The Night Kyle Turley Went Berserk ... and Mariano Rivera blew the World Series
The 4-3 New York Jets met the 4-2 Saints Sunday night, November 4, 2001.
It was the first meeting between the teams since 1995.
To quote the New York Daily News, the Jetswere well aware of the Saints' reputation as a physical team that liked to push the envelope, sometimes resorting to cheap-shot tactics. So the Jets went into the Superdome ... expecting a brawl, and that's what unfolded - literally.
The Jets came to the Crescent City in a foul mood. Despite their winning record, they were perceived as not ready for prime time players in Herm Edwards' first year as head coach. They "won ugly" as exemplified by the previous week's 13-12 squeaker over Carolina in which NY survived four turnovers.
Could the Jets beat one of the league's "elite" teams, the defending NFC West champions coming off the first playoff win in franchise history and the previous week's victory in St. Louis over the previously unbeaten Rams? One of the heroes of that game had been RT Kyle Turley who inspired his teammates with a vocal halftime challenge when they were down 24-6.
Could 38-year-old QB Vinny Testaverde outplay the Saints' hot young gunslinger, Aaron Brooks, who had sizzled in the 34-31 win against St. Louis (20-for-31 for 254y, 3 TD, 0 INT with a career-best 122.2 passer rating)?
The contest matched the league's top two teams in Turnover Ratio, with the Jets leading at +13.
The game also featured the top rusher in each conference - Ricky Williams of the Saints (557y) and Curtis Martin of the Jets (738). Williams had to be licking his chops as he prepared for the league's #31 rushing defense. How would Martin fare against one of the best D-lines in the league: La'Roi Glover, Norman Hand, Darren Howard, and Joe Johnson.
It was teacher vs. pupil for the offensive coordinators. The Saints' Mike McCarthy worked under Paul Hackett for nine years at the University of ittsburgh and with the Kansas City Chiefs. Mike cited Paul as one of the biggest influences on his career. Eerily, the last time they spoke was September 11. I was on the phone with him when the second plane hit, said McCarthy.
Playing at home was actually a negative factor for the Saints, who had won only five of eleven in the Superdome under Jim Haslett while taking 10 of 13 on the road. The Jets, on the other hand, had won all three of their road games in the '01 season.
Still, oddsmaker installed New Orleans as a 6-point favorite.
70,020 saw the Saints sleep walk through the first half.
Q1: The Jets came out throwing the ball. Testaverde hit Laveranues Coles for 25 on the first play and for 15 on the third play, both off play action to Martin. When the drive stalled just inside the red zone, John Hall booted a 39y FG. Jets 3 Saints 0 (11:28 on the clock)
The Saints started sharply with a 20y pass to Joe Horn, but the WR fumbled when hit by CB Aaron Glenn, and FS Damien Robinson recovered and returned to the NO 38. Haslett challenged the play, claiming that Horn didn't have "clear possession" before losing the ball. Referee Mike Carey went "under the hood" but let the call stand.
It was Robinson's first big play since being acquired in the offseason from Tampa Bay, where Edwards was his secondary coach. Before the evening ended, football fans across the country would know the name Damien Robinson quite well.
After three plays gained 9y, Hall kicked another FG, this one from the 37. Jets 6 Saints 0 (8:53)
The teams traded punts, then they traded INTs.
Q2: The first pick came on the opening play of the period with the Saints deep in NY territory. Brooks threw from the 10 as he was falling backward, and Glenn easily leaped and snared the ball in the EZ for the Jets' seventh red-zone takeaway of the season.
The visitors marched from their 20 to the NO 22 only to have Testaverde throw his fifth INT, all in the last three games. Not learning a lesson from Brooks' ill-fated throw, Vinny threw off his back foot to S Jay Bellamy at the 5.
When the Jets got the ball back, the offense scored its first TD in eight quarters and its first against the Saints since 1986 (five games). The possession started when Chad Morton returned a punt 24y down the left sideline to the NO 43.
The return gave Chad great pleasure since it came against the team that had traded him in late August for a 6th round pick and DB with the interesting name of Earthwind Moreland who never played a down for the Saints. Morton had told the New York Daily News before the game:
If I get one, I'd probably taunt the whole sideline. I'm not going to try to do too many big things - when you try too hard, you end up messing up - but it'll be kind of fun playing against my old teammates. I'll taunt them and make fun of them because I know they will when they tackle me.
Testaverde made two key completions to Wayne Chrebet, who burst free from a tackle for 32y to the 11. Then Vinny threw a 7y fade to Coles over CB Fred Thomas for six. Jets 13 Saints 0 (2:31)
With one last chance to dent the scoreboard before halftime, the Saints reached the 12 with 51 seconds left. But
LB Mo Lewis picked off Brooks's aerial on the 1 and returned it 17y.
Given a chance at another FG at least, the Jets puzzled their fans when Testaverde took a knee and let the last 41 seconds run off the clock.
It was the first time the Saints had been blanked in a first half at home in 25 games dating to 1998.
The Black and Gold fans were not happy, especially the one who fired a beer bottle onto the field after Coles' TD.
As they had done so often that season, the Saints rallied in the second half.
Q3: The Saints' opening possession ended when the Jets stuffed Ricky on a third-and-one.
S Sammy Knight ignited the crowd when he recovered Martin's fumble at the Jets 26. It was Curtis's first bobble in 368 touches covering 16 games. Horn made a turning 20y reception on 3rd-and-5 to put the ball on the 1. Williams dove in from there. Jets 13 Saints 7 (7:01)
Then, for the third time in five games, the Jets were surprised by an onside kick. On the exact same play the Rams had deployed against NY two weeks earlier, Fred Weary recovered Toby Gowin's topper on the NO 42. But the Jets forced a 3-and-out. Gowin's punt put NY in a hole at their 3. Testaverde faded back into the EZ and, with DE Howard closing in,
threw the ball generally in the direction of Chrebet. "Generally" wasn't good enough for the referee because the ball didn't reach the line of scrimmage. So he threw his flag for intentional grounding - an automatic safety. Jets 13 Saints 9 (3:45)
Q4: With LaMont Jordan, Martin's backup, ripping off gains of 12 and 20y, the Jets drove far enough for Hall to attempt a 35y FG but he missed.
On the very next play, Brooks fumbled the snap, and Steve Martin pounced on it at the 20 - an act that Saints fans didn't find funny at all.
But the Saints held, and this time
Hall was true from the 13. Jets 16 Saints 9 (3:27)
After the Jets stuffed the Saints, sacking Brooks two more times, Edwards made a controversial decision on the Jets' next possession. Facing 4th-and-inches at his 46, Herm decided to go for it.
During the two-minute warning, he asked his defense, If we don't get it, can you stop them? They said yes. No guts, no glory, S Victor Green told his coach. I wanted to end the game right there, Edwards said afterwards. I wanted to end it with the offense making an inch and having the ball. I'd do it again if I had to do it all over again. I had confidence in our defense.
Saints stuffed Martin. Edwards' decision had given them new life.
But the enthusiasm vanished on the first play when Brooks threw the ball straight to Robinson. But wait. DB Ray Mickens was called for holding, and the Saints kept the ball.
With 1:14 remaining, they faced 2nd-and-3 at the NY 6.
Then came the play that overshadowed all other NFL action that day.
Brooks ran a bootleg to his left and was tackled for a 2y gain just inside the sideline. At the conclusion of the play, Jets S Robinson pulled and twisted Aaron's face mask, extending the QB's torso as his lower body was still caught beneath defenders.
Robinson twists Brooks helmet as Turley arrives.
"Bad boy tackle" Turley (a "Fabio lookalike" according to the New York Daily News) reached in and grabbed Robinson's face mask, trying to yank the helmet off his head. Kyle fell down as the two engaged in a wrestling match. Officials and other players attempted to break up the melee. Suddenly, Turley crawled out from the pile, helmet-less himself, but with Robinson's hat in hand. Kyle jumped to his feet and proceeded to run several strides and hurl the Jets helmet across the field. When a flag flew, he made an obscene gesture toward the Jets bench. That got him ejected from the game.
Robinson: I didn't know I had his facemask until I heard him screaming, so I let him go. I was laying on the turf, and that's when Turley came and grabbed me by the face mask, trying to slam my head to the turf. I really felt like he was trying to break my neck, so I punched him to try to get him off me.
When the officials sorted out the mess, they called offsetting personal foul penalties against Robinson and Turley, nullifying the play. But the extra unsportsmanlike conduct charge against Kyle pushed the Saints back to the 20. Instead of 3rd and 1 at the 4, the Saints now faced 2nd and 17.
I had one of the worst seats in the house for the altercation. The play took place in the SE corner of the field, but we were sitting in the lower deck diagonally across from the action, near the NW pylon. I saw Brooks disappear into a pile of players. I wondered what the fans in that area were yelling about when Turley emerged and did his bad imitation of a discus thrower.
Just a few minutes earlier, I had received bad news from the auxiliary scoreboard at that end of the field that was providing updates on the 7th game of the World Series between the Yankees (my favorite AL team) and Arizona.
The Series had been delayed a week by 9/11. Otherwise, it would not have gone head-to-head with Sunday Night Football. Going into the bottom of the 9th, the Yanks led 2-1. I figured they had it in the bag with non-pareil closer Mariano Rivera on the mound. But the Diamondbacks rallied for two to win the game and the series.
Brooks threw into the EZ for Horn, but DB Mickens batted the ball down. Then Aaron was sacked twice, the second one by John Abraham - his third of the game against backup LT Daryl Terrell, playing in place of injured seven-time Pro Bowler Willie Roaf.
Turley crawls out of the pile and goes beserk.
Ends wih "Up yours!"
Haslett: We didn't deserve to win. We were bad. I apologize to the fans. That was bad football out there today. To be honest with you, we shouldn't have been in this game. ... I don't think Aaron played well, and I thought the offense didn't play well as a whole. We dropped screens, and our receivers dropped balls downfield. Concerning the infamous "Turley play": I don't know what happened ... I'm going to have to sit down and have a talk with him.Jim couldn't do it right away because Kyle was already gone when the game ended.
Brooks, who finished a miserable 12-for-28 for 164y, 0 TD, 2 INT, on Turley's eruption: I was just trying to get ready for the next play. I have no idea what was going through Kyle's head or how it happened or what was going on. Hopefully, he and all of us will learn from the mistakes he made tonight. ... We can't point fingers at anybody. There's a number of us making mistakes. Hopefully, that stuff will change. ... I had two plays that I wish I could have back. This isn't the time to get frustrated with one another. We're better than this. We don't need to put any more pressure on ourselves.
Horn on his quick-tempered teammate: He saw that the Jets were taking some shots at Aaron, and Kyle kind of took offense at that. I love him to death. I hope they don't suspend him for the San Francisco game. The WR who, in addition to his opening fumble, had two drops and a false start, was honest about his performance. I stunk and played a bad first half. That wasn't the Joe Horn that normally comes to play every week. There's no particular reason.
C Jerry Fontenot, who ran to Turley after the helmet was launched and tried to talk some sense into him: This is an emotional game, a violent game. Sometimes things happen. You have to play within the rules. He obviously thought that guy was going after our quarterback, and he was trying to protect him. That's just Kyle. I have to see what happened on film.
New Orleans' own Peter Finney Jr., wrote this for the next day's edition of the New York Post: Saints right tackle Kyle Turley, Mark Gastineau reincarnated, has moaned for years that he will never be voted into the Pro Bowl because - cue the violins - opponents don't like him.
But the real reason Turley may never make Pro Bowl is that he would fail the intelligence test. Turley delivered his post-graduate thesis in NFL stupidity in the final minute of the Jets' 16-9 victory ...
Edwards had blood on the sleeve of his white shirt, a testament to the physical battle that had just ensued. It was probably another ugly win for us, he said sarcastically. That's how we win - ugly. Some people probably think we didn't deserve to win. ... Everything that could happen, happened, but the great part about it is, we kept our composure. On the Turley play: I have no idea what happened. There were a lot of emotions. Those guys were playing hard.
Green spoke proudly about his defensive cohort, which allowed Williams only 58y on 19 carries, sacked Brooks six times, and forced four turnovers. We were hitting Brooks, Ricky, and stopping them. Physical, that's what it was. Physical. We had to win the game. ... They underestimated us. We heard all about how physical they are. We're physical too. We hit them in the mouth early and continued to do it all game.
Mickens on Turley: Man, that dude lost it. He's crazy, but he cost them the game. They were chanting his name like he was a savior. If that's what they want, they're going to lose a lot of games. ... We like to fight people, and we gave them what they wanted and then some. We let them know we can play like an NFC team. That was a big statement for us.
Martin, who was held to 66y on 21 carries: We need this victory more than any other game this year. It seemed like we tried to make it hard on ourselves again.
Testaverde: This team is getting better each and every week. I really like this football team. I really like our changes. Guys believe in what they're doing. ... We knew we were going to get our knuckles bloody, so this shows a lot of character for this team.
On Monday, the Saints and the NFL announced punishments for the altercation.
Jim Haslett admitted he originally thought about cutting Turley or at least suspending him. But the penalty the club chose to impose was a $25,000 fine for conduct detrimental to the team. Turley also agreed to undergo counseling. Sources close to Kyle said he would not appeal the fine and that he fully intends to honor his pledge to work on his anger management problem.
The Saints do not condone such actions, said GM Randy Mueller on Tuesday. We believe that the amount of the fine is appropriate for the severity of Kyle's conducto n the field. We understand that Kyle is a very emotional player, but it is clear that the type of actions he demonstrated last Sunday will not be tolerated.
Interestingly, the NFL fined Robinson $20,000 for his actions against Brooks that led to Turley's intervention.
The league chose not to add further sanctions to the Saints' fine on Turley. However, director of football operations Gene Washington cautioned both players in writing that similar infractions in the future could result in suspensions. Any act irrelevant to the game of football that appears intended to create an unnecessary risk of injury to an opposing player will result in a level of discipline substantially higher than the normal fine levels.
Robinson: The league had to handle the situation. It was not done purposely. I'm friends with AB. It was part of the game with the game on the line. It became more than it was. I would not have pulled on the face mask if I knew I was doing it. I told AB that after the game.
Edwards was incensed at his player's actions. How we conduct ourselves as coaches and players is vital. We didn't conduct ourselves the right way at the end of the game. He represents the football team and this organization, and it's not just him. You've got to go by the rules and respect the game, and when you do not do that, it bothers me.
Haslett said he was satisfied with Robinson's punishment. Whatever the NFL felt it warranted is fine. As for his own player, There will be nothing more done or said about the situation. The NFL is not going to do anyting more. It's closed and we'll move on from here. It was a big price to pay, a tough thing for him. I think he's learned from it.
The 2001 Saints lost their last four games to finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs. Fulfilling Testaverde's optimism, the Jets made the post-season with a 10-6 record but lost at Oakland 10-7 in the first round.
NOLA.com 11/4/2011: Ten years after one of the most infamous plays in New Orleans Saints history, Kyle Turley still is unapologetic. If he had to do it all over again, the former Saints offensive tackle turned country/rock musician probably would run to the aid of his quarterback. There's a good chance he'd reach into the pile and pull at the defenders' helmet. ... "It was what it was," said Turley, now 36. "It was just another play during the game of football. It was an exceptional one in the coverage that it got. But the intention was good behind it. "There was overwhelming support over the criticism. In the end, I walked away understanding what I did wrong and corrected my mistake and understanding as well what I did right in standing up for my teammate. It was nothing to be ashamed of."
Holder Tom Tupa (7) congratulates kicker John Hall (9) after FG.
Jerry Fontenot snaps
to Aaron Brooks
James Dearth congratulates Laveraneus Coles after TD.
Record-Setting Performance: Joe Horn - 2003
Horn on the horn
Joe Horn set a Saints record on December 14, 2003, with 24 points in a single game.
He caught four TD passes in a 45-7 romp over the Giants in the Superdome before 68,399 and a national audience on ESPN's Sunday night telecast as the Saints evened their record at 7-7 and kept their dim playoff hopes flickering.
QB Aaron Brooks had a sensational evening, connecting on 26 of 35 for 296y. In addition to the four scoring tosses to Horn, Aaron also fired a fifth to Jerome Pathon.
Brooks and Horn became the top QB-WR tandem in club history with 27 TDs since becoming teammates in 2000. They moved past the 24 TDs for the Bobby Hebert-Eric Martin combo.
The 45 points was also a team record for a home game. The Saints scored 51 points against the Cardinals in St. Louis in 1969 and the same number at Seattle in 1976. (They would tie that record in Green Bay in 2008.)
The defeat, New York's sixth in a row, further weakened coach Jim Fassel's hold on his job three years after leading the G-men to the Super Bowl. The Giants were outscored 163-51 during the slide.
Something Horn did after his second TD reception became the talk of the league and overshadowed his record-setting night.
Joe went to the goal post stanchion on the end line with fellow WR Michael Lewis, who took out a cell phone planted inside the padding and handed it to Joe, who pretended to make a call.
The officials reacted by giving him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and Saints coach Jim Haslett upbraided him on the sideline.
The NFL fined Joe a whopping $30,000 for his "choreographed" celebration. Horn's agent, Ralph Vitolo, immediately said his client would appeal. "Fining him is one thing, but to me that's very excessive. This is not a murder case."
Lewis was assessed $5,000 for helping orchestrate the stunt. Horn told Vitolo he would pay Lewis's fine.
Haslett: Do I think the fine is excessive? Yeah, but I don't like what he did because it hurt our footbll team. That's what bothers me.
NFL officials had considered suspending Horn for two games, but owner Tom Benson intervened on Joe's behalf. A two-game suspension would have amounted to a loss of $82,000 of his $700,000 base salary.
It was Horn's second fine for unsportsmanlike conduct in the 2003 season and his seventh since 2000.
Saints GM Mickey Loomis: I don't have a whole lot of empathy for Joe, to be honest with you. The league has made it clear that it won't tolerate that kind of behavior, and he went ahead and did it anyway.
Earlier in the season, 49ers receiver Terrell Owens pulled a pen out of his sock an autographed a football after scoring a TD. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue then sent a memo to all teams warning that such stunts would be punished.
On the same day Horn's fine was announced, the league fined Bengals' WR Chad Johnson $10,000 for retrieving a sign from behind a snowdrift and holding it up after a TD catch. The sign read: Dear NFL: Please don't fine me again.
Returning to the game, it didn't take long after the opening kickoff for what Lynn Zinser of the New York Times called "that look" to appear on Fassel's face.
The look a mixture of maddening disbelief, personal agony and resignation -- now seems fixed to Giants Coach Jim Fassel's face. It will linger on, long after this disastrous season and Fassel's reign as coach has ended, the lasting image of so much promise that evaporated so painfully.
It took precisely five plays ... for that look to overtake Fassel. It took only that long for the Saints to throw a 50-yard touchdown pass, to become the latest stumbling team to cure its many ailments against the Giants.
The 50-yarder was Brooks' first TD connection with Horn but it went to the Poydras Street end zone. No buried treasure there. Joe beat one-on-one coverage by CB Ralph Brown, who reinjured his separated right shoulder while trying to knock the ball out of Horn's hands after he was already in the EZ.
With Jesse Palmer making his first NFL start in place of injured starter Kerry Collins, the Giants gained only 18y in Q1 to 111 for the Saints. NY could muster only 241y of offense for the evening while the home team gained 440, 308 of which came through the air.
Before the opening period ended, John Carney booted a 35y FG to make it 10-0.
However, the Giants got a break with 0:24 left in Q1 when Brooks fumbled a snap and LB Dhani Jones recovered at the NO 39. It was Aaron's 14th fumble of the season - and ninth lost bobble - to provoke boos from the stands. The visitors took advantage to get on the board. Palmer scrambled 26y to the 12 to set up a 4y TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe to cut the margin to 3 two minutes into Q2. It was the first TD pass of Jesse's four-year career and the first TD catch for the rookie TE.
The G-men quickly reverted to form, starting with a personal foul on the kickoff that helped the Saints start on a 13-play, 69y drive that ate up 7:14 and culminated in Horn's infamous second TD, covering 13y.
Kicking off from the 20 after his penalty looked like it would hurt the Saints when the Giants used a trick play to gain 39y - a double reverse from WR David Tyree to Amani Toomer, who tossed the ball back to Palmer, who then threw it downfield to an open Tyree at the 13.
But disaster soon struck New York again. After a personal foul call on Shiancoe pushed them back, Matt Bryant tried a 43y FG that was blocked by Kenny Smith. CB Fred Thomas picked up the pigskin ran 64y with 3:10 on the clock.
The rout continued in the second half.
Brooks threw to Horn from the 7 with 7:35 left in Q3 to make it 31-7.
Just 11 seconds later, Aaron fired a 26y TD pass to Pathon on the first play following Brian Mitchell's fumble on the kickoff.
Joe's last 6 came on the first play of Q4 from the 18 to end the scoring.
The fans finally got what they wanted coming into the game as Todd Bouman took over for Brooks the rest of the game.
Mostly handing off with a big lead, Todd completed 2-of-4 for 19y.
The following week, the Saints lost to Jacksonville when Carney missed the tying EP following the electrifying River City Relay on the last play of the game. They finished the season at .500 by defeating Bill Parcells' first Cowboys team 13-7 in the Dome.
Not So Dazzling Debut: Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson, Troy Aikman
The 1989 Saints opened the regular season hosting the revamped Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys were playing the first game in franchise history without Tom Landry as their coach after new owner Jerry Jones replaced the 29-year head man with Jimmy Johnson from the University of Miami.
Johnson decided to start Troy Aikman at QB over veteran Steve Walsh, who played for Jimmy at Miami. With the worst record in the league in 1988 (3-13), the Cowboys chose Walsh as the first overall pick in the Supplemental Draft.
Dallas had already selected Aikman from UCLA as the first overall pick in the regular 1989 NFL draft.
Jim Mora and his staff made more subtle changes in the Saints, who had finished 10-6 in '88 but failed to make the playoffs.
After spending nine years as a starting CB for the Saints, Dave Waymer switched to a new position. This is my national debut at free safety, he said. And I think it'll be a damn good one.
Rookie Robert Massey took over Waymer's old spot at LCB while third- year pro Milton Mack made his second NFL start on the right side.
Waymer gave his evaluation of the new Dallas QB and offense. They're probably throwing the ball a little more than the Cowboys used to. ... Aikman's been playing well. He's been making pretty good decisions. ... He's gonna find out that the game will speed up. You turn it up several notches. He hasn't thrown any interceptions yet [in pre-season], but he's due. I'm hoping to get a couple of them myself.
Another question going into the game was how many snaps Aikman will take before the "disruptive crowd noise" rule is invoked against the home team.
During a preseason game in the Dome against Cincinnati, the Saints lost their allotment of first-half timeouts and were penalized half the distance to the goal line.
Aikman: We're anticipating a lot of crowd noise. ... I don't know if I necessarily agree with the rule, but it's something we'll have to take advantage of. His fears would not come to fruition. He would have a bad day but crowd noise was the least of his worries.
The 66,977 in the Superdome enjoyed the game much more than the new Dallas owner and coach did.
It took Tom Landry ten years before he suffered his first shutout as Dallas coach. Jimmy Johnson took all of 60 minutes. Landry's teams were shut out just twice in the regular season in 28 years. Johnson was halfway to that mark after one game.
The Saints enjoyed their fifth opening-day victory in 23 attempts. The Cowboys' loss was only their sixth in 29 openers.
The game was both the Saints' first opening-day shutout and the first opening day shutout against Dallas.
The Saints wasted no time taking control of the game.
After forcing a three-and-out for the Cowboys, the Saints took over on their 26.
11 plays and 8:32 later, Dalton Hilliard scored the 20th TD of his NFL career on a zigzag 4y run on which he started left, got a block from TE Greg Scales on the LB, and broke back right past the S. It was the LSU alum's sixth carry of the march for 48y, with the longest a 25y RE sweep to the Dallas 31.
QB Bobby Hebert went 4-for-4, with three into the hands of WR Lonzell Hill. The first, for just 3y, kept the drive alive on 3rd down.
When Dallas received the kickoff, Steve Sidwell's D followed their script of stopping the run and pressuring Aikman. Troy was sacked only twice (for a total of 30y) but threw many of his passes on the run.
Hebert led another scoring drive in Q2.
This one covered 73y and consumed 10:43 with RB Craig "Ironhead" Heyward doing the honors on the 17th snap with a 1y dive.
The Saints survived some shaky moments. On back-to-back plays, Hebert and punter George Winslow failed to handle deep snaps from C Joel Hilgenberg. The first miscue resulted in an astounding 37y loss. On the next play, Winslow managed a lame 12y punt to give Dallas possession at the NO 37.
The Cowboys gained one first down, but four plays later, K Roger Ruzek lined up for a 48y FG try. But the holder, punter Mike Saxon, took the snap and rolled to his left before throwing a weak pass to Ruzek, who was decked 6y short of the first down. Johnson explained the decision later: We were struggling. We needed something to spark us. A FG wouldn't have sparked us. We thought we might be able to pull off something to give us a little emotion.
Derrick Shepard, a Plan B acquisition from Washington, cut the heart out of the Cowboys when he took a punt back 56y to pay dirt and a 21-0 lead 51 seconds before halftime. What made the return all the more remarkable was that the Saints were going for the block on the play, leaving Shepard on his own. But Derrick split the gunners, got a key block from Massey on Ken Norton Jr. at the Dallas 45 and took off for the end zone.
The Saints' two scoring drives used up 20:15, which was more than Dallas's time of possession for the entire game (15:58).
Waymer capped the half by intercepting Aikman's desperation pass on the final play of the half.
After a scoreless Q3, the home team cranked up another scoring march.
Paul Frazier, who took over at TB after Hilliard was driven off on a cart with a thigh bruise, ran in from the 1. The rookie free agent from Northwestern State finished with 74y on a dozen carries in his pro debut.
This advance took 13 plays and a mere 8:33 on the clock.
The shutout was preserved when a TD reception by Dallas WR Michael Irvin was wiped out by a penalty. Then S Brett Maxie picked off Aikman to end the threat.
For a coach who always said, You win by running the football and stopping the run, Mora couldn't have scripted the game any better.
Despite the 37y loss on one play, the Saints finished with a 335-174 total offense edge. They also led in first downs 26-10.
The Cowboys had 0 rushing yards in the first half and a mere 20 after four quarters, a record low for the franchise. RB Herschel Walker, who gained more yards from scrimmage than any other NFL RB the last two seasons, had just 10y in eight carries as the Saints swarmed him every time he got the ball.
As a result, the rookie QB had to carry most of the load, which was asking too much. Aikman finished 17-of-35 for 180y with 2 INTs.
Hebert connected on 16-of-19 for 153y and 0 INT.
Mora and the Saints said they didn't do anything special against the rookie QB and a team with a new coaching staff. Our game plan was to do what we do, said Jim. We planned our game on what we saw in preseason games, and they didn't do a lot different. And the coach just loved the time-consuing drives. The offense loves it, the defense loves it, and the coaches love it.
Waymer playfully asked reporters: What are y'all doin' in here? Everybody came to see Dallas. Referring to his pick, Dave crowed, I guess I'll go down in Trivial Pursuit. Who's the first guy to get an interception against the $11million man? You're looking at him.
Johnson conceded the talent differential in the two teams. This game was decided a long time before 12 o'clock today.
Dallas S Ray Horton also didn't pull any punches. They just ran the ball whenever they wanted to. Nothing they did surprised us, except beating us 28 to nothing. They were good backs, but we'll see better backs. We have to sit down and be realistic. We stunk.
The Saints were generous toward Aikman. Hebert: He's going to be great. It's hard for a rookie to come in like that. If the team doesn't play well, no QB is going to look good.Waymer: I don't think Aikman played badly at all. I don't think it was a matter of the Cowboys playing a bad game. It was more a matter of us doing a better job of executing. Sidwell: When we shut Herschel down early, it put Aikman in some tough spots. ... Our offense was on the field so long, Aikman was never able to get into any kind of rhythm. This was awfully important. That young man is a real talent.
Troy himself was wryly philosophical. We've got to put it to rest and start practicing tomorrow on what went wrong. It's stupid of us not to put it to rest. Who thought we were going to go 16-0? I wouldn't be surprised if we lost one more game.
Witty Sam King of the Baton Rouge State Times had a field day at the Cowboys expense.
Somewhere, for the first time ever, Tom Landry had to be smiling at halftime of a DallasCowboys football game. ... New Orleans kept the ball 44 minutes and one second against Johnson's "Zoomsday Defense," which allowed the Saints to zoom right, zoom left and zoom up and down the field almost at will. During the 15:59 they had the ball, the Cowboys didn't even look like "South America's team," much less the "America's Team" of old. ... Cowboys fans, it's easy to understand. With a rookie owner, a rooke coach, and a rookie QB, you just got rooked. ... one area in which Johnson may be a lot like Landry this season. With these routs, you won't catch him smiling. ... "We're not strong in a lot of areas," Johnson said after the game. Yeah, areas like New Orleans, San Francisco, New York, Dallas and other places where he must field a team.
In addition to Hilliard, four other offensive Saints suffered injuries. FB Buford Jordan suffered a hamstring injury. WR Eric Martin bruised is left tibula. G Brad Edelman sustained ankle and knee injuries. Shepard departed with a sprained knee. And WR Brett Perriman and RB Rueben Mayes didn't even dress out.
Late that evening, LB Rickey Jackson was injured in an automobile accident on Airline Highway in St. Charles Parish. He would miss the next two games.
Whether it was the injuries or just poor play, New Orleans lost the next four games before ralllying to win eight of the last 11 and end 9-7, not good enough to make the playoffs.
The Cowboys won just one game. Their 1-15 record was two games worse than the next most inept team, the Falcons.
Through trades and excellent drafts, the Cowboys improved to 7-9 in '90, then 11-5 with a playoff victory the next year on their way to back-to-back Super Bowl victories in '92 and '93, plus another in '95.
After taking his lumps as a rookie, Aikman fashioned an outstanding 12year career that landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
December 7, 1980: A Day That Will Live in Infamy in Saints History
That was the day the Saints blew the biggest lead in NFL history.
Dick Nolan's third season had opened with such promise after he led New Orleans to an 8-8 record in '79, the first time in their 13 years of existence the club had so much as broken even.
But a 26-23 loss to the 49ers in the Superdome on Ray Wersching's late 37y FG (and Russell Erxleben's subsequent miss from 33y) started a string of twelve defeats that led to Nolan's firing.
Dick's good friend and O-line coach Dick Stanfel agreed to pilot the ship for the remaining four games.
But Stanfel's first contest ended in a tough 23-20 loss to Minnesota before an announced crowd of only 30,936 in the Dome, the smallest home attendance in team history.
Now the Saints flew to the City by the Bay to take on the 49ers of second-year coach Bill Walsh.
For Stanfel and five of his players, the game represented a homecoming. Dick was born in San Francisco, played at the University of San Francisco, and served on the 49ers staff.
Saints' rookie LB Stan Holloway was a Frisco native while SS Don Schwartz hailed from San Jose. Three Saints played college ball at Stanford: rookie LB Chuck Evans, newly acquired WR Gordon Banks, and backup QB Guy Benjamin.
SF had won only four more games against eight defeats since beating the Saints in the opener.
QB Steve DeBerg had engineered what was considered an upset over N.O. in Week One that ended a four-game Saints winning streak in the series.
But Walsh had sent DeBerg to the bench following a 59-14 humiliation at Dallas. Joe Montana, a second-year player from Notre Dame, took over, but after two games, Bill returned to the veteran. But an agonizing defeat at Miami caused Walsh to reinstall Montana as his starter. After one so-so game, Joe threw three TD passes in the 21-17 upset of New England the week before the Saints came to town.
With the Niners eliminated from the playoffs and starting a green QB, could this be the week the Saints finally got that elusive first win? The oddsmakers didn't think so, installing SF as a seven-point favorite.
Still, the Saints expressed optimism. DE Elois Grooms: There's no way we feel they're an overpowering team. They don't have the real super players some other teams have. We feel we can match up against them.
If ever a game was a "tale of two halves," this was it.
First half: Saints 20 first downs - SF 2, Saints 324y - SF 21y, Saints 45 plays - 49ers 19, Saints 35 - 49ers 7
QB Archie Manning hit WR Ike Harris with a 33y TD pass on the Saints second possession.
Archie did it again on the next drive, a 21-yarder to TE Henry Childs.
Jack Holmes sandwiched two 1y TD plunges around a 57y punt return by Freddie Solomon for the Niners only points of the half. Freddie sprung into the open after bouncing off a teammate at midfield.
The killing blow seemed to be struck when Manning rolled out and found Harris for a 41y strike with 0:38 left.
For the first time this season, the Saints left the field to a chorus of boos aimed at the opposition. Half the 37,949 fans left at the intermission. One San Franciscan remarked on the desolate half: It was a sneak attack, a surprise. It was Tora, Tora, Tora.
As the Saints returned to their locker room in jubilation, they pounded on the runway walls and shouted "Let's make it 70-7." Unfortunately Walsh and the 49ers overheard them.
Walsh had left the field as depressed as he'd ever been at halftime of a game. But he didn't pass his feelings to his squad. He and his staff did what they always did at the intermission - analyze what the opponent was doing and making adjustments. Bill said after the game: I gave my boys a long tough pep talk during the break. I was worried because we hadn't done anything right during the first two quarters. The thing to remember about a team like the Saints is, they'll play as if they have nothing to lose. In the first half, their execution was near flawless. We did two things at halftime: 1) We said we were going to go out expecting to get some breaks, and that, if we got some breaks, we could win; 2) Even if things didn't go our way, we were going to come back in here with our heads high. He also told them, In the next 30 minutes, you're going to learn a lot about yourselves, or you may not.
Freddie Solomon returns punt for TD.
The 49ers wasted no time cutting the deficit.
The half started poorly for the home team when James Owens mishandled the kickoff and could only get the ball out to the 12. But on the first play, Montana hit Dwight Clark for a 48y gain to start an 88y TD drive then finished with Joe diving in from the 1.
After stopping the Saints, the 49ers struck quickly again. Spotting a blitz, Joe hit Clark with a 31y pass and watched as the TE escaped the tackle of S Dave Waymer and covered the remaining 40y to the EZ to make it 35-21. The play was the 49ers longest of the season.
Manning said afterwards: We realized we were in a ball game. There was no thought about playing it conservative. We knew we needed more points. But they stopped us some, and we stopped us some, too.
First came a fumble by Childs at the 49er 13 after sprinting 30y with a pass. It put a black mark on the TE's performance that otherwise shined.
Next came a foul-up from the bench. Seeing all his receivers covered, Manning ran to the SF 28 with 10 seconds left in Q3. With a stiff breeze behind his team and facing 4th down, Stanfel screamed for a timeout but no one heard him. Manning: I was hit pretty hard when tackled. When my head cleared, time had run out.
When the teams changed ends, Dick decided not to try a 43y FG. So he sent in P Erxleben (who had lost his FG job to Benny Ricardo) with instructions to kick it out of bounds. Instead, the punt went into the EZ. Manning admitted later that it would have been better to run a fourth down play rather than punt.
But soon the Saints had the ball back and drove all the way to the 15 where Jimmy Rogers fumbled - perhaps the turning point in the game.
Kept in check for two series, the 49er O came to life again. Montana capped a 95y drive with a 5y toss to Solomon with 6:29 left to make it 35-28.
The next time he got the ball, Joe drove the Niners 78y in eight plays to the 7 with 1:50 on the clock. On third down, Lenvil Elliott swept LE for the TD. Wersching's PAT tied the game. The Niners had gained 409y in the 2nd half.
Wershing kicks FG
The Saints now entered their first OT of the season.
Manning: Even then, I figured we could win it. How many Saints fans thought just the opposite. We've got no chance.
The Saints won the toss but gained only 18y before punting.
Montana took over on his 34 and started driving again. Facing 3rd and 9, Montana gave the ball to Elliott, an eight-year journeyman who achieved his first 100y game that day. He gained just 1y, but rookie DE Steve Parker was called for unnecessary roughness. Parker explained: The guy was on his feet and was making another move. When he turned, I went to tackle him. He slipped down, and I fell on top of him. I was trying to make sure he didn't get away on a broken tackle.Steve neglected to mention that Elliott had slid out of bounds before he hit him.
The drive continued for six more plays including a 16y sweep by Don Woods to the NO 19. So Wersching came in to try a 36-yarder. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was good. It felt great. The game ended after 7:40 of OT.
Stanfel: The 49ers played a good game. We gave up the ball a couple of times in the second half. When you do that, you just can't win. I'll tell my players to just stay in there. There's going to be good things happening to this team. The 49ers just did a great job.
Coach Walsh called the victory the greatest 49er comeback in years. We didn't come apart. The biggest thing was that we kept our poise when it looked like we could have chalked it up.Bill added something that few in the New Orleans area believed: The Saints are a good team. They'll be even better when they get that No. 1 draft choice.
T Keith Fahnhorst: The thing you never want to do is lose to a team that has lost 13 in a row. I think we had this on our minds in the first half. As a result, we were too cautious. We didn't let loose. If we had lost, there's no way I could have faced my wife and kids.
DL Ron Singleton: After looking at their game films, we pretty much felt they were a team that would self-destruct. We figured we could just line up and do it to them. We found how wrong we were in a hurry. But he added: It was sweet indeed. I never stopped believing.
Montana: This is better than the Cotton Bowl [which he won 35-34 for Notre Dame in '78 on the last play after trailing 34-12]. I don't know what happened in the first half. The Saints did a lot of stunting, and it took us the whole half to get adjusted. We honestly felt that if they could score 35 points in a half, so could we.
Wersching: I guess I have found a home playing against the Saints. One year, I beat them twice with last-minute FGs, one in OT. This year, I did it again.As soon as we got the second TD in the second half, I knew we were on our way.
Ironically, the Saints set franchise records for total yards gained (519) and passing yardage (377).
But they also achieved an unenviable mark. The 0-14 record tied the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers for worst in a single season. The Saints had two more games to break the Bucs record.
On the other side, this game became a landmark in 49ers history. Walsh remembered, Joe was simply outstanding. This was the game where his teammates learned to believe in him.Bill added, Modern 49ers history started there. That second half against New Orleans was where we first learned who we could be.
Reference: The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty, David Harris (2008)
Deuce McAllister fends off Brian Dawkins on opening play.
Sheldon Brown smashes Reggie Bush on game's second play.
Hollis Thomas stuffs Brian Westbrook.
Garcia tries to escape Will Smith.
Saints S Bullock breaks up pass to Stallworth.
Colston runs with short pass.
Donte Stallworth burns Fred Thomas for Eagles' first TD.
Bush wins the race to the pylon.
Darwin Walker sacks Brees near end of first half.
McAllister scores on Q3 screen pass.
Terrance Cooper celebrates Deuce's TD.
Bush chases errant pitchout.
Brees celebrates after final snap.
Deuce leaves the field triumphant.
A winning season in 2006 would have been enough joy for beleagured New Orleanians a year after Hurricane Katrina blew their Saints all the way to San Antonio where they completed a 3-13 season, their worst in thirty years.
So a 10-6
finish to win the NFC South and earn the #2 in the playoffs was, as the ad said, "priceless." Just one win would propel the Saints into their first-ever conference final. The club's first playoff bye allowed the team to rest and heal for the "second season."
"Thank you, boys" wasn't nearly enough to express the city's gratitude to Coach Sean Payton for the turnaround that earned him NFL Coach of the Year honors and to QB Drew Brees for bringing his talent to the Crescent City.
The Saints set single-season club records with 6,264y and 46 offensive TDs. Continuing the play-calling role he had handled for seven years as an offensive assistant, Payton kept opposing offense guessing. Teams couldn't afford to gang up on RBs Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush and risk being torched by Brees, who posted eight 300y passing games.
Payton's first goal when he took over was to make the Saints play smarter and with more discipline. And he had succeeded admirably: 2005 - 43 turnovers, 2006 - 23. 2005 - 135 penalties (a franchise record) for 1,130y, 2006 - 79 penalties for 597y.
The Philadelphia Eagles, champions of the NFC East, made their second trip to the Big Easy in 90 days after beating the Giants 23-20 in the wild card round.
Andy Reid had also engineered a turnaround after a disappointing '05 season that saw his club, which had lost the Super Bowl in '04, slump to 6-10 and miss the playoffs for the first time since '99, Andy's first year on the job.
The Saints' 27-24 victory in the Dome on October 15 had proved to be crucial in determining playoff seeding because the Eagles finished with the same 10-6 record.
The Eagles fell behind 17-3 before charging back in the second half to lead 24-17. That would have been it for the "old" Saints, but Brees rallied the "new" Black and Gold to the tying TD, then led a drive that used up the final 8:26 to set up John Carney's 31y game-winner.
But the Eagles had changed considerably since that defeat.
The biggest difference was under C where Jeff Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowler while with San Francisco, took over after Donovan McNabb suffered a torn ACL on November 19. Initially booed by the Philly fans who wanted A.J. Feeley to start, Jeff took over the #1 offense in the conference and, after losing the first game, led the Eagles to six straight victories including the wild card week win.
WR Donte Stallworth, whom the Eagles had acquired in a trade with the Saints in the preseason after jettisoning Terrell Owens, had returned to the lineup after a hamstring injury grounded him for the regular season meeting with his former team. One of Garcia's favorite targets, Donte snagged 38 passes for 725y despite missing five games.
RB Brian Westbrook had assumed an even larger role after McNabb's injury. He compiled six 100y rushing games and one 100y receiving game. A key component of the Saints' October 15 triumph had been holding the Villanova product to only 75y.
On the negative side, the Eagles would play without CB Lito Sheppard, who dislocated his elbow in the wild-card game.
Facing the Eagles had always had special meaning to Sean Payton.
He spent his formative years in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square in the early 1970s, where he rooted for all the Philly teams.
Sean also served as QBs coach on Ray Rhodes' Eagles staff in 1997-8 before moving to the Giants for four seasons and then the Cowboys for three. Both those teams, of course, played their East Division rivals from Philadelphia twice each season. Payton enjoyed locking horns with veteran Eagles' D-coordinator Jim Johnson. I've got a lot of respect for Sean, Johnson said. He does a great job as far as play-calling and moving people around.
The Saints rookie head man admired what Reid had done in the City of Brotherly Love. They've been one of the most consistent teams from a won-loss strandpoint over the last five or six seasons of any team in our league. They've done a great job. Those are the things that we wanted to aspire to be.
Payton-Brees (the two minds seemed to have merged into one) would have to find No. 20 on Philly's D every play. FS Brian Dawkins was likely to be anywhere from left flt to B gap to deep CF. The six-time Pro Bowler, who coordinated and catalyzed Johnson's D. might attack and disrupt from any angle. Payton: We've got a ton of respect for him. He's a special, special player.
Brees had done a good job October 15, ridling the Eagles for 276y and three TDs.
70,001 packed the Dome Saturday night, January 13, for the most important game in Saints' history.
Choosing to receive, the Saints set the tone for the evening by giving the ball to McAllister on the first play for a 12y gain to the 40. On the next play, Sheldon Brown delivered an open-field chest-plant on Bush that brought the trainers out to attend to him. He left the field on his own power amid chants of REGGIE! REGGIE! He missed only one play. After two passes gained nothing, Sean Weatherford punted.
Hampered by a holding penalty, the Eagles could do nothing and punted to the NO 49.
The Saints again called on Deuce to start the drive, and he responded with a 28y romp off RT to the 22. But an incompletion on 3rd-and-3 brought John Carney on for a 33y FG and a 3-0 lead.
The Eagles gained two first downs, the second coming on a face mask penalty against DE Will Smith that negated a sack. But the drive petered out at the Philly 47.
This time, Brees passed on first down from the 20, hitting TE Mark Campbell for 23y. But the Eagle D stiffened.
After an exchange of punts, Bush took a pitchout right,
encountered traffic, and cut back left, entirely across field, for 25y to the Philly 39. Drew then threw deep down the left side to Devery Henderson to the 4. Deuce lost a yard at LG as the period ended.
The Deuce is loose.
Two incompletions brought in Carney for a 23y FG to double the lead to 6-0.
The Eagles got on the scoreboard with a lightning strike. On 3rd-and-9 at the 25, Stallworth turned around CB Fred Thomas, and Garcia threw a rainbow that Donte caught in stride at the 20 to complete the longest Eagle pass completion in a playoff game. Just like that, the visitors led 7-6. Stallworth punctuated his feat by finding a group of fans in his No. 18 jersey and tossing them the football.
The Saints immediately answered with a 78y, 14-play scoring drive that ate up 8:19. A key play came on 3rd-and-11 at the NO 45 when Bush took a screen pass and sprinted 14y to move the chains. He later got just enough at LG on 3rd-and-7 for a first down at the Philly 31. Three plays later, Brees hit Marques Colston for 19 to the 9. Deuce smashed through LG for 5 before Reggie, after getting jammed up the middle, bounced out to the right and won the race to the pylon for a 13-7 lead with 5:19 left.
But the Eagles continued the back-and-forth theme by driving 80y in 11 plays. Garcia completed four passes and also gained another first down with his feet. He hit Reggie Brown for 32, then rolled out and found Hank Baskett wide open for 25 to the 20. Jeff connected with Correll Buckhalter for 8 more to the 12 at the two-minute warning. Jeff ran up the middle from the pocket for 3y to make it first-and-goal at the 9. Three snaps later, Westbrook vaulted over from the 1, landing 3y into the EZ. Akers' EP made it 14-13 Philly.
Taking over on their 35 with 50 seconds to go, the Saints gained just 20y before the half ended in confusion. Weatherford gave the Saints one last chance when he ran 15y for a first down when he saw his punt was about to be blocked, Brees threw a desperation pass into a group in the EZ that Colston caught before William James stripped the ball away. The Saints stayed on the field hoping for a video review that never came.
Despite his TD, Westbrook went to the locker room totally frustrated after gaining just 11y on six carries and dropping three passes.
L: Deuce McAllister dives for more yardage. R: Brian Westbrook dives over the goal.
The Eagles, and Westbrook in particular, started with a bang and broke another franchise playoff record. On the third play of the half, Brian made two cuts to the right side and broke into the open field. He carried DB Josh Bullock on his back for the final 5 of the 62y to put the visitors up 21-13.
Once again, the Saints answered back, traveling 63y in just seven plays. The key plays were a pass to TE Billy Miller for 15 to the Eagle 46, a McAllister 12y ramble to the 34, and another connection to Miller down the middle for 29 to the 5. On the next snap, Deuce bulled his way into the EZ amid a cluster of defenders. It was pure power, but I had a lot of help out there, he said afterward. I'm pretty hard to bring down, and I was just determined to get in the end zone.
After forcing a punt, the Saints marched 84y in nine plays to take the lead. Brees hit Deuce out of the backfield for 10, then Miller two plays later for 13. After Reggie lost 5, the home team got a big break. Bush rambled around RE for 10 but fumbled. However, Terrance Cooper covered the ball at the Philly 49. Drew connected with still another TE, John Owens, down the middle to the 29. Then after a holding penalty made it 1st-and-20, the home team got another break when an illegal contact penalty negated a 7y sack and moved the ball to the 34 for an automatic first down. Deuce took it in from there in two plays, a 23y burst through LT followed by an 11y screen pass to put the Saints in front 27-21 with 1:05 on the clock.
McAllister scores go-ahead TD.
The Eagles looked like they would match theTD as they played a 2nd-and-1 at the 4. But the Saints D decided enough was enough. First, Smith stuffed Westbrook for no gain. Then Scott Fujita made a clutch open-field tackle to drop FB Thomas Tapeh for a 2y loss on a swing pass. So Philly settled for a 24y FG to close to 27-24, coincidentally the same score by which the Saints beat them in the regular season. Fujita: All year long, our defense has made plays when we've had to. It was just my turn.
After both teams went three-and-out, the Saints took over at their 29 with 8:20 remaining. Deuce ran four straight times for 13y. Two plays later, Brees hit Colston for a first down on the Eagle 45. After Bush and Deuce gained a first down at the 35, the Eagles used their first timeout at the 3:24 mark. When play resumed,
Drew's high pitchout bounced off Reggie, and former Saint DE Darren Howard recovered at the 44. Maybe I was thinking about it too much, Bush explained. It was a rookie mistake.
With Philly only 25y away from makeable FG distance, the Saint D rose to the occasion. Fujita made two huge plays. After Thomas nailed Westbrook for a 1y loss on a pass in the flat, Scott tackled Westbrook for a 1y gain. Then the LB's furious rush up the middle forced Garcia to toss an incompletion. The Eagles had handled the Superdome noise superbly all game, with nary a false-start penalty. But when they lined up to go for it on fourth down, G Scott Young, playing because Pro Bowl starter Shawn Andrews had injured his neck earlier in the game, moved prematurely. The penalty made Reid change his mind and send out the punter with only 1:56 left. I figured they would run the football, and we might be able to stop them there and get the footback ball, Andy explained.
But that dream didn't come to pass. Deuce plowed for 4, then 5, the Eagles using their final timeouts after each play. With everyone knowing a first down would clinch the victory, McAllister banged through RG for another 5 to provoke cries of DEUCE! DEUCE!
Payton: Obviously, it's an exciting win for this team, this organization, and this city. I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys who've fought and battled. But take your hats to the Eagles and Andy Reid. ... That's a good team we beat tonight, and it came right down to the wire. We've got high goals, and I couldn't be happier for the people in this town who've been through so much. The fans who've followed this team have been through a lot, more thin than thick. They've been loyal and passionate. They were a big part of this win tonight, a big part of it all season. It's an exciting win for us, and it's another challenge next weekend. On the star of the game: Deuce was fantastic tonight, and they weren't going to stop him. He ran his heart out.
Brees, who finished 20/32/243 with no INTs, sensed a big night for Deuce. He just had that look in his eye. He's a horse. You could just tell we were going to go out and ride his back. On the significance of the victory: I think it means a tremendous amount. You could see it and feel it after the game, people still standing and yelling and screaming.
McAllister, who gained 143y on 21 carries to make him the first Saint rusher to top the century mark in a post-season game: This year, some things have happened for us, and it's like, wow, this may be destiny. ... It's my first opportunity to be in the playoffs. I didn't want to be one and out. I didn't want to say, "If I had done this or prepared differently, we would have been successful." It's just the determination of this team and this city - to give them everything we have.
Bush (12/52y): It means everything. All that stuff we went through as a team, these are the type of games we live for. And this game is even bigger for the city.
Westbrook, who finished with 116y on 13 carries to become the first Eagle to have back-to-back 100y rushing games in the playoffs, defended his coach's decision to punt. We should have got some yards on the first few downs so he doesn't have to be in that situation.
Garcia: They're a good football team, and that was a great football game. But I really felt like we left some plays on the field that could have made the difference.
The Philadelphia press blasted Reid for punting with less than two minutes left. For example, Phil Sheridan in the Philadelphia Inquirer:Andy Reid punted. ... Even though, once upon a time, the Eagles won a playoff game by converting on fourth and 26. Even though, on the previous play, Hank Baskett caught a pass that would have been good for a first down. The catch was negated by a false-start penalty ... Even though the Eagles' defense had been completely unable to the stop the Saints' offense ... It was a thrilling, entertaining game from start to finish, a contest played at a pitch every bit as high as the stakes. The game deserved Reid's best gamble on fourth and 15, not a white flag.
Record-Setter: George Rogers
The Saints took on the St. Louis Cardinals to open the 1983 season.
The Saints hadn't fared well on opening day, winning only two of 16. Included was a 62-7 debacle at home against the Falcons in 1973.
The Cards had won Game One of '82 in the Superdome 21-7 thanks in large part to four Saints' turnovers. By a quirk of scheduling, St. Louis returned to start the following season, seeking their fifth straight convincing win over the Saints.
New Orleans hadn't won its opener since 1978 when they beat the Vikings 31-24 in the Dome.
The Saints finished a disappointing 4-5 in the strike-interrupted '82 season, Bum Phillips' second as head man.
The Saints approached the '83 campaign with confidence.
They ended the exhibition season with a three-game winning streak.
Bum also thought he knew why his team had lost the opener in both his seasons. We've been tight the last two years. We were young. We had all new players, even last year. There were 18 or 20 guys playing their first league game with this team. I think this team won't be nearly as tight this year because we've been together a while now.
CB Dave Waymer agreed: We feel like we've got something going here. We want to start the season off right. We want to win the opener to get it rolling right from the start.
OT Stan Brock figured his unit couldn't do much worse than in the '82 opener when they surrendered five sacks. I don't know how to say this, but something's got to be done. You can't play professional football and not have good pass protection. We have to play well because of their ability to rush the QB. This is another good challenge for us because we haven't done well against them in the past.
One Saint who wanted to forget the '82 season was third-year RB George Rogers.
The Heisman Trophy winner from South Carolina won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award when he led the league in yards (1,674), attempts (378), and ypg (104.6). He also earned spots on the AP All-NFL team and the UPI All-Conference team
However, George started only five games in '82 because of injuries. His ypg sank to 89.2 and his TDs from 13 to 3.
The crowd of 65,225 had hardly settled into their seats when a major setback struck their heroes.
On the third play from scrimmage, QB Ken Stabler dropped back looking for Wayne Wilson. But former Saint DL Elois Grooms got around Brock and rolled into Ken after he released the ball.
Stabler rose unsteadily, and his right knee, the sound one, buckled. He had to be helped off the field.
He sat glumly on the bench with an ice pack on his knee and didn't leave the locker room after halftime. I don't think it's so serious as to require surgery, said Stabler afterwards. But they might do an arthroscope. I've had knee problems before and worked with 'em. I hadn't had a lot of trouble with my right knee before, but it's nothing I can't handle. The Saints training staff described the injury as a bruised, sore knee.
The Cards took advantage of the Saints' natural letdown after their leader limped off.
QB Neil Lomax climaxed a 7-play, 47y scoring drive with a TD pass to TE Doug Marsh from the 11 with 10:18 left in Q1.
RB Ottis Anderson did most of the damage by cutting back against the grain against the over-pursuing D.
Third-year QB Dave Wilson stepped into the breech for the home team.
Rogers: He told everybody to shut up. He came in and took control.
Wilson: I was just thinking about getting ready. You hate to see anybody get hurt. I was hoping he wasn't hurt too bad, and hoping I was ready myself.
He led a drive from his 8 to the St. Louis 34. But Wayne Wilson dropped a sure TD pass on one play, and LB Bob Harris intercepted Dave Wilson on the next. I saw the LB at the last second, said Dave, but I figured Hoby[Brenner] would come back to the ball. He did, but the LB got it anyway.
The Saints finally shook off the mistakes - they would end with 14 penalties for 101y - to tie the game.
Starting from their 12, New Orleans took seven plays to reach the EZ.
Wayne Wilson's 9y run on a perfectly executed trap with 9:19 left in Q2. Wayne: The line opened up the whole so big, I couldn't believe it. When I got the ball, I stuttered a little bit. I could have walked in there, the blocking was so good.
The Cardinals came right back with a drive of their own that ended with Neil O'Donoghue hooking an easy 23y FG attempt.
Wilson moved the Saints again before disaster struck.
DE Bubba Baker easily defeated Brock on a 3rd-and-6 from the St. Louis 38 and knocked the ball out of Wilson's grasp. Mark Duda recovered on the NO 49.
The Cards inched their way to the 28, and this time O'Donoghue connected to take the lead again.
But Kenny Duckett brought the crowd to their feet when he took the kickoff on his 5 and ran all the way to the EZ. However, Glen Rudd was called for holding.
Near the end of Q2, the visitors lost their QB too when Lomax bruised his shoulder. He didn't answer the bell for the second half. Veteran Jim Hart directed the O the rest of the way.
L: Elo Grooms get around Stan Brock and rolls into Ken Stabler's knee;
R: Bruce Clark and Derland Moore celebrate a sack of Jim Hart.
So the Cardinals led 10-7 at halftime.
Brock: We had a good talk at halftime. We had the momentum, and then we lost it. But the team felt like we could move the ball. We had confidence in what we were doing. We had to execute. We couldn't worry about the officials. Bum told us to worry about ourselves, just do what we do a little better.
C John Hill: What's funny about the first half was they had all the breaks. I thought it was about time for us to get our share, and when he finally got them, we had to do something with 'em.
The game turned completely during a 1:56 stretch of Q3.
The Cards took the kickoff and drove close enough for O'Donoghue to try a 38y FG. But a high snap caused a miss.
After picking up 4y on first down, Rogers broke loose on a draw play behind Hill's block for a 76y TD run. S Benny Perrin came up to meet George at the NO 35 but got knocked away. After that, he had clear sailing. Morton Andersen's PAT made it 14-10 Saints.
The run brought back memories of the 1982 game at Candlestick Park when Rogers took a handoff through the line, cut right, and headed up the sideline with no one in front of him. But SF LB Willie Harper caught the woefully out-of-shape Rogers after a 38y gain. George vowed he would never be tackled from behind again. Bum said that, when Rogers returned to the sideline after the TD, he told him, No LB caught me this time. But I was lookin' back, I'll tell ya'. Rogers later said. I wasn't worried because I'm in better shape than I was last year.
Two plays later, lightning struck again when Dennis "Dirt" Winston intercepted Hart's pass that was tipped by CB Rodney Lewis and ran it back to the 9, where he fumbled. But Lewis recovered on the 5. If Hart would have thrown a good pass on the play, I would have had an interception, said Rodney. Then Dirt got the tip. I was just following him when he fumbled. It wasn't a great play. I had enough sense to pick it up and get my butt out of bounds.
Three plays later, Rogers moved the pile behind Hill from a yard out. Just like that it was 21-10.
Two series later, the Cardinals made one last gasp to get back into the game.
They moved from their 33 to the 12. But a bad exchange between C Dan Dierdorf and Hart forced a FG try.
But the snap squirted through holder Perrin's hands and wound up in the Saints' possession at midfield.
Five snaps later, Wilson and Duckett teamed up for a 35y TD bomb that drove the nails into the Cardinals' coffin.
Rogers broke his own Saints' one-game rushing record of 166y set against Dallas in '82. George gained 206 on 24 carries.
Phillips: It isn't that we won. It's how we won. That's what's important. The best thing about today is what we managed to overcome. I think we proved something to some folks. ... Dave Wilson played the way we thought he'd play when we drafted him two years ago.
Wilson: No doubt about it, this really helps our confidence. I think we can be competitive and, after today, the whole team feels that way, too.
Hill: I think everybody felt down. Kenny has worked hard to make the Saints better. We wanted to keep him clean. But Dave Wilson came in and did a fantastic job.
Rogers: I feel great. It was the off-season work, and it was the operation [to relieve pressure on his calf muscles]. To tell the truth, it was easier going 76 yards. Only one guy got a piece of me. On the goal line, they were climbing all over.Phillips agreed: A day like this will make George feel all that work was worthwhile. I feel great for George.
Lewis: In the second half, we were just more physical. We had to be more physical. It's easy to talk about it, but you've got to do it. We had to take it to 'em. We know we can do some things that haven't been done here before. We're young, hungry, and we want to win.
Hart: Their defense didn't intimidate us, but they were just everywhere. Every time I looked up, they were in my face. That's aggressive, and that kind of play wins games.
Grooms: We might have been a little bit better off if Kenny had stayed in there and mixed it up. We have been vulnerable to the run. They went to the running game. It became an attitude thing after that. On the play that knocked Stabler out of the game: Kenny patted me on the back and said, "Hey, good play, Elo."
Dierdorff: People say you can't run the football against the Saints, but I think we ran very well [28/121]. ... We fell behind and had to get away from the running game. They are a good, opportunistic ball club. They made the big plays when we had to, and we didn't.
The Saints won six of their first ten games before finishing 2-4 to miss the playoffs yet again.
They did tie the franchise's best record, 8-8, set in 1979.
As he had done so many times before, Joe Montana quarterbacked the visiting team in the Superdome September 4, 1994.
The difference was that #16 was not under C for the San Francisco 49ers, the Saints' longtime rivals in the NFC West. Now he wore #19 in his second season with the Kansas City Chiefs after a not so amicable departure from the City by the Bay.
Joe had every reason to be confident as he approached the season opener since he had gone 8-0 against the Saints in New Orleans, a mark that led Times-Picayune writer John DeShazier to proclaim Joethe undefeated, untied, and undisputed champion of the Superdome. Make that 9-0 in the building if you throw in the 55-10 win over Denver to earn one of his four Super Bowl rings. Altogether, Joe was 14-2 against New Orleans as a starter.
Joe missed three games because of injuries in his first season in KC. Still, the Chiefs went 8-3 in the games he started on their journey all the way to the AFC Championship Ga me, a 30-13 loss in Buffalo.
The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer proclaimed his '94 offense 100 percent ahead of where we were last year. ... This year, the guys have the foundation and now we're trying to add to it.
Another future Canton inductee also entered his second year with the Chiefs. RB Marcus Allen, four years younger than Montana, gained 764y in '93 after escaping the Los Angeles Raiders. Joe complimented his fellow Wheeze Kid: Marcus hasn't lost anything - except a little hair. When told what his QB said, Marcus replied, What's he talking about? He's lost more hair than me. Between the two of them, Montana and Allen boasted four Super Bowl MVP awards.
The Chief who looked forward to the opener more than anyone was DE Neil Smith, a product of McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans who led the NFL in sacks in '92 with 15. Opposite him was another sack leader, Derrick Thomas, who registered 20 in 1990.
Playing his first pro game in his hometown, Neil brought a number of his teammates to his mom's house the night before the game for a meal of crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, baked macaraoni, and stuffed peppers. He also obtained 70 tickets for family and friends. I guess I'm not going to get a paycheck this week, he joked.
The Saints entered the '94 campaign with a huge question mark hanging over the defense, which had been their forte in Jim Mora's eight seasons at the helm but now featured seven players lining up as full-time starters or in new positions for the first time. Altogether the Saints fielded 26 players who weren't on the opening day roster in 1993.
The 1993 club finished 8-8 to miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons despite finishing #1 in the NFL in pass defense. But the club lost both starting safeties, Gene Atkins and Keith Taylor, to free agency as well as CB Toi Cook.
So Montana would face a revamped Saints secondary. Reginald Jones was the only DB with extensive starting experience at his position. Third-year SS Sean Lumpkin would be making his first pro start. Vince Buck moved from CB to FS. Jimmy Spencer manned the CB spot opposite Jones. The former dime back for the Saints looked forward to the challenge facing him. I used to watch Joe Montana on TV when I was a little kid.
Still, Mora was more concerned about his front four and their ability to both put pressure on Montana and stop the run. The Saints had slumped to #25 against the rush the year before. Veteran DE Wayne Martin kept the game plan simple. We've got to go out there and hit him in the mouth. NT Les Miller echoed that sentiment. We've got to keep pressure on him and make him make mistakes. Veteran RE Frank Warren added, He probably will drop back sometimes, but for the most part he's going to throw quick passes. We have to hold them to short passes and keep them from going deep on us.
On offense, the Saints looked to newly-acquired free agent QB Jim Everett to provide a lift along with two other newcomers, WR Michael Haynes, a New Orleans native, and TE Wesley Walls.
Longtime O coordinator Carl Smith swapped his tackles, with 2nd-year-man Willie Roaf moving to the more challenging left side and 5th-year-pro Richie Cooper now at RT. Could they handle the onslaught of Smith and Thomas?
Las Vegas installed the Chiefs as 3 point favorites.
The KC defense established the tone for the day on the NO's opening possession.
Derek Brown gained 8 on the Saints' first official snap of '94. That would prove to be their longest rush of the afternoon.
NO would gain only 8 more on the ground in the first half and a paltry 37 for the game on 11 attempts, the low totals partially a result of falling behind early and having to take to the airways.
Montana didn't wait to start schooling the inexperienced Saints D in front of 69,362 (including yours truly).
Running what was essentially the same offense he had run in San Francisco, Joe led an impressive 15-play, 80y march that consumed 7:23 on the clock and ended with an 11y flip to WR Willie Davis for the TD.
The key snap came on fourth-and-2 at the NO 40. Montana handed to the man Coach Marty Schottenheimer called the best short-yardage and goal-line runner in the history of football. Allen burst 13y off tackle to keep the drive alive.
The Chiefs also converted three third-down opportunities along the way.
When Kansas City got the ball back on their 41, they picked up where they left off on their first possession.
With O-coordinator Paul Hackett mixing the pass and run efficiently, the visitors drove from their 41 to the 1 in just five plays.
Allen swept to pay dirt from there to make it 14-0 early in Q2. This march ate up just 3:19.
The teams traded FGs before halftime.
The Saints showed some life with a Morten Anderson 48-yarder midway through the period.
Montana showed why he was the most accurate passer in NFL history (63.5%) on his third drive of the half. Running backward after being chased out of the pocket, he fired a strike to diving WR J. J. Birden just inside the sideline for an 18y pickup. Allen said after the game, I've only seen a few guys who can make that throw.
The second play came from the NO 18. Joe launched a touch pass to Birden who was blanketed by Jones just inside the EZ. It was a perfect lob only J. J. could catch, which he did for a seeming TD. But the official ruled the receiver came down out of bounds.
So Lin Elliott booted a 24y 3-pointer with 58 seconds left to make it 17-3 at the break.
When Montana took a knee to run out the clock at the half, it marked the only possession in the half they didn't score.
The stats reflected Kansas City's dominance: 217y total offense to 111 with Montana 12-for-15 for 131y while Allen gained 61y on 12 carries.
Carl Smith ditched the running game for the second half. We just weren't converting on third downs, he explained afterwards.
Everett, after going just 3-for-6 for 27y in the first 30 minutes, passed for 76y of the 80 on a six-play drive that concluded with a 13y TD throw to Walls to cut the score to 17-10 with 5:10 left in Q3.
But Montana held serve with a march that produced a 22y FG by Elliott to push the margin back up to 20-10 with 3:18 on the Q3 clock.
The Saints began moving from their 19 until an old bugaboo bit again.
Brown fumbled at the KC 41, and LB George Jamison recovered.
When the defense forced the Chiefs' only punt of the game, the Saints drove to the enemy 31. Then the Crescent City native dressed in white made the play of the day. Everett rolled left and tried to toss a blooper over Smith's head to Walls. But Neil leaped and batted the ball into the air, grabbed it, and ran to the NO 25. While celebrating the INT, Smith spotted his uncle sitting in the EZ and gave him the ball.
Two Montana laser-beam passes, one for 23y and the second to TE Keith Cash in the EZ from the 2, gave KC an insurmountable 27-10 lead with just 1:48 gone in Q4.
But the Saints offense didn't quit.
Everett & Company continued to pile up yardage through the air - 312 for the day as O-coordinator Smith didn't get booed once all day - a rarity in the Dome. But Jim fumbled when sacked by Smith and threw another INT before the final gun.
Elliott booted another three-pointer, this one from the 17, to stretch the lead to 30-10 with 7:02 remaining. He later missed an easy 26-yarder.
The Saints made the final score more respectable when Brown gathered in a 14y scoring toss from Everett with exactly 4 minutes to go.
Both QBs finished with impressive stats.
Montana 24-33-0-315; Everett 26-37-2-326.
Saints WR Quinn Early led all receivers with 8 catches (for 101y), one more than Davis (109y). New Black and Gold WR Michael Haynes snagged five balls for 71y.
The Chiefs controlled the ball for 37:30 to 22:57 for the Saints.
Montana: Our guys up front played well. That was really the key to the game offensively, our ability to run the ball. It enabled us to do some things down the field, because by then they were trying to get safeties to get safeties into coverage. Scoring on our first three possessions really helped our confidence level.
Chiefs backup QB Steve Bono, who had also backed up Joe in SF: The man is a joy to watch. A master of his craft. What we all saw out there today was vintage Joe.
Mora: They're a very good football team on both sides of the ball, there's no question about it. But we just couldn't stop them, and if you can't stop people, you got real problems. ... We couldn't stop the run, we couldn't stop the pass, we couldn't get off the field on third downs, and we couldn't create turnovers.
Saints LB Sam Mills, a veteran of many wars against Montana although this time without any of his Dome Patrol compatriots - Ricky Jackson, Pat Swilling, and Vaughn Johnson: Every time you turned around, their offense was doing something to us. They did some real good things on that first drive. We didn't get them stopped, and Joe did a good job of putting the ball right where he needed to because we had good coverage on a lot of those passes.
35-year-oldDE Frank Warren, who began chasing Montana 13 years before: He comes in here, he waves his magic wand, and we all fall down. I'd like to take that wand and break it. But I can't get close.
Saints LB James Williams refused to tip his cap to the Chiefs. I really think it was us more than them. We made a whole lot of mistakes on plays that we've been seeing for years on film. It's the San Francisco offense, so we don't have any excuses. We're going to have to go back and work on the basics. He did concede, They played better and harder than we did.
The 1994 Saints never did get their defensive act together. They finished 27th (second-to-last) against the run and 26th in passing defense. Despite a ninth place mark in total offense, they finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs for the second straight season.
With Montana missing two games, the Chiefs had the opposite record, 9-7, to make the AFC playoffs as a wild card. But they lost 27-17 in Miami in the first round in Joe's last game in the NFL. He retired with his Superdome record unblemished. It was only fitting that in 2012 he would return to the Dome to watch his son play QB for Tulane.
Wayne Mack, in his 1992 book The Saga of the Saints, called Monty Stickles "Patron Saint of Pain." He became a fan favorite in his one season in New Orleans.
A native of Kingston NY, Montford Anthony Stickles started at Notre Dame for three seasons - 1957-58-59. The 6'4" 215 lb E earned All-American honors his junior and senior seasons.
With substitutions still limited in the college game, he led the team in minutes played in '58 and receiving with 20 catches for 328y and seven TDs. He scored 60 points while making 31 tackles.
The highlight of his years at Notre Dame was the game that ended Oklahoma's 47-game winning streak November 16, 1957. Stickles recalled: The wind was blowing red dust through this little town outside Norman, where we stayed. When we went to Mass that morning, a group of young children - eight, nine, ten years old - were waiting outside the church with their parents. They were begging us to win so they could have bragging rights against the Baptists. It was kind of a "win one for the Catholics" thing.
The 19-point underdog Irish, whom OU had thrashed 40-0 in South Bend the previous season, held Bud Wilkinson's vauntedO scoreless and ground out a long drive in Q4 to stun the Norman faithful 7-0. Video highlights of the game ...
Stickles had a great day against USC in 1957.
He caught TD
passes of 17 and 7y and booted the three PATs in the 40-12 rout.
The 49ers drafted Stickles in the first round (#11) of the 1960 NFL draft.
He played seven seasons in San Francisco and, along with Ron Kramer, Mike Ditka, and, later, John Mackey, pioneered the position of TE. Stickles recalled, Before Kramer, nobody called them tight ends. We were pass receivers who could block and be part of the line play.
Monty earned a reputation for his ferocious and uncompromising play as well as his receiving ability. He admitted he was a dirty player known to cheap shot LBs, who drew a flag when they retaliated.
The Niners compiled a poor 46-60-4 record during Stickles' time with the team, never doing better than the 7-5 they managed his rookie season.
But we had a great time, remembered Monty. I loved San Francisco, and then we would go on the road for two weeks at a time back then and get to hang out in a lot of great towns. And I loved the heat of the game. I loafed in practice, and, as my career continued, it got worse. But the games were great, and I had some battles with those linebackers, Ray Nitschke, Joe Fortunato, Joe Schmidt, Dave Robinson.
Stickles made it a point to try to injure opposing players. I like to hurt the S.O.B.s ... When they are hurtin', they forget what they're supposed to be doing.
After Stickles caught 207 passes for the 49ers, they traded him to the Saints in 1968.
Moving to bolster their O-line, the Saints sent DB George Rose to SF for the 30-year-old receiver.
Saints GM Vic Schwenk explained: Stickles started all eight seasons for the 49ers. He's a tremendous blocker and an above-average receiver. Coach Tom Fears said that Stickles could get a shot at offensive tackle but that move never happened.
Monty welcomed the trade. I think the Saints are a coming team, and I think they will be improved 100 per cent this season. I am happy to be with New Orleans. It is like old home week for me because I played on the 49ers with Bill Kilmer, Lou Cordileone, and Kent Kramer, all with the Saints now.
Years later, Stickles gave a different explanation for his departure from the City by the Bay. There was a movement to get rid of politically incorrect union activists.
Unwelcome at his alma mater because of his outspoken views, Monty wrote the Notre Dame President: Dear Father Joyce ... I left Notre Dame nine years ago, and I have become a Saint. It's too bad you'll have to wait longer to see how you make out.
Stickles lasted one year in New Orleans before being released.
Hampered by a knee injury, he played in 13 games and gathered in 15 receptions for 206y and two TDs.
He is best known for making contact with a referee during one game, becoming one of the few NFL players to be sanctioned for doing so.
When the Saints broke training camp in San Diego in mid-August of 1969, they left Monty behind. An incident that occurred in a barroom during the camp hadn't helped his cause. He punched a lady acquaintance in the jaw, knocking her to the floor.
The improvement of Jim Hester and the versatility of Ray Poage made Monty expendable. Ironically, he had spent much time with Hester during the '68 season teaching him the tricks of the TE trade. Had I known he was such a fast learner, I would have kept my big mouth shut, said Monty.
The Picayune described Stickles as a colorful performer with the Saints, often waving to the fans as he came off the field after catching a pass. This made him a favorite of New Orleans rooters.
Monty decided to retire from pro football. I was divorced, broke, and had to start all over.
He went to the CBS School of Broadcasting while tending bar and driving a truck for the San Francisco Chronicle.
ABC eventually hired him for college football telecasts, and he did color commentary on Raiders and Cal football broadcasts for KGO radio in San Francisco.
He quickly earned a reputation for bringing the aggressiveness he showed on the gridiron to his interviews. The tape of his shouting match with San Francisco Giants manager Frank Robinson became an underground classic.
He also hosted the Bay Area's first call-in show during the early 1970s.
When KGO let him go in 1986, Stickles turned to the beer distribution business.
Meanwhile, he had been nurturing his interest in art.
Bernie Casey [49ers WR] was a painter, and he would take me to museums while we were on the road. All the other guys did was puff cigars and play poker, and I didn't smoke or gamble.
Stickles also did a little acting, appearing in "Number One," a movie starring Charlton Heston as an aging Saints QB that was filmed in New Orleans during Monty's season with the club, and "Freebie and the Bean" (1974),
Monty died in 2005 at age 68 of heart failure after a brief illness.
References: Saga of the Saints, Wayne Mack (1992) Echoes of Notre Dame Football: Great and Memorable Moments of the Fighting Irish, Joe Garner (2001)
Monty Stickles, Notre Dame
Monty Stickles late in life
Saints Flagged Down
Archie Manning passes against the Dolphins.
Bob Griese surveys the Saints defense as he fades back.
Delvin Williams runs.
Bob Marshalll started his article in the Times-Picayune on the Saints-Dolphins game of September 28, 1980, like this:
Jim Poole will never win a key to the city of New Orleans. At the moment, he's as popoular in the Crescent City as the $50 road-use tax, punter-placekickers [a reference to Russell Erxleben], and $3-perpound shrimp. Mr. Poole is a college PE teacher at Westminster (California) State who, for the last six years, has been wearing a striped shirt on Sunday afternoons. This Sunday he was in the Orange Bowl, a relatively anonymous presence until the game's final second. That's when he reached into his back pocket, pulled out a yellow flag, and threw it.
The 1980 Saints began the season with great hopes under third-year coach Dick Nolan.
The optimism was based on the fact that Nolan had led the Saints to their best two seasons ever. They finished 7-9 in 1978, then 8-8 in '79.
As a result, many commentators predicted the Saints would finally break through in '80 and snare the first playoff berth in their 14-year history.
The key performers from the 1979 offense that finished sixth in the league in points (just one behind the Cowboys) all returned: QB Archie Manning (3,169y passing), RB Chuck Muncie (1506y rushing/receiving), FB Tony Galbreath (1192y of total offense), WR Wes Chandler (1,069y receiving), and TE Henry Childs (846y). All five had made the Pro Bowl.
However, owner John Mecom decided to make a major change in the front office. He moved GM Eddie Jones to Houston to take charge of his business interests. Jones had wisely left football decisions to football men.
Jones's replacement as GM was 34-year-old Steve Rosenbloom, son of Los Angeles Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom.
Steve had just been booted from the Rams front office by his stepmother, Georgia, following Carroll's drowning. Reportedly, Mecom was keeping a promise he made to Carroll Rosenbloom to take care of his son if the need arose.
The biggest problem with this arrangement was that Nolan's contract gave him complete control over all football operations. If Mecom wanted to prevent his coach from making a football decision, he could do so only by firing him.
Nolan later regretted the fact that he didn't make known his unique role to the players. The result was a schism on the team, with some players relying on Rosenbloom while others followed Nolan.
Mecom prevailed on Nolan to give up some control of football operations to Rosenbloom in exchange for a one-year extension of the coach's contract.
The anticipation quickly turned to disappointment when the Saints started the 1980 season 0-3.
The regular season began with a close loss to San Francisco 26-23 at home that ended with 1979's first-round draft choice, Russell Erxleben, missing a 32y FG.
After the miss, Erxleben fell to the turf, "pounding his fist much like a child throwing a tantrum" (to quote Wayne Mack).
Then came a poor performance in Chicago (22-3).
The Saints scored 26 in the Dome against Buffalo but surrendered 35 as Nolan, whose background as a player and assistant coach was defense, expressed bewilderment that his defenders looked so helpless.
However it was the offense that Nolan reshuffled at midweek. He replaced Muncie and Galbreath in the backfield with Jack Holmes and Wayne Wilson while benching the Saints' first round draft pick, OT Stan Brock.
Muncie's erratic off-the-field behavior, as well as his diminished production, resulted from his heavy cocaine use.
He would be traded to San Diego the night of the Miami game - addition by subtracting a negative.
Game Four took the Saints to Miami.
Following an opening loss at Buffalo, Don Shula's Dolphins had beaten the Bengals at home and the Falcons on the road.
After yo-yoing between 35-year-old Bob Griese, the engineer of the Dolphins' back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 1972-73, and veteran Don Strock, Shula decided to give David Woodley, a rookie from LSU, his first start. The main reason was Woodley's mobility, something that Griese couldn't provide.
The contest would pit the irresistible force of the Saints offense against the immovable object, the Miami defense.
Woodley struggled throughout the first half before a crowd of only 40,946 on a warm day in South Florida.
He completed only four of 15 passes and threw three INTs. His mistakes gave the Saints field position and opportunities to score.
Saints S Tommy Myers told reporters after the game: Starting Woodley against us was an insult. They were saying, "We're going to play this rookie against the Saints because they're no good." ... Well, we said they can take Woodley and shove him up their ---. I'm not saying he's no good, but he's a rookie. We took advantage of that and threw coverages and formations at him he had no idea what to do with.
But three N.O. possessions that began in Miami territory resulted in Benny Ricardo FGs, not TDs. All took place in Q2 to give the Saints a 9-0 halftime lead.
An eight-play, 28y drive led to Benny's first kick, a 34-yarder, with 13:54 remaining.
Rookie DB Dave Waymer set up the second score when he recovered Don Bessillieu's fumble of the kickoff at the Miami 23. Rich Mauti caused the fumble after Don Schwartz made the initial stop. But three running plays gained only 4y. So Ricardo boomed a 36y FG at 11:33
The final three-pointer came with 1:55 left following the first of two INTs by S Tommy Myers. The Saints tried a FB pass by Jack Holmes but Chandler, who leaped above two defenders, dropped the ball as he hit the ground.
Manning admitted, I knew at the half nine points wouldn't be enough because I knew Griese would be coming in. Where we really broke down was in our running plays against their prevent defense. ... We did some good things, but when we needed a 4y run, we couldn't produce.
Griese started the second half, but the Saints were able to get a turnover that led to their first TD.
Steve Howell fumbled at the Miami 40, and LB Ken Bordelon picked up the ball and returned to the 37.
Five plays later, Manning caught the Dolphins in a blitz and tossed a 25y pass to WR Ike Harris, who made a fingertip grab in the EZ. Ricardo's PAT made it 16-0.
Miami had come back from that exact same deficit two weeks earlier against Cincinnati to win 17-16 and again the next week scored 17 Q4 points to upend Atlanta 20-17.
But Griese still had plenty time to stage a comeback although when Q3 ended, the home team still showed a goose egg on the scoreboard.
Myers: Even then, Griese was beginning to work. The first thing he started doing was using his backs in the passing game, something Woodley doesn't understand yet. When he started hitting them, it sucked us up, opening up some longer stuff later.
The final period started with the Dolphins in the midst of a 91y, 12-play drive that Howell culminated with a 1y TD.
The 90-degree heat became Miami's ally, sending several Saints defenders, including CB Rickey Ray, to the sidelines with cramps. Then Ray's replacement, Waymer, suffered the same fate. Unfortunately, his affliction came on a 54y pass from Griese to Duriel Harris, who slipped behind Dave.
I was just trying to get back, Waymer said. My back was turned, and I was running. My leg had gotten cramped, and I couldn't turn as quickly as I would've liked.
One play later, Griese tossed a 5y TD pass to Ronnie Lee to close the gap to 16-14 with 5:52 on the clock. The four play drive took only 27 seconds to travel 82y.
Myers: Every defense has a weakness. Griese has the experience to know where they are.
Needing to at least run some clock, Manning & Company couldn't move and punted.
Getting the ball back at the N.O. 49, Griese guided a nine-play drive that ended with a 6y run by Delvin Williams up the middle to make it 21-16 with 2:36 left.
Griese on the scoring play: We set up in a formation we had only used to pass from so far this year. I'm sure when they saw it, they expected a pass.
Manning's attempt at a two-minute offense ended when Ernie Rhone intercepted a pass that bounced off Brooks Williams with 1:13 on the clock
But the Saints, using up their timeouts, forced a punt from the N.O. 45 on 4th-and-1. Shooting the works, the Saints sent all eleven men at punter George Roberts. Mauti beat his man and dove in time the meet the ball with his helmet. The pigskin rolled back to the 10, where Miami's Bessillieu recovered with six seconds left.
Manning: In that situation, you don't have many options. They're laying back waiting for you with about six defensive backs. I wanted to go with my tallest receiver. Ike is 6-foot-3. I wanted to throw it up and hope he could outjump them for it.
At the snap, rookie CB Don McNeal came up to bump Harris, but Ike slipped around him and, as McNeal ran after him, continued on his route into the EZ where he turned, jumped, and caught the ball for an apparent winning TD.
Harris: I turned around and saw the ball coming. It was underthrown, so I was going back for it. The man who was supposed to be guarding me was beaten on the play. His back was to the ball. He never saw it. I had depth. I had the corner. The inside safety came over to make the play. He (Poole) calls contact on me because I saw the ball and I was going in a path directly for the ball.Being much taller, I came down with the football and the flag. It's only the second time in six years that I have had a flag thrown for offensive pass interference. In my opinion, I was not guilty today.
The Saints began a wild celebration that stopped when they noticed a yellow flag on the turf. Back judge Poole called offensive interference on Harris.
Poole gave this explanation to the designed press corps representative: The outside man (Harris) pushed the defender. No. 82 (Harris) pushed the guy close to him. McNeal: He didn't push me with his hand. I guess the call was body contact because he didn't push me with his hand. Listen ... I didn't call it. The ref did.
With no time on the clock, the game ended on the offensive penalty.
Harris: In any rule book I've seen, when a receiver comes back for the ball, and the defender doesn't know where it is and runs into the receiver, it's defensive interference. That's in any rule book.
I know what will happen now. We may protest. They'll review the films. They may send a letter saying it was a bad call. But we'll still be 0-4. Nothing will change that.
Nolan called the loss the most difficult he had ever experienced. It's a tough way to lose a ball game. We shouldn't have let it get to that point because we had many opportunities to put it away earlier but failed to do so. He praised the effort of his team, whose motivation in earlier games had been questioned. I thought they gave a hell of an effort.
Mauti: I don't know if the loss is that critical. We got a lot out of today's game. The guys really tried, and that's what's important.
Wayne Wilson: We all played pretty good. It was a bad call. It should've been a win.
Shula was overjoyed with the victory. I feel very fortunate somehow, some way that we won the football game. The chain of circumstances at the end was caused by my decision to punt and not go for the first down. We were lucky at the end of the game.Don declined to comment on the questionable call that ended the game. Woodley had a few problems today, but they weren't entirely his. ... I want to tell you guys here and now that Griese will be our starter from now on ... there won't be any guessing games next week.
Woodley: I didn't play as well as I would've liked. I couldn't get the offense generated. By the time we did get it going, it was late in the second quarter.
On the Friday following the game, as Harris predicted, the NFL office admitted back judge Jim Poole made an error when he flagged Harris for interference.
The statement read: After a careful review of the film of the final play in last Sunday's Saint-Dolphin game, it is understandable how the official had reason to call offensive interference. The defender fell, and the official apparently felt or anticipated that he was pushed. But it is our conclusion that there was no apparent contact.
Since it was a judgment call, the outcome of the game remained unchanged.
Dolphin had contacted the league about the call right after the game. After checking the CBS and NFL video, the league concluded the film was not conclusive. However, Dolphin sent them an EZ shot that showed no foul was committed.
The 1980 Dolphin lost eight more games in a row. That led to Nolan's firing.
Under his interim replacement, O-line coach Dick Stanfel, New Orleans dropped two more before defeating the Jets on the road 21-20 in the second-to-last week. They finished the season 1-15.
Reference: The Saga of the Saints: An Illustrated History of the First 25 Seasons, Wayne Mack (1992)
Record Breaker: Archie Manning 1977
Archie Manning took a philosophical look at the pros and cons of the QB draw play after the Saints-Bears game at Soldier Field October 2, 1977.
It adds a good dimension to an offense. The disadvantage is you can get your QB killed.
The former Ole Miss star set a Saints record that still stands today with three rushing TDs in the 42-24 victory, the first in Hank Stram's second season in New Orleans after losses to the Packers (24-20) and Lions (23-19).
The Rockford (IL) Morning News summarized the game like this: The Bourbon Street Bullies - previously known as the Bummers - came here a sorry 0-2 team and left looking like Super Bowl Champions. Thanks to the generous Bears, that is.
Chicago coach Jack Pardee summarized the game like this: We broke down in every basic phase of the game. Penalties kept taking us out when we were playing well and beginning to make our move. There were penalties, missed tackles ... oh yes, don't let me forget dropped passes.
The Rockford writer continued: The missed tackles were the things Manning loved the most. He sacrificed his body by throwing it into the middle of the Chicago line, but the Bears treated him like he had cholera. ... The Saints' QB, on the comeback trail after two shoulder operations, used a couple draws and a couple more scrambles up the middle to consistently frustrate the Chicago defense.
The 1-1 Bears were nine-point favorites.
Q1: The bone-chilling wind was so strong (20 mph) that Stram elected to take it instead of the kickoff.
After an exchange of punts, the Bears scored when QB Bob Avellini scrambled and threw a 33y TD pass to Walter Payton, who had shaken free from young LCB Craig Cassidy. The great RB tip-toed down the sideline to pay dirt. Bears 7 Saints 0
The visitors got that back late in the quarter. After twelve minutes of play, Manning finally went to the air, hitting RB Tony Galbreath for 12y after a Bears' punt into the wind traveled only 24y to their 40. Two plays later, Archie connected with Don Herrmann down the middle for a first down on the 13. On 3rd-and-5 from the 8, Manning dropped back to pass, pumped twice, then tucked the ball away and snaked to the EZ. Rich Szaro booted the tying point. Bears 7 Saints 7
Manning explained afterwards: It was just a simple QB draw-trap play that we put in this week. I used it mostly near the goal line and luckily it worked for me. It's a play that you can't use every week, and most coaches refrain from using it, afraid the QB will come up with an injury. Heck, after losing our first two games, we couldn't worry about injuries. DT Jim Osborne expressed the Bears' frustration trying to corral Manning. You're wrong if you do and wrong if you don't in those situations against somebody like Manning. My main objective was to get to the QB on third-and-long. Of course, one of the tackles has to stay at home and guard the middle too. If I see an opening, though, I'm going to try and get him. He would wait for that hole to open and go to it, just the opposite of where we were going.
Q2: Early in the period, the Saints faced 4th-and-1 at their 39. Would Tom Blanchard be asked to punt with the brisk wind at his back? No, Stram decided to gamble and looked good when Galbreath dove over the middle to move the chains. Manning then got 22 on a toss to rookie receiver Rich Mauti. Two 15y penalties against the Bears aided the 72y 14-play drive that ate up seven minutes. Manning did the honors from the 2 with the same draw-trap that produced first six-pointer. Saints 14 Bears 7
The next score was set up when SS Chuck Crist picked off an Avellini aerial, setting the stage for Archie's 35y TD shot to RB Chuck Muncie. Archie scrambled for his life before getting the ball to Chuck, who steamed down the sidelines. Saints 21 Bears 7
The home team put together a drive that resulted in a FG but also exemplified their frustrations. Fighting the clock, Avellini completed four straight passes, then threw an apparent 8y TD to Roland Harper. However, the play was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty on Payton. So the Bears settled for Bob Thomas's 21y FG with 10 ticks on the clock. Saints 21 Bears 10
Saints-Bears action: 89 James Scott; 80 Bo Rather.
57 Jim Merlo; 23 Craig Cassidy; 24 Clarence Chapman.
Q3: Manning moved his offense 67y on seven plays. The key was a 41y strike to TE Jim Thaxton to the 13. Two plays later, Archie went up the middle again, slipping a bit before crossing the goal line. Saints 28 Bears 10 Chicago had another TD wiped off the board for the same violation as earlier - offensive pass interference. This time, they lost the ball on downs without scoring.
DE Bob Pollard returned an Avellini fumble 52y to pay dirt. DT Elex Price caused the bobble with a solid hit. Saints 35 Bears 10
First time I've scored in seven years as a pro, crowed Pollard afterwards. Did you see me scoop up that ball and run like a HB? He poured on the speed when he heard footsteps and saw a shadow. He didn't realize it was DT Derland Moore riding shotgun. Afterward, Derland told me he was yelling who he was. But I didn't know who it was. I tried to evade him and didn't realize it was Derland until I'd crossed the goal line. Coach Stram also followed Pollard every step of the way on the far sideline. Did I do that? asked Hank in the locker room with an impish grin. Price: Now Bob owes me one. I stripped the ball from Avellini, who had tucked it under his arm.
Payton, who struggled in the early going, closed the gap with a 21y TD run four minutes into the period. Saints 35 Bears 17
LB Jim Merlo acored the visitors' last TD on a 57y INT return. Saints 42 Bears 17
The TD was nothing new to Merlo. It was the third of his career and eighth INT as a Saint. He explained: For most of the day, we were doubling on Payton, and I had Harper by myself. Avellini tried to dump one, and I got it. I remember that Pollard made a great block, and Myers gave a good one to Avellini. I thought I had it all the way when I saw Payton behind me. I thought I had it made and was wondering what I could do to show off in the end zone. Then I get tackled and barely made it.
With 1:26 left, the Bears saved some face when Payton got the last yard of 72 on the march. Walter's 49y dash off RT to the 14 provided the biggest advance. Saints 42 Bears 24 Chicago recovered the onsides kick, but Avellini misfired four times.
Stram: We won our first game of the season, and I'm especially happy with the way we did it. The offense, defense, and special teams all did a terrific job. ... The aggressive manner in which we played was very important. ... When you score that many points, the defense has to have played well. And they did an excellent job of containing Walter Payton(who gained only 140y on 19 carries).
Manning: I'm just glad as heck to win. ... We did things better and went after them. Getting the touchdown just before the half was a key thing. It was a big plus. He admitted the breeze caused him concern. It was really a factor, even when you are throwing with it because you never know what it's going to do. Our running game was better, and we stayed with it. And we could have hit with a few more quick ones because they were blitzing a lot.
Tommy Myers: We took away what they wanted to do, establish the running game, and forced them into throwing the ball.
We're making the plays, but the big thing is we're making the mistakes too, said Avellini, who saw at least six of his passes dropped. You've got to overcome mistakes, but we weren't good enough to do it today. They were foolish errors - like blocking downfield before the pass - and we made too many of them.
Payton: You know what I think about them beating us? I think we scored too easily in the first period and let up, thinking it was going to be like that all the way. We got fooled. Those guys came at us and really took advantage of every break. ... I'm very impressed with Thunder 'n Lightning(Muncie and Galbreath). Those guys are hard runners, and I want to rap with them a bit.
The 1977 Saints finished the season 3-11. The Bears went 9-5 to make the playoffs.
Manning's three-TD performance has been tied many times over the years, most recently by Deuce McAllister (twice in 2002) and by Reggie Bush against San Francisco in 2006.