Alvin Kamara enjoyed one of the best individual performances for of the NFL season – and for that matter, in the long history of the league.
Try tying a 91-year-old league record on for size.
The New Orleans Saints’ star tailback merely ran the pigskin 15 times for 155 yards, and caught two passes from Drew Brees and another from Taysom Hill for another 17 yards.
While 172 all-purpose yards constitutes a good day out for any running back, what makes it so noteworthy? Even in the context of NFL history? Especially in a 52-33 win over the Minnesota Vikings at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Saints – in compiling 583 yards of total offence amid an average of eight yards per play and nearly 37 minutes of time of possession – put on an offensive supershow? And as the Saints clinched their fourth straight NFC South division title, too?
Kamara ran for six touchdowns, out of the Saints’ seven overall – Hill scored the other one, in one of his customary cameo appearances at quarterback – to tie an NFL record first set by Chicago Cardinals legend Ernie Nevers in the leather-helmets era of 1929.
To be fair, Kamara and the Saints put up their numbers against a beleaguered and injury-ravaged Vikings defence which entered the Christmas Day game in the Crescent City with the NFL’s 23rd-ranked overall defence, 24th against the pass and – insofar as Kamara’s feats were concerned – 23rd against the run.
And Kamara’s feats were oftentimes aided and abetted by the Vikings’ defenders inabilities to close up on tackles.
Nonetheless, as rare as a feat as what Kamara accomplished against the Vikings, that itself cannot be understated.
“Obviously, his performance today was unbelievable,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said after the game.
Brees admitted that it wasn’t an intention to get Kamara to help run up the score, or even run up the score on a weakened Vikings defensive unit. However, Chicago native Payton admitted to the future Hall Of Fame quarterback about having a golden opportunity to equal the total touchdowns-in-a-game record, last tied by Bears legend Sayers 55 years and 13 days ago.
“You know what, it was awesome. It was awesome. I mean, six touchdowns for a running back is just astounding, right?” said Brees.
“And I can remember him scoring and me being like, ‘I think that's five.’ And then Taysom [Hill] gets a touchdown there in the fourth quarter. And then Sean kind of mentioned to me, he said, ‘Hey, if Alvin gets one more touchdown, he ties this record with Gale Sayers.’
“Obviously, you’re looking at the scoreboard, we’re up three possessions, let’s see how close it is,” added Brees.
Kamara’s exploits impressed even his teammates on the other side of the ball, especially on his longest run of the game, a 40-yard run in the first quarter for his first of the six touchdowns.
“Man, ball out, I mean, he was going crazy,” said defensive end Cam Jordan.
“His earlier touchdown is probably going to stick out in my mind. I mean, he broke what? Three, four tackles? Took off for another 20 something yards for a touchdown. A.K. special, we've always known that. He has the juice, and he shows it each and every time he touches the field,” added Jordan.
Kamara himself, who somehow has yet to rush for over 1000 yards in a season in his fourth year out of the University of Tennessee, was impressed with the work the offensive linemen in front of him did in opening big holes for him to run through against a patchwork Vikings defence.
“I didn't really have to do too much,” said Kamara, whose 155 yards only constituted his third career 100-yard game, perhaps a testament to his role in the Saints’ high-octane, Brees-led offence – despite being one of the NFL’s best-known and most-feared gamebreakers.
“Man, it just feels good to have one of those days, just for the team, just for offensive morale.
“So, like I said, I always say this, I’m not focused on personal goals and yards and stuff like that, as long as the team's having success, then personal success will come,” added Kamara.
And Kamara is having an outstanding season.
His six touchdowns on the ground gave him 16 for the season – tied with the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook for the league lead – and vaulted him past the trio of Cook, Kansas City Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill and Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry for most overall touchdowns in the league with 21.
And while unlikely to be surpassed for the league’s touchdown lead, if Kamara gains 68 yards against the Carolina Panthers next week to close the regular season, he will reach the 1000-yard plateau in which a typical running back’s season of success is measured.
The half-dozen touchdowns against the Vikings, in any context, stands as a just reward for Kamara’s abilities as one of the NFL’s best running backs.
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