METAIRI, La. — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton returned to the locker room after Week 13 rest in Atlanta when he decided to challenge one of his most reliable offensive specialists:
The return of Alvin Kamara.
It was just a casual conversation – he was standing next to me when I went into the locker room. And I asked: What do you like about the second part? Says Peyton, who just realized her premonition. We talked about different routes. And then he said to me: I love the room where we ran the Taysom [quarterback Hill] defense, but she ran away.
Of course, Peyton took Camara’s advice. He set up a modified version of the play at halftime – this time with Kamara getting the ball – and an 11-yard run for touchdown on the first shot of the third quarter.
Payton explains the origin of the Camara TD against the Falcons. I remember filming it and Payton was halfway through. Here’s a visual description with explanation from Payton: pic.twitter.com/efdrUpyYoZ
– Adam Ney (@sayneykid) December 9, 2020
Kamara has led the NFL with 21 touchdowns this season – three more than any other player. But this was probably the most pleasing to him.
I came out, and [Payton] spoke: They called the play! And I am: Yes, you’re absolutely right, Kamara recalled, at the same time confirming that he had read the situation correctly and that he could be useful in the future.
Kamara told me that I might just have some money in the bank. I could name a few other games.
The truth is Kamara has had money in the bank since Peyton first came to Tennessee on a private visit for the 2017 slave trade.
Error! The file name is not specified. Alvin Kamara played 25 touches in the playoff win over the Bears, despite not training all week. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
The Saints were pleased with Kamara, not only for his physical gifts, but for the intelligence he showed in a game with quarterback Joshua Dobbs and for the way he was so quick when Payton asked him to run on the field.
The whole day had an impact, Peyton said. I knew right away that he was a fast learner.
Less than a week before Camara’s first training camp, Payton compared his intelligence to that of Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, whom Payton coached at San Diego State and whom he called one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached.
Since then, Peyton has regularly praised Kamara’s footballing intelligence. Not surprisingly, Kamara touched the ball 25 more times for a total of 116 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s playoff win over the Chicago Bears, though he was unable to practice while on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
There are actors who could be more affected, Payton said. But he’s very smart, so he can handle it all at once. It is extensive for meetings, [to see the exercise almost live]. And he’s one of those actors who understands what we do officially. That made the transition a little easier.
Breach of rules
Kamara’s intuition was also evident in the Saints’ first game against the Bears in Chicago in Week 8.
On the final play of the first quarter, Kamara ran down and saw the Bearcats take the lead on Khalil Mack who was covering him, while an extra blitzer on the other end attacked the Saints’ offensive line.
The linebacker has grown and grown. So the interior was completely naked, Kamara explained. So I was a little patient, I watched him for a little bit, I watched him and I broke in.
Results : A short note from Drew Brees, who learned about the choice Kamara makes on a three-lane road. And a 47-yard gain in the middle of the big field.
Look @A_Kamara6 GO for 47 yards! #Heavenly
#NOvsCHI on FOX
: NFL App // Yahoo Sports App: https://t.co/ow2iBsMpyD pic.twitter.com/TiO3mqIH1b
– NFL (@NFL) November 1, 2020.
Deuce McAllister, a former John the Baptist and current radio analyst, laughed as he explained that Kamara does indeed often break the rules when it comes to choosing a route.
When I say that, it’s because he’s so talented – and because he and Drew have done it so many times before. So with some jobs, you usually don’t get a chance to get on the field unless it’s Coach Payton’s so-called game, McAllister said. It’s usually a big no-no because the quarterback doesn’t expect you to (A) see it and (B) have enough time to do so.
But Alvin is so sharp and understands what defense does to you. … He sees it, Drew sees it, and he picks it up.
Brees said it takes a man of great emotion, patience, understanding and time to choose these paths.
Error! The file name is not specified. Alvin Kamara is very smart so he can take things into his own hands right away, Saints coach Sean Payton said. Kevin Cox/Getty Images
He’s one of the smartest footballers I’ve ever met. Just tell him once and he’ll understand. He can also just watch it on tape or watch it once and he will understand. And he feels so good, Brice said. He doesn’t even have to make a report. He will remember it, he will keep it. And I think that’s just a rare quality.
Brees and McAllister said they have seen Camara’s natural instincts mature over four years of experience and time under the guidance of coaches like Payton, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and running backs coach Joel Thomas, as well as veteran teammates like Mark Ingram II and Latavius Murray.
The Eric McCoy Center also described Kamara as money when it comes to protecting Saints pass.
When you emerge, so to speak, and your skills are at an all-time high, add the four years of experience as an NFL player and the fact that you play in a similar offense… It’s like all the stars are aligned, Brees said. Dude, he’s in his prime. And he’s willing to do almost anything.
Treatment of boredom
The only problem with Camara’s mind, which works as well as his feet, is that he sometimes gets bored training.
A few years ago, Peyton gave Kamara a nervous toll he could play with when his mind began to wander.
– Matches, X-factors and other for each team
– Experts predict surprises, QB under pressure
– Myths for 14 teams in the playoffs
– Schedule, brackets, TV time and other
– What went wrong for teams that didn’t make the playoffs.
It’s like a constant joke with me, my attention, when it comes to some of these things, Kamara said earlier this season. I pride myself on being smart and being able to store information. Sometimes I even talk to Coach Thomas and say: Hey, relax, I’ll take care of it.
It may not seem like it, because I just have to try to have fun and keep the lights on. So they’re still watching me.
Kamara says he always wanted to learn as much as he could about the offense and what the opposing defenses were trying to do with it. He said he did, as far as he could remember. But he grew up mostly because of the level of play in the NFL – and because he began working with an analytical mind like Brees.
I always admire him and I see how he dissects the game and dissects the plays. And I always try to learn the plays, and I call them, I read the plays when Drew is in the huddle, and I just try to learn the formations, the missions, everything, Kamara said. It makes the game easier. And it’s fun, because sometimes I get bored.
Kamara also revealed another reason why he always approached the game this way.
I’ll be honest. This might give you a glimpse of my state of mind and my true football IQ. So I don’t like it when people tell me, Kamara said. So when we install something, I try to take the time to understand what’s going on before it’s even installed. So if it’s installed, I already know it, so it’s just reinforced. And then, when I get on the field, Sean might try to tell me something before the game, like Hey, this one…. And I am: Yes, I understand. I know you do.
So maybe it’s a little pride for me.
Of course, it’s also nice when Kamara can outsmart a defense because he knows how she’s going to attack him.
Kamara is the first player in NFL history to record at least 500 yards of running and 500 yards of receiving in each of his first four seasons. And with 59 touchdowns in his career, he’s already the second-best player in Saints history.
A lot of the work starts with recognizing what they’re going to do with it and then being able to respond to it, McAllister said. When you see Alvin walking, it’s like he’s high – he’s so sweet. Either it separates from everyone, or no one can really destroy it.
It’s like he’s one or two steps ahead of the defense.