by Brett Martel, Associated Press
Alvin Kamara expects a fine for wearing a pair of Christmas-themed shoes that, as it turned out, would also be worthy of a Hall of Fame display.
With a red shoe on his right foot and a green one on his left, Kamara tied an NFL record set in 1929 by running for six touchdowns in a game. He finished with a career-high 155 yards rushing to help New Orleans beat the Minnesota Vikings 52-33 on Friday and clinch a fourth straight NFC South title.
“It just feels good to have one of those days, just for the team,” Kamara said, showering credit on the offensive line and insisting that he did “the small part.”
“I’m not focused on personal, like, goals and yards and stuff like that,” Kamara continued. “As long as the team has success, then personal success will come.”
And it has come all season for Kamara, who during training camp signed a five-year contract worth up to $75 million. He has since set Saints records for rushing TDs in a season with 16 and total TDs with 21 (he has five receiving).
As for wearing shoes that didn’t conform to the NFL’s uniform codes, Kamara said, “If they fine me, whatever it is, I’ll just match it and donate to charity. You know, the Grinch always tries to steal Christmas.”
Kamara slipped a couple tackle attempts and then sprinted into the clear for a 40-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive. He added scoring runs of 1, 5, 6, 7 and 3 yards against a Minnesota defensive front hit hard by injuries, and equaled Hall of Fame fullback Ernie Nevers’ achievement.
Minnesota (6-9) was eliminated from playoff contention while allowing the most points by any Vikings team since 1963.
“They just mashed us up front,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, calling his defense “the worst one I’ve ever had” as a coach. “We couldn’t slow them down. It would be 8-yard gain, 7-yard gain.”
The Saints (11-4) never punted, and set a record of yards gained in a game by a Vikings opponent with 583.
Saints coach Sean Payton said it felt like a CFL game, with many first-down conversions coming before New Orleans even got to third down. The Saints might have won by a greater margin if not for two interceptions of Drew Brees, one of them on a pass that deflected off receiver Emmanuel Sanders’ hands.
Brees completed 19 of 26 throws for 311 yards in his second game back from rib and lung injuries that had sidelined him for four games.
Sanders had four catches for 83 yards, while tight end Jared Cook caught three passes for 82 yards. New Orleans’ 264 yards rushing were the most by a Vikings opponent in Zimmer’s seven seasons.
New Orleans native Irv Smith Jr. caught a pair of touchdown passes in the third quarter for the Vikings, the second pulling Minnesota to 31-27. But the Saints responded with two short touchdown runs by Kamara and one by reserve QB Taysom Hill in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Kirk Cousins passed for 283 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings, who never led and trailed for good after Kamara’s second TD in the first quarter.
Kamara equaled a record Nevers set for the Cardinals way back when they called Chicago home.
“It was awesome,” Brees said. “Six touchdowns for a running back is just astounding.”
Saints players celebrated the last TD by pretending to make snow angels on the Superdome turf, which center Erik McCoy planned during the final drive as something that stuck with the Christmas theme.
Payton, who spent part of his youth in the Chicago area, was thinking about Gale Sayers’ six-TD game (four rushing, two receiving) against San Francisco in 1965 when he called the play that led to Kamara’s sixth TD with just less than two minutes left.
“I’d say most of these players have no idea how good Gale Sayers was,” Payton said, adding that Kamara’s TD total “was a big deal. He played fantastic.”
In a game that saw both defenses struggle, Saints receiver Marquez Callaway made a play that any defensive back would appreciate when he prevented Eric Wilson from intercepting a pass Brees threw right at the linebacker. With a second chance, Brees hit Callaway for 11 yards on the next play and then found Cook 19 yards to the Vikings 6. That set up Kamara’s third TD run of the half to put New Orleans up 24-14.
Vikings: Minnesota did not report any injuries.
Saints: LB Kwon Alexander injured his right ankle late in the third quarter. He was initially helped off the field but later took a cart from the sideline to the locker room.
Vikings: visit Detroit on Jan. 3, the final Sunday of the regular season.
Saints: visit Carolina on Jan. 3.