with a 21-yard pass from Brees to tight end Josh Hill and ending with Kamara’s TD run for a 97-yard touchdown drive.
The Saints converted all five of their third downs in the fourth quarter (one by penalty). Receiver Michael Thomas, who was held to one catch in the first half, caught two of them.
Last but not least, it was a huge day for Saints kicker Wil Lutz, who nailed all four of his field goal attempts. And a successful fake punt (a pass from do-everything QB/special teamer Taysom Hill to cornerback Justin Hardee) helped ignite the Saints' offense when it was stuck in the mud early.
“We made the big play on special teams, I thought that was important -- we stole a possession there. I was proud of how we played defensively. I thought we played one of our better complementary games,” Payton said. “Time of possession, turnovers, all those things kind of went in our favor. And when you do that, you’re probably gonna win more than you lose.”