As Alvin Kamara returns, Saints adjust to life without Derek Carr

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Just as Saints star running back Alvin Kamara returns from his suspension, New Orleans is dealing with a shoulder injury to starting quarterback Derek Carr.

Saints coach Dennis Allen couldn't say Monday how soon Carr might return, describing the 10th-year quarterback's status as “week to week.”

“We dodged a bullet there in terms of anything of real significance,” Allen said. “We’ll see how he feels as the week goes on.”

Carr was the Saints' top priority in free agency and wasn't even three full games into his four-year, $150 million contract before injuring his throwing shoulder during a wrenching 18-17 loss at Green Bay on Sunday.

The good news for the Saints is that they have two experienced backups in Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. And even with Carr under center, the Saints weren't exactly gaining yards and scoring points at a prolific rate.

The Saints went 2-1 during Kamara's three-game suspension in large part because of their defense, which hasn't allowed more than 18 points in a game this season, and hasn't allowed more than 20 in 11 straight games.

If rookie kicker Blake Grupe hadn't missed a 46-yard field goal with just more than a minute to go, New Orleans might have made it to Week 4 without a loss despite not scoring more than 20 points in a game.

Winston drove the Saints into field-goal range in the final minutes at Green Bay, and sounded eager to see what he can do after taking first-team snaps for an entire week of practice.

“I’m prepared for this opportunity,” Winston said. “This team — we will be fine.”

It should only help to have the dynamic Kamara back to complement receivers Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed, and tight ends Juwan Johnson and Jimmy Graham.

Kamara, who is both an elusive runner and an adept receiver out of the backfield, has made 100-yard games from scrimmage look routine since he was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 2017. He can be difficult to bring down and breaks off big gains with regularity.

“He’s obviously an important part to our offense," Allen said. “He has an explosive element to his game. We’re glad we got him back here.”


The defense continues to be a strength. The unit yielded two touchdowns in the last seven minutes at Green Bay, but only after shutting out the Packers for 49 minutes and not allowing more than a field goal until 6:58 remained. And that was despite missing two starters in the secondary because of safety Marcus Maye's suspension and Paulson Adebo's hamstring injury.

“We just didn’t execute down the stretch the way we needed to," linebacker Demario Davis said. “You’ve got to give credit to (the Packers). They made some phenomenal plays.”


The offensive line was struggling even before starting guard Cesar Ruiz left with a concussion. Carr was injured while being sacked for the 11th time this season. Winston also was sacked once, pushing New Orleans' total of sacks allowed to 12 — four in each game.

“Schemes and all that help, but at the end of the day, the majority of your plays are going to be you versus the guy across from you,” guard James Hurst said. "We’ve just got to improve that, make sure our technique is rock solid in all situations and understand the rushers across from us.”


Shaheed, who contributed several big receptions in New Orleans' first two games, also began fulfilling his promise as a return man in Week 3 with his 76-yard punt return for a score.


Grupe made his first six field goals this season, but his lone miss was a big one with from inside 50 yards with his team down by a point and about a minute to go.

“Those are the moments you dream of as a kicker,” Grupe said. “The operation did its job and I got to be better.”


While the Saints wait for Carr and Ruiz to recover, they'll be hoping Adebo and tight end Foster Moreau (ankle) can come back soon after sitting out at Green Bay.


4 — The number of touchdowns scored by the Saints' offense in their first three games.


Host the Tampa Bay on Sunday with a chance to improve to 2-0 in NFC South play.



Brett Martel, The Associated Press