By Nick Shook
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It always seems like it’s been a rough week for the road teams when I tally up the wins, but surprisingly, through the first 13 games of this week, we’re one off from an even record at 6-7 with Monday Night Football yet to be played. So where do we find our stars this week?
The first one is a tandem effort to remember, which took place in western New York. But stick around for the other two, because they’re coming from some less-heralded individuals. These honors aren’t moths; road greatness can be achieved far from the warm, enticing glow of the spotlight, too.
Greatest on the Road
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Who needs Adrian Peterson? Shoot, who needs Drew Brees?
Apparently, not the New Orleans Saints‘ backfield, which flat-out dominated the Buffalo Bills in a 47-10 win that was, quite frankly, startling due to how the Saints imposed their will on the opposition.
Take these numbers: Ingram and Kamara combined to rush for 237 yards on 33 carries. The two scored a total of four touchdowns, and as a team, the Saints recorded six rushing scores. New Orleans possessed the ball for 41:23 of the game’s 60 total minutes. That last number is staggering.
Ingram ran the Saints to victory with a powerful, bruising and relentless style behind a line that repeatedly made such an afternoon possible with consistent execution. The 5-foot-9, 215-pound wrecking ball repeatedly bowled over defenders and refused to go down on multiple red zone scores, and twice celebrated with Saints fans braving the hostile environment to support their team.
In a supplementary but key role, Kamara thrived yet again, rushing 12 times for 106 yards. During a stretch between the third and fourth quarters, New Orleans ran the ball on 19 straight plays. That kind of supreme confidence is usually reserved for only the best of teams from past generations. On Sunday, we got a little taste of the throwback football thanks to those two. For a team that for so long was pass-first, run when it’s convenient, it’s a refreshing and drastic change.
Oh, and by the way: Brees even scored a rushing touchdown of his own. Keep on marching, Saints.
Also considered …
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Case Keenum has gotten plenty of love for his play (deservedly so), but we’re going to zero in on a man he had in his crosshairs for most of Sunday afternoon.
Thielen was a receiving machine, catching eight of his 12 targets for 166 yards and one touchdown. His production was a main driver of Keenum’s day, which included a line of 21-of-29 passing, 304 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in what became a fireworks-filled affair in Landover.
The unique quality of Minnesota’s surprisingly effective offense is while Stefon Diggs is unquestionably the unit’s best receiver, Thielen lurks in the shadows, ready to take advantage of single coverage he might get from the attention Diggs draws. And here’s the best part of that: there really isn’t any drop off when targeting him as opposed to Diggs. This balance is what makes Minnesota’s offense quietly explosive, as proven Sunday.
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots
Dion Lewis isn’t the biggest guy, and he didn’t get the most love coming out of Pittsburgh, but in his time in the NFL, he’s proven through multiple injuries that he’s quite valuable to the right franchise.
Sunday night, he got another opportunity to prove just that. Splitting carries with Red Burkhead (and a handful with James White and Brandon Bolden), Lewis rushed 14 times for 55 yards and one touchdown. But his greatest contribution came in the kicking game.
On a miserable special teams night for Denver, Lewis took advantage, weathering a few attempts to force him out of bounds while returning a kick 103 yards down the sideline for a touchdown and a commanding 14-3 lead. Lewis also made a little history, becoming the first player to record a rushing touchdown and a kick return touchdown in the same game twice in a career (including playoffs), according to the fine folks at NFL Media Research.
He did this in Denver, where the air is notoriously thinner, too. How’s that for some road greatness?