Saints Pivotal Moments
Packers 1975: Punter and Kicker Make Key Plays
Saints fans looked forward to the 1975 season because the Louisiana Superdome was set to open after a delay of four years. John North entered his third season as head coach with a record of 10-18.
The Saints lost their first three games, including Week 2 to the Cincinnati Bengals in the inaugural regular season game in the new arena. The Archie Manning-led offense scored only 10 points in the losses.
The Saints hosted the Green Bay Packers in the second Superdome game. The Pack­ers were a shadow of their 1960s glory under the great Vince Lombardi. They were also 0-3 under new coach Bart Starr, Lombardi's alter ego when Bart quarterbacked the Pack to five championships from 1961-67.
The week of the game, the Saints shook up the coaching staff. Three assistants were re­assigned to new duties. Volatile owner John Mecom Jr. gave North a vote of confidence–sort of, "We can be a winner. Darned right, John North's our coach. I just don't think I could live through another three weeks like the last three."
Later in the week, Mecom dropped a bombshell in a TV interview. If the fans became too disenchanted, he said he would "take the ball club with me, and we'll leave."
Lost in the news was the fact that North fired PK Bill McClard and hired ex-World Foot­ball League left-footed kicker Rich Szaro. McClard had made only one of five field goals in the first three games, including three misses in the 14-7 loss at Atlanta in Week 3. Szaro, a Harvard graduate, spoke seven languages, including his native Polish.

L-R: Rich Szaro, Tom Blanchard, Michael Strachan, Gil Chapman
The game could hardly have started any worse for the Saints. The Packers led 14-0 before they ever snapped the ball. First, Steve Odom returned the opening kickoff 93y for a touchdown. And on the Saints' second play from scrimmage, DE Alden Roche separated Manning from the ball, and DT Mike McCoy lumbered 19y with the fumble for a gift touch­down.
Early in the second period, Saints P Tom Blanchard turned in what proved to be one of the key plays of the afternoon. With the ball on the NO 25, he received his third bouncing snap of the game. The ball skidded past him, but he retrieved it near the goal ahead of the onrushing Packers and ran into the end zone for a safety. North said afterward, "That was a key play. ... I don't know if many players would have had the presence of mind to do that." 16-0 Packers.
With the Saints defense stifling Starr's offense, Manning engineered an 80y drive to a touchdown. Behind a line that opened running lanes, Michael Strachan carried six times for 30 of his game high 105y. The Saints converted four third downs during the march, including a pass interference call on CB Ken Ellis against WR Andy Hamilton for 32y to the two. Strachan barrelled over on the next play. Packers 16 Saints 7

L-R: Joel Parker, Steve Baumgartner, Tommy Myers, Alvin Maxson
The Saints moved close enough on their first possession of the second half for Szaro to miss a 46-yarder. A few minutes later, WR Gil Chapman retunred a Green Bay punt 32y to their 32. Two running plays sandwiched around an 11y completion to WR Joel Parker put the ball on the 11. Three snaps later, Manning lofted a pass to Parker who outleaped DB Charlie Hall for the ball at the back of the end zone. Parker juggled it momentarily but pulled it down just inside the end line. Packers 16 Saints 14
The Saints comeback was complete when Szaro booted a 36y field goal with eight min­utes left. The drive started when DE Steve Baumgartner forced a fumble that S Tommy Myers fell on at the NO 46. Saints 17 Packers 16
But a fumble recovery on the NO 35 set up the Packers to regain the lead. The offense could move only 7y, but that was close enough for Joe Danelo to kick a field goal. Packers 19 Saints 17
Fans and players did not know how much time was left because the scoreboard clocks stopped working late in the third quarter. The Manning-Hamilton combination struck again on third-and-22 for 29y to the GB 44. The Hamilton ran down and outs on two straight plays for identical 13y gains before stepping out of bounds with 45 seconds left according to the PA announcer. Andy said, "We were running down-and-outs. I thought after the first one, they'd come up and play it kind of tight. But Archie kept calling it and he (CB Perry Smith) kept laying off. He's a pretty good corner, and I guess he thought I was going to go out and run up one time."
Manning said afterward: "The announcer had it wrong. I thought there was 35 or 40 seconds left. That's hitting it pretty close on my part because I should have gone ahead and called time before the last play. But we had 30 (seconds) and that would have given them a kickoff. I thought we could run one play, and then I'd call a time out."
So Archie gave the ball to RB Alvin Maxson, who wouldn't go down. Manning ran after him and told him to get down. Archie: "I gave the ball to Alvin, and he wouldn't go down. He kept fighting, and I told him to go down or score because he was running out of the clock. When he (the official) told me we had two seconds left, I was kind of shocked. I thought it was about seven or eight seconds."
Two seconds was all that was needed for Szaro to kick the winning field goal from the 10. The officials left the field as the ball sailed the uprights–much to the surprise of the Packers, who thought they still had 22 seconds to play. "We certainly wouldn't have let them run the block down," said Starr.
Final Score: Saints 20 Packers 19