Opposing defenses aren't fools.
They know the New Orleans Saints offense features running back Alvin Kamara. They understand Kamara will have his hands on the football more than any Saints player other than the center and quarterback. They know that hemming in the five-year veteran, who's on pace to smash several franchise records in addition to the ones he already has toppled, is critical to shutting down the Saints' offense.
And they still can't put a finger on how to corral Kamara.
Or a hand. Or an arm. Or a shoulder.
In Monday's 13-10 victory over the Seahawks at Lumen Field in Seattle, which raised the Saints' record to 4-2, Kamara totaled 179 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 30 touches – 10 catches for 128 yards and a score, and 20 rushes for a gritty 51 yards.
In doing so, he became the fastest player in NFL history (66 games) to top 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards. Kamara will enter Sunday's game against Tampa Bay in the Caesars Superdome with 3,759 rushing yards and 3,065 receiving yards in his career, with 63 total touchdowns. The franchise record for touchdowns is 72, by receiver Marques Colston.
The Seahawks, like all the others, knew Kamara could be an influential force. And in the second half, Seattle devoted a double-team – sometimes, a triple-team – to making sure his influence was limited. But he'd caught eight passes for 109 yards and his 13-yard touchdown, and had run 13 times for 29 yards, by then.
"A.K.'s a creative player," left tackle Terron Armstead said Tuesday. "He's amazing. Everything that he is able to do, it's impossible to shut him down. You have to try to limit him and contain him the best you possibly can.
"He's the offense. All eyes on A.K., he still finds ways to produce and he just excels and there are still so many things to unlock him and unlock through the offense. I feel once we have the opportunity to unlock with him and unlock through this offense, I think we will really find a chance to tap in and find our rhythm and have a chance to be really dangerous.
"It's really about execution. We really have to get ourselves rolling and give Alvin a chance to be as good as he can be."
New Orleans is averaging 296.7 yards per game, but Kamara has been plenty good already. He leads the Saints in rushing attempts (114), rushing yards (419), receptions (25), receiving touchdowns (four) and total touchdowns (five), and he's second in receiving yards (241).
He's had four games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, three with at least 120 yards. The Saints have 1,780 yards of offense this season and 19 touchdowns; Kamara has accounted for 37 and 26 percent of those respective totals.
And his football I.Q. remains among the best in the league. On the touchdown reception against Seattle in the second quarter, Kamara said he broke off his route because he found a soft spot in Seattle's defense. And even after quarterback Jameis Winston dropped the snap and picked it up, Kamara still was open and alert enough to get down the right sideline and beat the Seahawks defenders to the goal line after he made the catch.
"It's an arrow route, which means you kind of go into the flat and you put your foot in the ground, you come back in and then escape back out," Coach Sean Payton said. "And he was smart enough to read it was more of a red two coverage so as he kind of angled out, he kind of just throttled. Certain coverages, there's a guy covering you and you're using that route to separate. We mishandled the snap, but fortunately, were able to pick it up and then still complete the pass.
"I mean, look, we're not splitting the atom here. Alright. I mean, it was a soft zone and so it happens periodically and Alvin's got real, real good football savvy, and the coverage was soft. And it was the tail end of a two-minute drill and it stayed soft. And so rather than mindlessly running out to the flat coming back in, he abbreviated that and sat and presented a really easy target for the QB."
The QB appreciates all that Kamara offers to an offense.
"I can talk about how great of a player he is and how helpful he is to this offense just in general," Winston said after the game. "He 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."