Saints Pivotal Moments
1969 @Giants: Dempsey Kicks Winning Field Goal
Rookie K Tom Dempsey had already kicked three field goals as he set up at the Giants 19 with 11 seconds left in the game and the 1-7 Saints trailing 24-22 before 62,972 in Yankee Stadium. A fourth attempt, from the 50 on the first play of the final period, hit the right upright.
Dempsey overcame severe physical handicaps to become an NFL player. He was big, 6'1", 265 lb, but had to overcome birth defects - only two fingers on his right hand and only a half a right foot.
He played DE in high school and junior college - he's the only player in NFL history from Palomar Junior College in San Marcos CA. He was also a shot-putter and wrestler at Palomar while playing on both sides of the ball on the gridiron.
He didn't start place-kicking until college. He used the traditional "straight on" kicking style with the toes despite the recent popularity of the soccer style approach pioneered by the Gogalak brothers. Because of the birth defects, Tom wore a special half-shoe made by an orthopedic company in California. It had a 1 3/4-inch-thick leather plate on the front end to provide the surface for kicking the ball.
Tom played in the Atlantic Coast Football League before gaining a spot on the San Diego Chargers taxi squad in 1968. He joined the Saints in 1969 as a free agent.
Tom Dempsey, Saints
L-R: Tom Dempsey, his special kicking shoe, Billy Kilmer
The 3-5 Giants had retaken the lead with 8:41 left on a 6y fourth-down pass from QB Fran Tarkenton to RB Tucker Frederickson.
QB Billy Kilmer then led the Saints on a methodical 15-play drive starting from the 26 following the kickoff. He threw only two passes on the march but one of them came on third-and-four from the 16 to WR Danny Abramowicz for a first down at the five. "Earlier in the game," said Billy, "I called the same play and missed because I threw the ball a little too hard and behind Danny. This time I eased up, and Danny made a great catch with a guy hanging on him."

Andy Livingston runs with a short pass from Billy Kilmer for a 51y touchdown in the second quarter.
At that point, with a field goal in his back pocket, Kilmer gave up on scoring a touch­down in order to run down the clock to give Tarkenton & Company almost no time to respond. "Tarkenton would have gotten the ball with more than a minute to do something. When that pass clicked, I decided to stick on the ground and consume time. I forgot the touchdown." Billy even had RB Andy Livingston take a yard loss to put the ball in the middle of the field to make Dempsey's job easier.
So did Coach Tom Fears. "I told Doug Atkins to watch the scoreboard clock–which the referee said was official–and call a time out with 15 seconds left. I didn't want to cut it too close...besides I wasn't in the mood to trust an official with a watch in his hand."
When Atkins called time, the clock continued to 11 seconds before it was stopped. Dempsey's kick consumed six seconds. So when Tom sent his kickoff into the end zone, Tarkenton had only five seconds to pull off a miracle. When Dave Whitsell picked off Fran's desperation pass at the NO 34, he began running in circles to run out the clock. In the press box, Saints owner John Mecom shouted, "Fall down! Fall down!" "I could see someone tackling him," explained Mecom, "the ball popping loose, and a Giant going for a touchdown. Some of our luck in Yankee Stadium has been bad enough to make you think of things like that."