TAMPA, Fla. — Alvin Kamara added another highlight to his Rookie of the Year candidacy on the Saints' first chance to touch the ball against Tampa Bay.
Kamara hesitated for a second in the end zone, then ripped through Tampa Bay's coverage unit for a 106-yard touchdown, the longest in Saints history.
Kamara said after the game that he was going to take a knee until he saw how the return was opening up.
Then he hit the afterburners. Tampa Bay has struggled to cover kicks this season — the Buccaneers gave up a 103-yard touchdown return to Carolina's Damiere Byrd the week before playing the Saints — and the kick return team gave him a clear path.
"It was blocked up perfectly," Kamara said. "We worked it all week, we knew it would be open. Kudos to those guys up front blocking. My job is easy; they're the ones that got to get up there and block."
Up until Kamara's return, the longest kickoff return in franchise history was a 102-yard return by Eric Guliford against the St. Louis Rams in 1997.
New Orleans hadn't returned a kick for a touchdown since Courtney Roby's 97-yard return for a score against the Rams on Nov. 15, 2009.
The return puts an exclamation mark on a brilliant rookie campaign for Kamara. With the return, Kamara joins Gale Sayers as one of only two rookies in history to have at least five rushing touchdowns (Kamara has eight), five receiving touchdowns and one return touchdown.
The third-round pick from Tennessee will have plenty of competition for the Offensive Rookie of the Year trophy — primarily from NFL rushing champ Kareem Hunt — but he's got the votes of the guys in his locker room.
"He has my vote," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "Probably all of yours, too."