For the fourth consecutive season, the New Orleans Saints are NFC South champions. Sean Payton's club was able to secure another division title with a 52-33 win over the Minnesota Vikings, who are now officially eliminated from postseason contention. Of course, the division title is the key Christmas gift that New Orleans put under their tree on Friday, but Alvin Kamara also added himself into the record books with a career night.
As he sported red and green Christmas-themed cleats, Kamara rocked around the Superdome to the tune of 155 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the ground. He is just the second player in the history of the NFL to rush for six scores, joining Ernie Nevers, who did it for the Chicago Cardinals back in 1929.
His first score of the night was arguably his most impressive and just a preview of what was to come. On New Orleans' first drive, Kamara was able to take a handoff 40 yards to the end zone to open up the scoring. The first quarter was truly a dominating display by New Orleans as they totaled 14 first downs and accumulated 216 yards of total offense.
That play continued throughout the contest but the Vikings were largely able to keep the game close. In the second half, these two clubs traded touchdown blows on four straight drives. The backbreaker for Minnesota, however, was a three-and-out to begin the fourth quarter. While they failed to continue matching New Orleans, the Saints just kept piling up points, going on a 10-play, 58-yard touchdown drive that extended their lead to beyond double-digits.
With 311 yards passing, Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to record 80,000 career passing yards. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins finished his day with 291 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Dalvin Cook rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown.
For a more detailed breakdown of this wild Christmas showdown, check out our main takeaways below.
Why New Orleans won
Alvin Mentian Kamara.
Despite throwing for 311 yards, Drew Brees was not at his best on Friday as his injured ribs are clearly still an issue for him. A number of his passes were underthrown, and two resulted in interceptions. Luckily for New Orleans, however, they didn't need their Hall of Fame quarterback to live up to that gold jacket billing. Instead, they hopped on Alvin Kamara's back as he drove them to a division title. Kamara set the tone on the Saints' first drive of the night, rushing for a 40-yard touchdown. He kept it going with a historic six-touchdown performance that now eliminates the Vikings from the playoffs.
That ability to repeatedly find the end zone is what kept the Saints out in front of Minnesota, who did hold their own against what has been billed as a stout Saints defense. The Vikings went toe-to-toe with the Saints in the second half with a number of touchdown drives, but Kamara and company were able to outlast Minnesota as their offense started to sputter.
Why Minnesota lost
The Vikings simply had no answers for the Saints offense, specifically on the ground. While Alvin Kamara's historic night was obviously the headliner, the entire New Orleans backfield enjoyed success against Minnesota. As a team, the Saints rushed for 264 yards and seven touchdowns. Those struggles defensively were apparent right out of the gate as the Saints offense rolled to 216 yards in the first quarter. They had 14 first downs over that first quarter of play and didn't even face a third-down situation until around the start of the second.
That inability to slow Sean Payton's club down put tremendous pressure on the Vikings offense, which performed well overall. Kirk Cousins was able to score three touchdowns through the air and lead the offense to 33 points, but when your defense is allowing 52, it's darn near impossible to keep up. The 52 points allowed are also the most given up by the Vikings since the Cardinals put up 56 back in 1963.
Even as the Saints started extremely hot, the Vikings were able to hang around and, at one point, even brought the New Orleans lead as low as four. Things got to a fever pitch in the second half, however, as both the Vikings and Saints traded touchdown blows. Starting at the 10:53 mark in the third quarter, Minnesota and New Orleans traded touchdowns on four straight drives. After a seven-play, 67-yard scoring drive by the Saints, the Vikings were the first club to blink and suffer a deflating three-and-out. As Minnesota failed to put up points in that spot, the Saints trade kept chugging to further separate themselves.
New Orleans finished the game with four straight touchdown drives before icing the game with kneels.
Play of the game
While this wasn't his flashiest touchdown of the night (like the 40-yard scamper he had to begin the game), Kamara made history with this score on Friday night. This gave him six rushing touchdowns on the day, which tied an NFL record for the most in a single game. The last player to score six touchdowns on the ground was Ernie Nevers, who did it back in 1929. Kamara also became just the fourth player in league history to score six or more total touchdowns in a single game, joining Gale Sayers (1965), Dub Jones (1951) and Nevers.
Kamara's final stat line: 155 yards rushing, seven yards per carry, six touchdowns, three catches, 17 receiving yards. Pretty good timing with the fantasy championships underway.
From here, the Saints will wrap up the regular season at Carolina against the Panthers. Meanwhile, the Vikings will close out the year in Detroit against the Lions.