New Orleans Saints’ star running back Alvin Kamara could return in time to face Chicago Bears in a wild card playoff game on Sunday, thanks to a quirk of the post-season fixture schedule.
Kamara tied an NFL record with six touchdowns in a victory over Minnesota on Christmas Day before testing positive and missing the regular-season finale at Carolina.
His period of self-isolation is due to end in time for him to play against the Bears, something he would not have been able to do if it was slated to take place a day earlier.
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As it is, he would have to play against Chicago without having practiced all week.
Saints coach Sean Payton said: “A Sunday game he can play. Obviously, [any preparation] during the week will have to be Zoomed.”
January 10, 2021, 9:30pm
Payton would not commit to playing Kamara and instead confirmed he would see how preparations went in the run-up to the game.
“I think it would depend on the player and the situation,” Payton added.
“A lot of it will be our decision based on where we think we are with the week, the player, and we have to be smart.”
New Orleans, 12-4 and the second seed in the NFC, didn’t miss a beat without Kamara and fellow running backs Latavius Murray and Dwayne Washington, fullback Michael Burton, as well as running backs coach Joel Thomas, who all missed the 33-7 victory against the Panthers while quarantined.
Ty Montgomery, who is primarily a wide receiver, rushed for 105 yards on 18 carries.
The Saints hope to get back another key offensive player in All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is on the injured reserve list but eligible to be activated this week.
In the Saints’ 26-23 overtime victory against the host Bears on November 1, Kamara had 163 yards from scrimmage, including a 20-yard run to set up Wil Lutz’s winning field goal.
That game was the second of six consecutive losses by the Bears, who had Nick Foles at quarterback.
Trubisky return sparked Bears’ playoff push
Mitchell Trubisky has since regained his starting position and the offense has performed better since his return after Foles was injured.
In the six games since Trubisky returned to the starting lineup, he has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,495 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better over these last couple weeks,” Trubisky said.
Since Trubisky’s return, Chicago has averaged 30.2 points per game, even after the 35-15 loss to Green Bay last Sunday ended a four-game streak of scoring at least 30 points.
Trubisky’s success and that of the offense has coincided with an improved running game.
The Bears (8-8) were averaging 78.2 rushing yards before Trubisky returned to the lineup and they are averaging 144.2 rushing yards since.
The loss to the Packers ended Chicago’s three-game winning streak, but they still advanced to the playoffs when the Cardinals lost to the Rams in Week 17.
Bears coach Matt Nagy said: “These players, they earned it. The last four games of the year, to be where we were at after those six [consecutive losses] wasn’t easy, but they fought. And that’s a credit to them, that’s a credit to our coaches.”
New Orleans opened as a 9.5-point favourite, making them the biggest favourites in the six games on wild-card weekend.
“(An 8-8 record) is not perfect,” Nagy added. “We have a lot of things to get better at, but we can’t worry about that. Now what we need to do is worry about everything we can to be the best team that we can on Sunday against the Saints.”
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