Saints Pivotal Moments
Redskins 1973: Beleaguered Defense Rises Up
John North's first Saints team included some new players who were expected to help shore up a defense that surrendered the most points in the NFC in 1972, 361. S Jerry Moore, from the Bears, was a tough hitter. Three rookies won starting jobs: DT Elex Price, LB Jim Merlo, and CB Ernie Jackson.
L-R: John North, Elex Price, Jim Merlo, Ernie Jackson
To say that Defensive Coordinator Jim Champion's unit took time to gel would be an understatement. The Saints experienced the most disastrous start in franchise history. After being humiliated at home by the Falcons in Week 1 62-7, they lost at Dallas 40-3.
The defense improved in the next three games. After losing at Baltimore 14-10, the Saints won two straight home games against the Bears (21-16) and the Lions (20-13). Just when the defense seemed to have found its groove, they laid an egg in San Francisco although the offense didn't help a bit in the 40-0 shellacking by the 49ers. The Niners led 21-2 in first downs, 203-97 in rushing yards, and 221-17 in passing yards.
So which Saints defense - indeed which Saints team - would show up the next week against Washington at home? The oddsmakers pegged the Saints as 17-point underdogs against the 5-1 Redskins, the defending NFC champions. However, George Allen's "Old Men" were having their problems offensively, especially on the ground where they averaged only 3.0ypc. They were led by ex-Saint QB Billy Kilmer.
Aided by some innovative formations installed by defensive line coach Bob Cummings, the Saints thwarted every Redskin possession, holding the visitors scoreless for three quarters. In the meantime, the Saints built a 16-0 lead on three field goals by new K Bill McClard, who had replaced Happy Feller after the latter missed four field goals against the Bears, and a 9y touchdown pass from Archie Manning to RB Bill Butler.
Allen pulled the plug on Kilmer, who was playing with a sprained ankle, with 9:57 left in the third period and inserted Sonny Jurgensen to put some life in the team. Jurgensen moved the Redskins from their 20 to the NO 21 where Jackson made a diving intercep­tion to end the threat.
Jurgensen finally got the Redskins on the board in the fourth quarter with a long drive to the NO 28 where the Saint defense forced a 35y field goal by Curt Knight.

FS Tom Myers breaks up pass intended for Roy Jefferson.
The Saints immediately answered with a 48y drive to the Washington 30. McClard booted a 37y field goal to end the scoring for the afternoon. Saints 19 Redskins 3
The Redskins were considered to have one of the best rushing attacks in the league. HB Larry Brown, the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1972, and FB Charlie Harraway would combine for 1,312y for the season. But on this sunny October afternoon in Tulane Stadium, the NO front four of Billy Newsome, Price, Bob Pollard, and Joe Owens ably abetted by linebackers Merlo, Wayne Colman, and Joe Federspiel held the Washington duo to a paltry 24y rushing on 18 carries. The Redskins failed to gain a single rushing first down in the game. The Saints sacked Kilmer and Jurgensen five times.

L-R: Bill McClard, Billy Newsome, Bob Pollard, Joe Owens
Redskins coach Allen wasn't surprised by his team's poor performance. "In my opinion, New Orleans played its best game since its inception seven years ago. I could see it com­ing all week and kept telling them that the Saints were the type of team that could beat us. But they never listened. How can you motivate players that have looked at films all week of a team that was embarrassed 40-0 the previous game?"