In 2006, the New Orleans Saints signed Sean Payton as head coach and Drew Brees as their starting quarterback. Basically, for the next 11 seasons, the Saints were regarded as one of the more pass-first teams in the NFL.

But then something changed in 2017. The Saints became one of the league's best running teams, leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns (23) and coming in second at 4.7 yards per attempt.

And although the Saints signed former NFL MVP and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson in the offseason, he wasn't the reason for the success. No, it was Mark Ingram -- a seventh-year player with just one 1,000-yard rushing season to his name -- and Alvin Kamara -- a rookie third-round pick who bounced around three colleges -- who set The Big Easy ablaze.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Ingram/Kamara synergy was their friendship. The two Pro Bowlers consistently made together in media appearances and showed visible support on the field. That positivity could be felt when both talked with ThePostGame on Super Bowl Radio Row.

"I mean it was 'real recognize real,'" Ingram says of initially meeting Kamara. "At the end of the day, the connection was there. The vibe was there. He wasn't thinking that he was 'all that.' He was quiet, he was humble, he was willing to learn and just figure out this NFL thing. You have a guy that's humble like that, and we connected. We had something in common, we both went to Alabama, it was love off the rip, man. We just compete with each other, we said we wanted to be the best backfield in the NFL and that's what we worked for, that's what we pushed each other for and that's what we held each other accountable for every single day. We said that we wanted to be the best. He wanted to be the best back, I wanted to be the best back in the league. Competition breeds excellence and we're going to continue to strive to put up better numbers next year."

Ingram had 1,124 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs, 416 receiving yards. Kamara had 826 receiving yards, 728 rushing yards, 13 total TDs.

"Mark, he plays hard, he's got passion," Kamara says, when asked what he admires most about Ingram. "He turns into a different person on game day. He adds fuel to the fire that our team has. He's in the locker room, hyping everyone up. He supports everybody. Of course, he supports me. Me and him have been going back and forth all season, just trying to create and help this team in any way. That's what he is, an unselfish player. He does everything he can for the team and I appreciate him for that. He does everything he can to help me. I think that's why our relationship is so great, off the field and on the field."

Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara

While the Saints won the NFC South and a wild-card playoff game against the rival Panthers, their Super Bowl dream was foiled in the divisional round by the Minneapolis Miracle. But both will be back in 2018, with Ingram on the last year of his contract.

As for Peterson, the Saints dealt the 32-year-old after four games in 2017. Despite reports of Peterson being frustrated with New Orleans, Ingram felt Peterson had bought into the culture he and Kamara were creating.

"He was right there," Ingram says. "We didn't know how it was going to work out or what was going to happen, but all three of us were confident, all three of us were positive and we supported each other and there was no animosity whatsoever. We all had love for each other. We all wanted to help each other. I watched A.D. since he was a freshman at Oklahoma. That's a 2,000-yard rusher, NFL MVP, first-ballot Hall of Famer. Just to have him and learn from him and see how he handled himself as a pro, see how he recovered, that was big for both of us."

Ingram spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of EA Sports. He served as a studio analyst for the Madden NFL Club Championship Final, which took place in Minneapolis on Feb. 16.

Kamara spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of Pepsi Rookie of the Year, which he was awarded on Feb. 2 in Minneapolis. Dak Prescott, the previous winner of the award, passed the trophy down to Kamara.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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