Without the efforts of their star running back, the Saints would have been embarrassed by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. Alvin Kamara is carrying the New Orleans Saints offense three weeks into the season.
The fourth-year running back was at his elusive and explosive best against the Packers in a 37-30 loss at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
Alvin Kamara Setting the Standard for Receiving Backs
Kamara totaled 197 scrimmage yards on 19 touches. Among those yards, was a check-down swing pass reception to Kamara from quarterback Drew Brees. Kamara turned a swing pass caught behind the line of scrimmage, into a 52-yard showstopper. After slipping two tacklers to gain the first down, Kamara seemed to glide down the sideline. Using his downfield blockers expertly, Kamara cut inside and turned on the afterburners to complete the 52-yard touchdown reception.
Kamara is a superstar in the league. There is no doubt. The 52-yard play of the night was his second touchdown reception of the night. It’s more than just what he did on Sunday. His play transcends merely being indispensable to the Saints offense.
The running back is second in the league in receptions, 27, through three weeks of action. Furthermore, he is fifth in receiving yards with 285. That’s receiving stats, not rushing. We should all praise Kamara for his skill, talent and reliability out of the backfield. He has made himself into the best passing game running back in the league.
Masking the Saints Issues on Offense
Kamara’s production is incredible. However, his statistics cover up the severe problems the Saints offense is having. Anyone who has watched the Saints first three games of the season can see they are missing a downfield element to their offense, and the play of Brees is not as crisp as we have seen in previous seasons.
The quarterback’s stats against the Packers look exceptional as a box score. However, there is complete reliance on the receivers making tacklers miss on short-yardage throws. Remove the 52-yard touchdown reception from Kamara, and the average passing yards per attempt for Brees would have been around six yards per attempt. Secondly, nearly 60 of Brees’ passing yards came on the team’s final drive of the game. The team down 10 and Green Bay were playing off-coverage. Allowing intermediate throws to the middle of the field to let the clock wind.
The New Orleans offense has become increasingly dink and dunk in the twilight of Brees’ career. Without Kamara’s elite elusiveness in the open field, the Saints offense has the potential to be unwatchable. Particularly with superstar wide receiver Michael Thomas out with an ankle sprain and unlikely to be his all-pro self if the injury lingers.
Sunday night’s game had the potential to get out of hand. Head Coach Sean Payton is famous for his offensive game planning. Against the Packers, his offense started the game with two three and outs in their first three drives. That’s not something we are used to seeing when watching the Saints over the past decade and a half. The touchdown drive sandwiched in between those three and outs included a 49-yard rush from Kamara to get the ball moving.
Overworking Kamara Is a Risk
Everything good at the moment for the Saints on offense centers around the talent of Alvin Kamara. As good as he is, it’s not sustainable. For instance, defenses will watch tape from Sunday and key in on the running back even more in the coming weeks. If Michael Thomas remains on the sidelines, or comes back less than 100% the Saints struggles will continue. New Orleans desperately need a fully healthy Thomas back in the lineup. Don’t forget, Kamara has had his own injury issues in the past.
Alvin Kamara is carrying this offense. They will have far worse statistical outputs moving forward and they will keep losing football games if they continue to solely rely on Kamara. In other words, play as they did on Sunday, and the Saints will struggle to make the playoffs.
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