Saints Pivotal Moments
Detroit Lions 1976: Capone Scores Clincher
Baton Rouge native Warren Capone had been an All-SEC and All-American linebacker for the LSU Tigers during the 1971, '72, and '73 seasons. But pro football hadn't been so kind to him. He was not taken in the 1974 NFL draft because he was considered too small. Instead of signing a rookie free agent contract in the NFL, he helped the 1974 Birmingham Americans win the championship of the spring World Football League. The next season, Capone led the defense of the reconstituted Birmingham Vulcans that topped the WFL in scoring defense until the league folded in mid-season.
He signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent for the 1975 NFL season and was a backup linebacker for the team that reached Super Bowl X. When he didn't make the Dal­las roster for '76, Warren returned to Louisiana to work for an insurance company. Need­ing an extra man for his injury-depleted linebacker corps, Saints Coach Hank Stram talked Capone into joining the Saints for their Week 8 clash with the Atlanta Falcons.
Two weeks later, the football vagabond would be in the right place at the right time to help the Saints capture a much-needed victory.
The Detroit Lions came to the Superdome desperately needing a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. Their 1-3 start had led to the firing of coach Rick Forzano and Tommy Hudspeth moving from the front office to the sideline. The Lions were 3-2 in their first five games under the new coach.
Stram's Saints were a disappointing 2-7 after four straight losses, including three in which they had blown late leads.

L-R: Warren Capone, Hank Stram, Bobby Douglass, Greg Landry
Since the Lions boasted the NFL's stingiest defense, the oddsmakers installed Detroit as a four point choice over the Saints.
Stram and his staff worked hard to prepare their club for the Lions' blitzes. "Hell, they send everybody," said Hank. "They start blitzing when they get off the bus." Then he added a warning that would pay off on game day. "Those who live by the sword, die by the sword." To beat the Lions, Saints QB Bobby Douglass, who had started the last three games, would need improved play from his receivers, who dropped eight of his strikes in the loss to Green Bay the previous Sunday.
By contrast, Detroit QB Greg Landry had moved into the lead in the NFC passing race, giving his offense a needed boost. The running game was also improving behind 240lb rookie Lawrence Gaines, who got his first 100-yard game against the Vikings the week before the trip to New Orleans.
The smallest crowd of the season, 42,048, watched the defenses prevail in a sleep-indu­cing first half that ended with the Lions ahead 6-3. The six points came on a 5y touchdown pass to TE Charlie Sanders. K Benny Ricardo's PAT try banged off the right upright–an error that would prove costly.
The Saints moved in front the third quarter on a spectacular play. With the ball on the NO 31, speedy WR Larry Burton faked outside, then inside before taking off on a post route, turning DB Levi Johnson around. As his line picked up the blitz, Douglass cocked his left arm and launched a perfect spiral that Burton caught in stride two steps beyond Johnson. The speedster from Purdue shook off Johnson's arm tackle and sped to the end zone. "We had been trying to set that one up all day," said Burton. "It went just like it was designed. I must have caught that pass 10 times during practice this week. I was one-on-one, and when I get one-on-one it's Katie bar the door." Stram added, "Bobby (Douglass) laid it right there on the shelf." Douglass said later that the pass play "wasn't called in the huddle. A pass play was called, but I never know my primary receiver until I read the defense. You can't come out looking for just one man. If you do, you're dead. I came out, read the blitz, saw that Larry had gotten behind his man, and then threw it." 10-6 Saints
Detroit narrowed the gap to 10-9 on the first possession of the final period. A holding call and DT Derland Moore's sack forced the Lions to settle for Ricardo's 43y field goal.
Later in the period, it appeared the Saints would blow another game when the Lions started an 11-play march from their 29, overcoming another holding call along the way. But when they reached the four, the first of three key plays shifted momentum back to the home team.
RB Dexter Bussey took a handoff from Landry and followed FB Lawrence Gaines through a hole. "The play was working just right, and I had a clear path to the goal," Bus­sey recalled. "I don't know what happened ... I just felt it (the football) pop out of my arm. Maybe I was looking for the end zone too soon." What happened was that FS Tommy Myers filled the hole. "I think I missed the tackle," Myers said later. "But I didn't miss the ball. I just closed my eyes and hit him (Bussey). My helmet must have knocked the ball loose."
The ball popped free and lay in the end zone for an agonizing second before DT Bob Pol­lard, alerted by S Maurice Spencer, pounced on it for a touchdback. Pollard deflected all praise afterward. "I didn't see the ball at first. Then I heard Spencer–he's our ball hawk-holler, 'Get on the ball!' I looked around, and there it was on the ground beside me. I wasn't in the best of shape, but my knee (which had sidelined him for four weeks) felt strong."

L-R: Larry Burton, Derland Moore, Tommy Myers, Bob Pollard, Maurice Spencer
Facing 4th-and-seven from their 23, the Saints needed an excellent punt from Tom Blanchard. He came up with Big Play #2 when he boomed a 58-yarder to the Detroit 19. Blanchard explained, "I knew as soon as I hit it that it was going to be a good one. It's funny, but I rushed the kick a little. As soon as I saw a single safety downfield, I realized they would be trying for the block. They had almost got to me earlier. I wanted to make sure I hit the ball, period. I figured a poor punt would be better than a blocked one, so I rushed it a little. I guess from now on, I'll rush all of them!"
Not only did the kick drastically shift field position, it also set up the clinching touchdown. Five snaps later, the Lions lined up to punt on their nine after a sack by DT Alex Price and a penalty. Capone came in and lined up over the center. "I heard the center say something right after he snapped it. I looked up and realized he had rolled the ball back to the punter (Herman Weaver) in the end zone. I was knocked down by a blocker, but when I got up, I saw someone (fellow LSU Tiger Ken Bordelon) tackling the punter and knocking the ball loose. It bounced right over to me, and I picked it up in the air." Capone stepped into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown to make it 17-9 Saints with 1:35 left in the game. The Lions argued that Weaver had thrown the ball forward instead of fumbling it. But that would have given the Saints possession inside the 10 with a chance to run out the clock even if they didn't kick a clinching field goal.
The Lions drove to a touchdown in the final 30 seconds, but with the NFL still thumbing its nose at the two-point conversion of college football and the former American Football League, the Saints won by a point, 17-16.
The visitors dominated the game statistically, amassing 448y of total offense while per­mitting the Saints only 183.
Landry, who completed 27 of 38 passes for 310y, said, "I'm very disappointed. They said I passed the 10,000y mark passing today, but right now I'm not too excited about it. We fumbled in critical situations, and when you do that, you don't deserve to win."