SEATTLE -- A monster night by running back Alvin Kamara was barely enough for the New Orleans Saints to survive in a sloppy 13-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in rainy and windy conditions Monday night.
Of course New Orleans’ stellar defense and undrafted rookie kicker Brian Johnson also deserve credit for their clutch performances.
But it’s unsettling to think about where this Saints offense would be without Kamara, who gained 179 of the team’s 304 yards on 30 touches and scored New Orleans’ only touchdown.
In the process, Kamara also became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 3,000 career rushing yards and 3,000 career receiving yards in his 66th game. The previous record of 70 games was set by former San Francisco 49ers running back Roger Craig, per ESPN Stats & Information research.
"AK is one of the most dominant players in this league, so it's always exciting when you put the ball in his hands and watch the things that he does," said Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, who actually fumbled the shotgun snap before his 13-yard TD pass to Kamara in the final minute of the first half -- then scooped it up with his left hand, threw it to Kamara in the middle of soft zone coverage and let him do the rest.
"I didn't even run the route I was supposed to run," Kamara admitted. "I just sat in a little void and kind of got the ball and scored. ... I didn't expect them to play that defense right there, but they did and it cost them."
The Seahawks wised up and double-covered Kamara throughout most of the second half -- which helped them limit the Saints to a total of 87 yards and just three points after halftime. But Kamara still provided the most clutch play on the go-ahead field goal drive, gaining 12 yards on a third-and-10 run.
"They had a great game plan the second half of doubling AK, and we’re gonna have an answer for that," Winston said. "We just gotta win on the outside, and we will."
The Saints (4-2) now have a short week to fly back across the country and prepare for a much tougher opponent that will require more playmakers when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox).
QB breakdown: Winston had an underwhelming performance, completing 19 of 35 passes for 222 yards with one TD and no turnovers, while also scrambling eight times for 40 yards. New Orleans' wide receivers caught just four passes on 15 targets. Some of that was Winston's fault -- especially on some short throws that were off the mark. But the Saints’ lack of proven talent at the wide receiver and tight end positions did him no favors as his teammates dropped potential deep catches or failed to get open throughout the night. That has been New Orleans’ biggest deficiency all season, and it was never more blatant than Monday night.
Injury update: The Saints were missing injured receivers Michael Thomas and Deonte Harris, as well as QB/playmaker Taysom Hill. They did get receiver Tre'Quan Smith back for the first time all season, but he and Winston struggled to get on the same page -- which led to a sideline shouting incident that Winston explained was "just communication; we had to be on the same page."
Pivotal matchup: The highly anticipated showdown between Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore and Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf didn’t disappoint and nearly led to fisticuffs. Metcalf won the first round with an 84-yard TD catch on Seattle’s opening drive. Metcalf appeared to get away with offensive pass interference, but both players made a lot of contact before Lattimore fell to the turf. Then the two continued to exchange shoves, face mask grabs and shouting matches throughout the night, which led to two personal-foul penalties against Lattimore. Ultimately, Lattimore kept Metcalf in check, though, with him catching only one more pass for 12 yards.
Saints coach Sean Payton said he was concerned that tensions might boil over.
"You don't want to bring 140 people from Seattle to New Orleans and lose because it gets away from you. Everyone's counting on everyone," Payton said. "And I get it -- you want to be competitive. But I think that's a sign of a team that eventually you know how to win and to win and to win and to win -- and that becomes everything. More important than anything else, it's leaving with another win. You know, it's a young team. We're still preaching that message."
Promising trend: The Saints’ defense continued to be the strength of this team, holding Seattle to 219 yards (84 of them on that one play). And linebacker Demario Davis continued to be at the forefront of the effort, leading the team with 10 tackles, 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. The Saints entered the night ranked fourth in the NFL in points allowed per game (18.2) and improved on that number.
Pivotal plays: Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good -- especially on a rainy, windy night when points seemed impossible to come by for both offenses. The Saints were lined up to attempt a 42-yard field goal with 3:08 left before Seattle was flagged for encroachment. Instead, Johnson got to kick the go-ahead 33-yard field goal after the two-minute warning. Johnson, who was just signed off the Chicago Bears’ practice squad last week, was making his NFL debut and is New Orleans’ fifth kicker this season. Veteran Wil Lutz is expected back from injury soon. When asked what his thought process was in a clutch situation in nasty weather in front of a hostile crowd, Johnson said, "Not to think about any of those things. Not to overthink things, just to go out there and do what I've done plenty of times before."