LONDON — Alvin Kamara wasn’t sold on it when the New Orleans Saints installed a shovel pass at practice during the week. On Sunday, he became a believer.
Kamara scored a touchdown on that very play, taking Drew Brees’ left-handed toss 12 yards to the end zone, and the Saints used it to punctuate their 20-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins on a rainy afternoon at Wembley Stadium.
A rookie out of Tennessee, Kamara finished with a season-high 96 all-purpose yards, including 71 receiving, and had Saints offensive co-ordinator Pete Carmichael to thank.
"That’s one of those special plays where we’re like, ‘All right, we’re practicing it, but are we going to run it?"’ said Kamara, who scored with 3:57 remaining. "We dialed it up and ran it."
Brees threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, with Michael Thomas catching the other, as New Orleans (2-2) picked up the first shutout in 19 games held in Britain’s capital.
It was the first time the Saints didn’t allow a point since Dec. 16, 2012, a 41-0 win against Tampa Bay. Miami (1-2) finished with 186 total yards — its fewest since its last shutout, a 19-0 loss at Buffalo on Dec. 22, 2013.
"The defence got a shutout," Brees said. "Offensively, we sustained drives. We did all the things you need to do for winning football."
It was expected to be a big homecoming for the Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi, who was born in the city, but the running back finished with 46 yards on 12 carries.
Jay Cutler completed 20 of 28 passes for 164 yards with an interception for Miami, which has now scored only once in its last eight quarters — a touchdown on the final play of a loss at the New York Jets in Week 3.
"On offence, we need to have some pride in ourselves, some respect for ourselves," Ajayi said. "Put some points on the board. We’re not doing that. We need to get back to what we know we can do."
The teams threatened to have the first scoreless opening half since Week 14 of the 2011 season until Saints kicker Will Lutz connected from 43 yards with no time remaining.
Lutz made two other field goals, a 43-yarder and a 45-yarder, and Thomas, who had eight catches for 89 yards, caught a 4-yard pass from Brees to push the score to 10-0 in the third quarter.
STREIF’S STRIFE: Saints right tackle Zach Streif, active despite missing time in practice during the week with a knee injury, left the game after sustaining a knee injury on the first play of the fourth quarter when a Dolphins defender fell on his legs. He did not return.
Also leaving the game injured were Saints TE Josh Hill (concussion) and LB Alex Anzalone (shoulder), and Dolphins LB Mike Hull (shoulder), none of whom returned.
The Dolphins were also without cornerback Byron Maxwell, who injured a hamstring in the team’s walk-through on Saturday and was replaced by rookie Cordrea Tankersley, a third-round pick out of Clemson who was inactive for the Dolphins’ first two games.
HOMETOWN HEARTBREAK: Ajayi, who was with the Dolphins for their last international trek in 2015 but did not play because of an injury, expected 30 to 40 family members to attend the game, including his three younger siblings, all of whom were born in the United States and had never before been to London.
"This was all that mattered for the trip, this game on Sunday," Ajayi said. "Regardless of anything else I did these last couple of days, this was the primary objective, and we didn’t get that done."
FLAGS FLYING: The teams combined for 19 penalties, 11 by the Dolphins, with five called in a four-minute span at the end of the second quarter. Saints coach Sean Payton was not pleased. "Don’t get me going here," he joked after the game. "I’m in a good mood."
CRAWLEY’S CATCH: With P.J. Williams taken out of the starting lineup as punishment for a violation of team rules, cornerback Ken Crawley made the most of his second consecutive start, intercepting Cutler on a fade intended for tight end Julius Thomas to end the game’s opening drive. "I saw it," Crawley said, dismissively. "It’s a tight end … and I just played the fade."
Saints: A Week 5 bye means they’ll next be in action at home against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 15.
Dolphins: The home debut, at last, against the Tennessee Titans — Miami’s latest opener since 1987.