New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara continued to build on his impressive rookie campaign in week 13. In a 31-21 Saints win over the Carolina Panthers, Kamara gained 60 rushing yards, 66 receiving yards, and two touchdowns at nine yards per touch. It was the fifth consecutive week where Kamara surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage, and his sixth straight game with a touchdown.
New Orleans wasted no time getting Kamara involved against Carolina. Kamara took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage, and he was a key contributor on the Saints opening possession. On that drive alone, Kamara finished with 38 total yards and scored a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play at the two-yard-line.
Here’s a breakdown of Kamara’s tone-setting plays from the Saints first drive.
New Orleans Saints Week 13 Film Analysis: Alvin Kamara’s First Drive
Eight-Yard Run, First Play of the Drive
New Orleans spread out the Panthers defense with a singleback, three-receiver formation. As Kamara took a handoff to the right, wide receiver Willie Snead got a key block on Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson from the slot. The rest of Carolina’s linebackers overpursued in anticipation of an outside run, but Kamara cut inside of a block by right tackle Ryan Ramczyk.
Center Max Unger fell over as he executed a cut-off block on defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, but he was able to push the defender out of the play. Meanwhile, Saints guards Senio Kelemete and Larry Warford set up a perfect cut-back lane for Kamara as he passed the line of scrimmage. Kamara cut left twice and avoided a tackle before being taken down by defensive end Mario Addison.
10-Yard Reception, Fifth Play of the Drive
Kamara lined up as a wide receiver on the right before being motioned into the backfield as a fullback offset to the weak side. Quarterback Drew Brees faked a handoff to running back Mark Ingram to the left before rolling right. Most of Carolina’s front seven bit on the fake while Kamara exited the backfield on a flat route to the right. Cornerback James Bradberry, in man coverage on Kamara, also reacted to a potential Ingram run and hesitated before pursuing Kamara.
Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly also chased Kamara, but safety Mike Adams got in his way. Brees threw to Kamara in stride as he passed the right hashmark. Tight end Josh Hill‘s corner route cleared out the strong side linebacker, so Kamara had plenty of room to run after the catch. Kuechly was visibly frustrated as Kamara picked up the first down untouched.
18-Yard Reception, Sixth Play of the Drive
On the next play, Kamara occupied the slot on the left side of an empty, four wide receiver formation. The outside receivers and Hill all ran deep routes, while receiver Brandon Coleman went on an inside hook route from the right slot. Kamara appeared to be running the same route, then he cut outside after his turn. Brees eyed receiver Michael Thomas on a go route, but decided not to take the risk and stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure.
Panthers safety Kurt Coleman had zone coverage above Kamara, but he lost track of the back when he saw Brees looking deep. Coleman still had a great opportunity to stop Kamara for a short gain, but the crafty rookie had a perfect move ready. Kamara leaped and turned to catch the back-shoulder throw from Brees, and made a hard cut inside once he landed. Coleman barely got a hand on Kamara as he flew past. After Kamara picked up the first down he was caught by Kuechly, who unsuccessfully tried to strip the ball.
Two-Yard Touchdown Run, 11th Play of the Drive
The Saints lined up in a singleback formation with Ted Ginn Jr. split out to the right. New Orleans had a tight end on both sides, along with guard Josh LeRibeus as an extra blocker outside left tackle Andrus Peat. Ginn was brought in motion towards the opposite side, and you can see the Panthers react and adjust their coverage. Kurt Coleman picked up the assignment, and motioned with Ginn. Just as Ginn passed behind tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, quarterback Brees got the snap and faked a handoff to Ginn.
The fake froze Panthers linebackers Kuechly and Thompson momentarily as Brees tossed the ball to Kamara. Although Kuechley managed to quickly break a seal block by Ramczyk, the tackle shoved him into Thompson. This disrupted the linebackers pursuit of the runner, but they still had a decent angle on Kamara as he turned the corner.
Kamara lowered his left shoulder and showed no fear as he charged toward the goal line. He planted his right foot as Thompson put a big hit on him, and Kuechley prepared to finish the tackle. Somehow Kamara shifted his weight, and twisted his way into the end zone. Kuechley was left grasping air as he dove for Kamara.
Saints head coach Sean Payton took a huge risk here by bypassing an easy field goal on fourth down, but it showed how much trust he already has in his young weapon.