Alvin Kamara scores TD, looks sharp in return to lineup for Saints

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Think the New Orleans Saints have been missing Alvin Kamara?

Kamara returned Sunday from a four-game absence and provided the Saints' sputtering offense with a badly-needed spark as they stopped a five-game losing streak with a 30-9 win at the New York Jets (3-10).

The Saints (6-7) leaned on Kamara early and often as he tied his career high with 31 touches. He finished with 27 carries for 120 yards and one nifty 16-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He also caught four passes for 25 yards.

In the process, Kamara broke the NFL record for most receptions by a running back in the first five years of his career. He entered the game tied with Roger Craig at 358.

"He gave us some real good juice and energy, and he always does -- not just on the field but also on the sideline," coach Sean Payton said.

"Statistically, obviously, the numbers speak for themselves. But, man, just having his presence on the field ... he just does so much for this team just being there," quarterback Taysom Hill echoed. "He's a great leader, he plays with a lot of emotion. So there's so many things, intangible, that he brings that the stats don't quantify."

The Saints will need even more of a spark in their passing game going forward if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive -- especially in their most difficult remaining matchup next Sunday night at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). But Kamara gives them a fighting chance. The Saints also got left tackle Terron Armstead, defensive end Marcus Davenport and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson back from injuries Sunday -- and should get right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee), defensive end Cameron Jordan (reserve/COVID-19) and running back Mark Ingram II (reserve/COVID-19) back soon, among others.

Payton and Kamara stressed that he was fully healthy with no limitations on his workload Sunday after he suffered a minor knee injury in Week 9, then tweaked his hamstring when he returned to practice in Week 11.

Kamara wanted to return last Thursday night, but Payton said he and the team wanted to be extra cautious to avoid the risk of a setback with the hamstring injury.

"I wasn't limited or anything," Kamara said. "I feel good. I'm back healthy. I felt comfortable, I felt good."

Kamara was also feeling good enough to have some fun at two of his teammates' expense in the interview room after the game.

When asked what he thought about Hill's 44-yard TD run with just over a minute left, Kamara said, "He should've slid. I told his dumb ass, 'Slide.' ... I guess he wanted the stats."

And when asked about guard Calvin Throckmorton getting in his way on a screen pass and preventing a first-down gain or possible TD, Kamara said he played a great game -- outside of that gaffe.

"It is what it is. Some of those funny things that happen when you're playing football. Hopefully he makes it on 'Not Top 10' ... and hopefully we'll push for the offensive line to fine him," Kamara said.

To think, Kamara's day could have been even more dynamic.