The New Orleans Saints' 52-33, Christmas Day victory over Minnesota in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome proved to be the breeding ground for one of the most memorable performances in NFL history. No need for much more of an introduction than that when we begin listing some of the outstanding individual performances from the win that gave New Orleans (11-4) its fourth consecutive NFC South Division title.
OFFENSE: Alvin Kamara’s production was even more dazzling than his footwear, a glittering combination of red and green cleats to pay homage to Christmas. The fourth-year running back already had a cozy relationship with the end zone; on Friday, he added a level of permanence that will be talked about for decades as he ran for six touchdowns, tying the NFL single-game record for rushing touchdowns set by Ernie Nevers in 1929. Kamara entered the game with 15 touchdowns; his 21 establishes a franchise single-season mark, breaking the old record of 18 that he shared with Dalton Hilliard. And by rushing for 155 yards on 22 carries, and catching three passes for 17 yards, he now has 1,688 yards from scrimmage this year, a new personal best. Only 3,000 fans were allowed to be in attendance; 20 years from now, 3,000,000 will claim to have been there.
DEFENSE: Yes, safety Malcolm Jenkins picked up a defensive penalty, notably a pass interference in the end zone. But he also had six solo tackles and when the Saints needed to apply some pressure to Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Jenkins helped supply it with some well-timed blitzing. He shared a sack with defensive tackle David Onyemata just one play after he had a tackle for loss in the first half, and finished with two quarterback hits. Jenkins has 2.5 sacks this season and reliably has shown that he can be trusted to apply pressure when he's required to.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Ty Montgomery has been injured and/or inactive for most of the season. Friday's game only was the fifth time he has been active, but he helped jump-start the Saints with a 33-yard kickoff return that opened the door for their second possession, a 66-yard touchdown drive that gave New Orleans a 14-7 lead. Montgomery returned another kickoff for 24 yards and his effectiveness likely prompted the Vikings to not kick to him later in the game; a shorter, pop-up kick was fielded by Dwayne Washington and returned 17 yards. Montgomery might be needed more now that the Saints have found an avenue through which he can contribute (Deonte Harris is on injured reserve, and Marquez Callaway was used as the punt returner against Minnesota).