NEW ORLEANS, La. -- New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara challenged the team to "get its swag back" after a prime-time loss to the Cardinals last week.
The Saints (3-5) responded with a 24-0 shutout of the Las Vegas Raiders, led by Kamara's three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) and their best defensive performance of the season.
"I think that's the type of team we're capable of being," Saints coach Dennis Allen said after the win. "It's a big win for us. We get a little bit of momentum, and so, I felt good about the way our guys played."
He added: "Any time you get a chance to get a shutout in a game, I think that's huge. They're hard to come by in this league. The defense was challenged this week, in terms of stepping up and playing the way they're capable of playing. I thought they came out and played with energy, passion. I thought they played with swagger, which was good to see."
In Kamara's fiery postgame speech after the Cardinals loss, he preached accountability and playing "Saints football." Now he wants the team to do that every week.
"I think [the swagger] is probably on its way back. We had a nice performance right there. But swag ain't s--- if it's not consistent," Kamara said. "You can do it one time, but you've got to be able to string it together. We're looking for the same type of preparation this week. I know I am. I'm ready to go. I'm ready for the next time. I ain't trying really to celebrate this one. I expect to win every week, so I'm not like, 'hip, hip hooray" right now.' I'm like, 'OK cool, we put it together. Let's see if we can do it again.'"
Kamara said he's calling on the team to continue that type of performance against the Baltimore Ravens next Monday and beyond after its 2-5 start to the season. The Saints have an opportunity to take advantage of a weak NFC South division with the Atlanta Falcons (4-4) taking first place Sunday after beating the Carolina Panthers in overtime.
"Just because we had a nice game this week doesn't mean that there's a fall-off or taper down," Kamara said. "We've got to do the same thing the next week, and the next week and the next week. Put it together. That's really what swag is. Swag is consistency."
Allen said that he thinks Kamara's leadership has grown this season and that his challenge to his teammates was one example of that.
"I thought it was good to see him step up this week," Allen said. "And you know what? He didn't just step up in his words; he stepped up in his actions. And I think that's what a real leader does."
The Saints came into the Raiders game as one of the most penalized teams in the league and were also the worst team in turnover differential. They made the decision to permanently go with quarterback Andy Dalton as a starter this week after he had been filling in weekly for an injured Jameis Winston.
The problems that had previously cost the Saints games didn't show up against the Raiders, who could not stop Kamara or tight end Taysom Hill, who ran for 61 yards. Dalton played an almost mistake-free game, completing 22 of 30 passes for 229 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also was not sacked, while Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was sacked three times and threw an interception.
"We got back on track, went out there. Our defense played lights-out. That's how our defense plays. That's how they're supposed to play; that's what they expect," Kamara said. "Offense, we went out there and did what we're supposed to do. That's what we expect every week. When it doesn't happen, I'm pissed. I'm sure the coaches are pissed. It's just holding everybody accountable. It's like ethics, you know? Everybody being accountable to themselves and then to their teammates. And then it's just operating a certain [way] of self-accountability, policing each other."
Kamara said the win was also particularly gratifying for Allen, who was fired by the Raiders four games into the 2014 season, leaving Oakland with an 8-28 record. Kamara said Allen didn't mention what a win might mean to him until he addressed the team in the locker room after the game. Earlier in the week, Kamara proclaimed they would "whup the Raiders' ass" for Allen.
"He lied," Kamara said. "During the week, I was for real. I was telling the truth. He didn't really say anything about it. But in the locker room, he was like, 'Yeah, I lied. This [game] meant a lot to me.' I stick to what I said: We was going to go out there and beat their ass, and we did that."
Allen smiled when asked about his feelings on Kamara's statement before and after the game.
"I feel much better about it now," Allen said.
Said Dalton: "I think it's always extra special when you can get a win against a former team. Like AK was saying, he made it seem like it wasn't a big deal, but it is. I'm happy we were able to get the win, not only win but win the way we did. I think that means even more."