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New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs against Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brian Poole (34) an NFL football game in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017.

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON

Alvin Kamara knew exactly what he was in for when he took the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf in a pair of custom-made Christmas cleats on Sunday.

He'd already been told. When Kamara warmed up wearing red cleats with a white stripe at the top inscribed with the word "Alvin" and three bells on the top of the foot, he was aware he'd be fined by the NFL if he wore them during the game. 

Kamara wasn't about to let the NFL dampen his joie de vivre. Wearing the red cleats, Kamara faced down the only defense that has knocked him out of a game so far and played a key role in a 23-13 Saints win over the Falcons. 

"I just feel like, it's Christmas, everybody's in the Christmas spirit, so why not?" Kamara said. "Hopefully, they don't do me too bad."

Kamara did remove the bells before taking the field — he thought they might pose a hazard — but wearing the shoes was vintage Kamara.

The rookie running back adds as much life to the New Orleans offense in the locker room as he does on the field, and in a monumental showdown with a division rival and the playoffs on the line, Kamara's act brought levity to the Christmas Eve proceedings.

"He always seems like he's having fun; he definitely has a swagger to him," Brees said. "Him and (veteran running back) Mark (Ingram), they've got a great relationship and rapport, the 1-2 between them. ... Both of them have that, kind of, that smile that you know how much it means to them, and they want to have fun"

Kamara, who was forced out of the Saints' loss in Atlanta two weeks ago when he suffered a concussion on the first New Orleans drive, played a key role for an offense that did just enough to complement a brilliant defensive performance.

He wasn't about to shy away from the Falcons just because of a Deion Jones hit two weeks ago.

"I was ready," Kamara said. "I didn't get the full chance to do what I had to do last game, so being able to be in this game, it meant a lot."

The versatile back rushed 12 times for 32 yards, caught seven passes for 58 yards and either carried the ball or served as the target for Drew Brees on seven of the Saints' first 14 plays. 

He played a key role on all three of New Orleans' scoring drives in the first half. Kamara caught a 25-yard pass on the second play to set up a Wil Lutz field goal, picked up two first downs to set up Lutz's next kick and caught a 10-yard pass after Marshon Lattimore's interception to help set up a 54-yard lightning bolt from Brees to Ted Ginn, 

"Alvin's a game-changerl he's a playmaker," Brees said. "He had opportunities in both the run and the pass today, had a big play on the first drive. He's just a great complement to our offense and what we do."

Kamara, who is from the Atlanta area and played his high school football at Norcross (Ga.) High, reveled in the big win after the game with Ingram, who added 44 yards and a key 26-yard touchdown of his own. 

"Of course it felt like revenge," Kamara said. "They beat us the last time, so being able to get in there and be able to handle what we had to handle, it feels good."

A first-time offender of the NFL's uniform code is typically hit with a fine of $5,787. 

But Kamara's decision to wear his Christmas cleats is an example of why players dislike the uniform code so much in the first place. All he was doing was sharing a little bit of his innate sense of joy with 73,188 fans in the Superdome and the television audience.

"If they fine him, they're the Grinch," Ingram said. "Don't be the Grinch."

Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.