NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints running back and offensive captain Alvin Kamara is eager to see whether a dominant Week 8 victory over Las Vegas represented an important first step toward salvaging a season that looked in danger of slipping away.
Kamara emphasized that he wants to see consistency, and only time will tell if Sunday’s 24-0 triumph was merely one instance when everything went right, or the beginning of a trend towards more competitive football.
“We had a nice performance right there,” said Kamara, who scored his first three touchdowns of the season in the victory. “You can do it one time, but you got to be able to string it together. ... Let’s see if we can do it again.”
At the very least, it was a positive step for first-year Saints coach Dennis Allen, who could use a winning season after going 8-28 in his first head coaching gig with the Raiders from 2012-2014.
Fittingly, the Saints' best game by far this season came against the Raiders.
But most importantly, Allen said, it provided evidence that this Saints team could be considerably better than it had demonstrated the first seven weeks of the season.
“Anytime you’re not playing as well as you think you are capable of playing, to get out and have a performance like this is uplifting to everybody,” Allen said.
“The reality is we got a lot of great guys in that locker room. We have a lot of great veteran leadership in there and you know they basically said, "All right, enough is enough and it is time to go get this done.”
The use of Kamara in the passing game has increased since Andy Dalton took over at quarterback. Kamara had five receptions for 19 yards in his first two games combined when season-opening starter Jameis Winston was in the lineup. In four games with Dalton, Kamara has 28 catches for 268 yards and two TDs, including his season highs of nine catches for 96 yards against the Raiders.
Dalton “utilized Alvin in the passing game really well,” Allen said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Although safety Tyrann Mathieu intercepted a tipped pass against the Raiders, the Saints are still lagging behind most of the NFL in takeaways. New Orleans has just two interceptions in eight games, both by Mathieu, to go with five fumble recoveries. Their seven takeaways ranked 26th in the NFL through Sunday's games.
Dalton and rookie defensive back Alontae Taylor.
Dalton validated the coaching staff's decision to stick with him as the starter, completing 73% of his passes for 229 yards and two TDs without a turnover. He also is demonstrating good chemistry with the offensive line. He not only wasn't sacked by the Raiders but was hardly touched. The Saints finished with 367 yards, were 7 of 12 on third down and possessed the ball for nearly 35 minutes.
“Right now with what he is doing, I think our offense is in rhythm,” Allen said of Dalton. "Our play calls (are) in a rhythm ... and we are able to run the football, which is getting us into a lot more manageable third downs and we are converting more third downs and keeping the other offense off the field.”
Taylor, a second-round draft choice last spring who was hurt early this season, has looked confident since joining the lineup. He was regularly involved in covering top Raiders receiver Davante Adams, who was held to one catch for 3 yards.
Kicker Wil Lutz missed his second field goal of the season from within 40 yards and has missed four of 12 attempts inside of 50 yards.
He had another narrow miss this season, albeit from 61 yards, and it hit two posts.
Running back Mark Ingram left Sunday's game in the first half with a knee injury. The Saints also played without receivers Michael Thomas (foot) and Jarvis Landry (ankle), as well as cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) and tight end Adam Trautman (ankle). Thomas, who was expected to be New Orleans top receiver this season after missing all of last season with an ankle injury, has been inactive for five straight games.
0 — The number of turnovers the Saints committed and the number of points the Saints allowed, standing in stark contrast to the previous seven weeks. The Saints came into Week 8 leading the NFL with 16 lost turnovers and were giving up 28.6 points per game, which ranked second worst in the NFL. The shutout reduced their average to 25 points per game, moving the Saints up from 31st to 27th prior to Monday night's game.
The Saints have an extra day off this week to prepare for a Monday night home game on Nov. 7 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Despite stumbling out of the gate, the Saints (3-5) could become darkhorse contenders if they are indeed just now hitting their stride. They trail NFC South-leading Atlanta (4-4) by one game with nine to play.
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