East Rutherford, N.J. – The New Orleans Saints' most complete victory of the season.
That's what Coach Sean Payton called it, and there isn't much argument against that assessment.
New Orleans' 33-18 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium was the Saints' most complete testament this season to the collective powers of offense, defense and special teams contributing equal parts. It was a grind-it-out win – the Saints' third in a row and second straight on the road – that gave New Orleans (3-1) sole possession of first place in the NFC South Division.
Many earned kudos. Here were three of the best.
OFFENSE: Alvin Kamara. Let that linger in the atmosphere for a few seconds, because the second-year running back is a breathtaking gamer who, almost improbably, has made a noticeable jump from his Offensive Rookie of the Year season to this one. The Giants learned on Sunday what others already know: Shackling Kamara for an entire game is yeoman's work, and he's still fully fueled when their tanks are tapping the bottom. Nineteen carries for 134 yards and three touchdowns, including a nose-for-the-goal-line, 4-yarder and a back-breaking 49-yarder in the fourth quarter – and five catches for another 47 yards – was the latest in a growing list of defining games for Kamara. He's special.
DEFENSE: Every week, linebacker Demario Davis seems to get better in the Saints' defense, culminating with Sunday's performance against the Giants. Davis had two sacks (for minus-17 yards), two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and 11 tackles for a defense that stymied the Giants for most of the game. At one point in the third quarter, during a five-play sequence on defense, Davis assisted on a tackle, had a solo tackle, assisted on a tackle and had the first of his two sacks. He said that he joined the Saints as an unrestricted free agent because he wanted to play with a quarterback like Drew Brees. I'm sure that Brees is pretty happy to be playing with a linebacker like Davis, too.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Wil Lutz put in work Sunday. When the Saints kept coming up short in the red zone, Lutz capitalized with field goals of 42, 34, 37 and 26 yards in the first half. To that, add eight kickoffs, five of which went for touchbacks, and the second-year kicker had a full day. Special shoutout to quarterback Taysom Hill, who, on a fake punt, completed a 10-yard pass to defensive back Justin Hardee on fourth-and-2 from the Saints' 33-yard line in the first quarter. Gutsy, gutsy call and flawless execution. But Lutz provided the offense when the Saints were grinding, and it was pivotal.