Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara lead depleted Saints offense past Panthers

NEW ORLEANS -- No Michael Thomas. No Emmanuel Sanders. And somehow no problem for the New Orleans Saints’ offense – which had its prettiest performance of the season from start to finish in Sunday’s 27-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

New Orleans’ defense still has major problems preventing big plays and stopping teams in the red zone. But this was an awfully nice way for the Saints (4-2) to reboot their offense after the bye.

Drew Brees completed passes to eight different pass-catchers while throwing for 287 yards and two touchdowns and running (actually leaping) for another.

And running back Alvin Kamara continued his historic start to the season with 148 yards from scrimmage while the Saints converted 12 of 14 third-down attempts.

Both Thomas (hamstring/ankle) and Sanders (reserve/COVID 19 list) are in doubt for next week, as well. And the Saints’ offense will face an even stiffer test on the road against the Chicago Bears’ defense. But this offense is definitely trending in the right direction now.

Describe the game in two words: More Kamara. What was most remarkable about Kamara’s 14 carries for 83 yards and eight catches for 65 yards is the Panthers had to know the Saints offense would rely so heavily on him -- and they still couldn’t stop him.

Kamara now has five straight games with 100 yards from scrimmage -- the longest current streak in the NFL. He is one of only four NFL running backs since 1950 with at least 450 receiving yards through the first six games. And he joined Christian McCaffrey and Roger Craig as the only three players with 2,500 rushing yards and 2,500 receiving yards through four seasons.

QB breakdown: Brees keeps making more convincing arguments by the week that he is not, in fact, washed up yet at age 41. His highlight Sunday was a two-minute TD drill before halftime that was actually more like a 90-second drill, ending with a 4-yard TD pass to second-year receiver Deonte Harris. Harris became the 71st player to catch a TD pass from Brees in his 20-year career.

Promising trend: Undrafted rookie receiver Marquez Callaway looks like someone who should remain a big part of this offense even when Thomas and Sanders return. He led the Saints with 75 yards on eight catches -- and had a potential TD called back because of offensive pass interference on a pick play. The 6-foot-2, 204-pounder from Tennessee earned a spot on the 53-man roster because of his versatility as a pass-catcher/blocker/special-teamer. He had five catches for 50 yards coming into Sunday’s game.

Eye-popping NextGen Stat: The Saints had another inexplicable breakdown in zone coverage on a 74-yard TD pass from Teddy Bridgewater to DJ Moore in the second quarter. They have now allowed 17 TD passes this year and 11 passes of 29-plus yards. According to NFL NextGen Stats, there was 6.15 yards of separation on Moore’s catch. The Saints have now allowed five passing TDs with at least 6 yards of separation this season, most of any team in the NFL.