739 total yards from scrimmage. 7 touchdowns already, including an unforgettable 106-yard Kickoff Return for a TD.
Those are the numbers put up by Saints 3rd year superstar and All-Pro RB Alvin Kamara so far, vs. the one NFL team that he’s enjoyed the most success against up to this point of his short NFL career: the Black and Gold’s NFC South Division rivals. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And as the two teams prepare to meet up once again in this Sunday’s divisional match-up and looming showdown at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, more than just a few passionate Who Dats fans are wondering: can Kamara repeat that same amount of success that he’s had previously against Tampa Bay — and help the Saints “sink” the Buccaneers once again?
Without any doubt. one of the main reasons why the Saints have managed to continue winning games in recent weeks despite the loss of starting QB and the team’s living legend Drew Brees from their line-up, has been the outstanding performance of Kamara.
In his four games this season. Kamara has carried the ball 59 times for 280 yards rushing and a TD, but has actually made most of his damage against opponents in the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield (20 catches for 199 receiving yards and a TD).
Those numbers that the 24-year old has tallied in the first 4 games for the (3-1) Saints thus far have not only allowed them to earn surprising back-to-back wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys in their past two games; but has also allowed New Orleans to remain on top of the NFC South Division standings. over both the (2-2) Bucs and the (2-2) Carolina Panthers.
But now this Sunday he’ll look to add to those numbers through the first 4 weeks of the current 2019 NFL Season against the franchise that he’s “ship-wrecked” in the past; dating back to his initial rookie season two years ago back during the 2017 Season.
Kamara in four career games against Tampa Bay. has recorded 39 carries for 192 yards and 4 rushing TD’s against them in the running game; and has 25 catches (on 32 targets) for 316 yards and 2 receiving TD’s against them in the passing game.
Additionally, he has tallied an additional 231 yards on kickoff returns; 106 of those yards that came in his memorable 106 yard kickoff return for a TD in the team’s 2017 regular season finale at Tampa Ray’s Raymond James Stadium — which was the game that saw Kamara give an exhilarating performance that day when he accounted for 284 all-purpose yards and 2 TD’s.
In spite of those heroics however, Kamara and the Saints ended up losing to the Bucs by a score of 31-24. But the Black and Gold on that particular day were still able to clinch the NFC South Division Championship, and subsequently won the division once again last season.
The winner of this Sunday’s game will be looking to gain an early advantage within the division, although it’s the Buccaneers who likely will feel a greater sense of urgency to come away with a victory; since they’ve already won their opening game within the division nearly three weeks ago in their 20-14 victory over the Panthers on Thursday Night Football.
That would essentially give Tampa an early 2-game lead over the Black and Gold if they could emerge from the Superdome with a positive result on the scoreboard this Sunday — but they know that will only happen if they are able to slow down or outright stop Kamara, something they’ve struggled to do as of yet now over two years in.
It’s a fact that isn’t lost on 1st year Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, who said as much in his conference call with the local NOLA-area media on Wednesday afternoon.
(Reporter’s Question): What do you see in Alvin Kamara and how do you see that match-up playing out?
“Well, yeah, again, Alvin is an unbelievable talent and Sean (Payton) does such a good job of getting him out in space, jet sweeps, a lot of different ways he’s going to touch the ball, so we have to be very alert on where he’s at.”
Arians’ sentiment was echoed by Buccaneers rookie linebacker and former LSU star Devin White; who told Tampa Bay Times beat writer Eduardo A, Ecina that stopping Kamara an elite multi-purpose running back like Kamara is a challenge that he’s looking forward to;.
“I like those kind of match-ups,” White said. “It’s like when we were playing (Panthers running back) Christian McCaffrey (3 weeks ago), the first five plays I had too tackles, so I was like OK, this is going to be a good game for me, but unfortunately I went down.”
White will be back in the Bucs’ defensive line-up this Sunday afternoon against Kamara and the Saints, after missing their last two games. White played through tonsillitis in the Bucs’ season opening loss to San Francisco, and was injured just six plays into that victory over Carolina 3 weeks ago, but will need all of the additional help that he can get to stop the shifty Saints superstar.
That likely will include veteran linebacker Lavonte David along with Tampa Bay interior defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea; who collectively have helped the Bucs become the #1 rated defense in the entire NFL at defending the run under 1st year defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Tampa has already faced some of the other similarly-rated top-notch type RB’s such as McCaffrey, the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, and the Rams’ Todd Gurley.
So while Saints head coach Sean Payton and the Saints likely won’t completely abandon the run if they fail to have any early success running the ball in the contest on Sunday, you can certainly bet that they’ll choose to do it through the air — where Kamara has burned the Bucs on more than one occasion.
And not just in the statistics category. but ultimately in the win-loss column, the only number that the Saints and Kamara are truly concerned with at the moment currently while Drew Brees’ torn thumb ligament on his throwing hand continues to heal.
Counting Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, Brees is expected to miss at least 4 more games, until his current projected return to the team in Week #10 following their Bye Week; which would be in their November 10th home game against their hated arch-rivals, the Atlanta Falcons.
Until then however, it’ll be up to Kamara and company to continue their stellar play of late, and that clearly will be the case again this weekend vs, the Bucs.
And believe this much: in a little over 48 hours from now, the Bucs will definitely be focused on stopping Kamara this time around, especially if they hope to avoid getting “ship-wrecked” and sunk by the Black and Gold yet again….