Saints Pivotal Moments
1969 49ers: Gritty Kilmer Leads Cardiac Win
The 2-7 Saints trailed the visiting San Francisco 49ers 21-0 2:15 into the second peri­od. The NO offense ran just five plays in the first quarter and 11 in the second. To make matters worse, QB Billy Kilmer suffered a separated shoulder in the second quarter that sent him to the sidelines. Saints assistant coach Ed Khayat: "Billy came off all bent over to one side. We all figured he was done, but he said, 'Hell no! Pop it back into place and get me back out there.' They strapped him up and he was back out for the next series. Frisco kept clobbering him on the side all day, but Bill just got right back up and threw another pass. He's one tough son of a gun."
Just when the hometown faithful had resigned themselves to a bleak afternoon, their he­roes scored four touchdowns in a row to take a 28-21 lead midway through the third period. RB Andy Livingston ran for a touchdown and threw a pass to WR Danny Abramowicz for another. Kilmer, playing with extra zest against his former team, tossed scoring strikes to Ray Poage and Abramowicz. In between the two touchdown passes, Billy limped off the field but returned to the cheers of the crowd on the Saints next possession.
Saints QB Billy Kilmer49ers QB John Brodie1969 Saints-49ers Action - 4
L-R: Billy Kilmer, John Brodie, Dave Parks and Al Dodd congratulate Danny Abramowicz
after one of his two touchdown catches.
But the Saints' first lead lasted just two minutes. SF QB John Brodie connected with rookie RB Jimmy Thomas for a 45y touchdown to tie the score. The Saints retook the lead on a safety and added to it with a 17y Tom Dempsey field goal with 13 minutes left in the game.
But the 49ers wouldn't stay down. They drove 70y in just three plays to retake the lead 35-33 on Brodie's 18y connection with Thomas. Like the other leads on this cloudy after­noon, that one didn't last long either. Tom Dempsey's 43y field goal put the Saints back on top a few minutes later.
The NO defense forced a punt only to have the 49ers recover a fumble on the return at the 13. But all they could get from the break was Momcilo Gavric's 23y field goal put the Niners ahead again, 38-36, with 3:10 remaining.
The Saints offense started from their 28 after the kickoff return. Kilmer admitted after­ward that he was just looking to get into field goal range. After Livingston gained seven, Billy pitched to Al Dodd for nine and then to Dave Parks for 16 to the SF 39 with 1:30 left. Within Dempsey's range but it would be nice to move closer. Livingston got five up the middle, and then Kilmer tossed a flat pass to RB Tony Baker who raced down the sidelines for 19y and a first down at the SF 15 as the clock ticked under one minute. "I threw the screen to Tony Baker," said Kilmer, "and he made a fine run to the 15. Then I knew we had a real shot at the touchdown." 6'3" 235lb RB Ernie Wheelwright rammed through the center for 12y to the three. Then "Wheel" took the next handoff and slid off the stacked up right side of his line and rushed into the end zone as 71,448 partisans went absolutely wild. The clock read 0:26.
The game ended with CB Gene Howard intercepting Brodie's long desperation heave to finalize the Saints' third victory in their last four games, 43-39. The fans celebrated the Black and Gold's first home win of the season.
1969 Saints-49ers Action - 31969 Saints-49ers Action - 71949 Saints-49ers Action - 8
L-R: Tony Livingston runs for some of his 83y on 14 carries.
M: Tony Baker celebrates a Saints score.
R: Ernie Wheelwright welcomed after winning touchdown.
Kilmer received praise from former LSU and 49er quarterback Y. A. Tittle who was a parttime assistant on Dick Nolan's San Francisco staff. "It came right down to the wire and, as I predicted earlier, the team in possession at the end would be the winner." He said Kilmer was "vastly improved since we had him on the coast, and he kept his cool on that final successful scoring drive."
Brodie also tipped his hat to his Saints counterpart. "Billy beat us with his coolness and play patterns."
Saints coach Tom Fears agreed with Tittle. "They gave us fits in the first half with a defense they hadn't shown before. However, we stuck to our original game plan and ... came back strong in the third quarter ..." Tom also saluted Wheelwright. "The Wheel does a great job when I send him in. I keep saying I'm going to play him more but never do. He doesn't complain–just goes in and gives a 100% effort all the time."
Wheelwright wanted no part of a hero's role. "Man, you're talking to the wrong guy. The people up front did a fantastic job. The holes were wide open. Running in the wide open spaces is no job."
An unsung factor in the Saint victory was the play of former All-Pro S Marv Woodson, acquired on Thursday from the Steelers. "I crammed night and day since I've been here, and on every play the boys in the secondary would give me tips and suggestions." The tips must have worked because Woodson was credited with defensing six Brodie passes.