Saints Pivotal Moments
Falcons 1977: Archie Leads March on Atlanta
The Atlanta Falcons entered the NFL in 1966, a year before the Saints. In their first 11 seasons, they had a non-losing record three times: 7-6-1 in 1971, 7-7 in '72, and 9-5 in '73. Like the Saints, they had never made the playoffs.
Leeman Bennett became the franchise's fifth head coach before the 1977 season. After nine games, the Falcons were 5-4 and in the running for a playoff spot. Even though he had been a receivers coach for the Rams, Bennett stressed defense as a head coach. Atlanta had allowed 22.3 points per game in the '76 season. Through nine games in '77, the "Grits Blitz," as they called themselves, were giving up just 6.9ppg.
Bennett explained, "The teams which win are the ones who're able to stop the run every week. In Atlanta, like a lot of other places, the defense was always thinking pass rush, pass rush. That's where we had to change the philosophy from a defensive standpoint. The idea, we said, was to stop the run first."
The 2-7 Saints might have to face one of the league's toughest defenses with their third-string quarterback, Bobby Douglass, since both Archie Manning and Bobby Scott were battling injuries. Scott was definitely out with an injured throwing hand, but Archie's five-week-old sprained ankle had come around to the point where he might be able to spell Douglas if necessary.
The Saints' offense, which ranked seventh in the league, would have to depend heavily on a trio of running backs that Bennett called "as fine a group as you'll see anywhere in the league"–Chuck Muncie, Tony Galbreath, and Mike Strachan.
The Falcons jumped on top in the Superdome when SS Ray Brown intercepted a Doug­lass pass late in the first quarter. A pass interference call on Saints' CB Clarence Chap­man set up Fred Steinfort's 31y field goal. It was the first time Atlanta had scored in the opening quarter that season.
After Douglas went 3-for-7 for just 11y, Manning came in late in the first period and led a 68y, nine-play drive that included six penalties between the two teams. Muncie scored the touchdown in the second quarter on a 1y plunge following an interference penalty against the Falcons in the end zone. Saints 7 Falcons 3
"I wanted to play," said Archie, "but I didn't feel too great about taking Bobby's place in the first quarter. Bobby had thrown an interception, and Hank just put me in to see what would happen."
The rest of the first half belonged to the Falcons, who scored on an 8y pass from Steve Bartkowski to WR Alfred Jenkins, a 40y Steinfort field goal, and a 72y interception return by DB Rick Byas. The Falcons led 20-7 at halftime.

Steve Bartkowski calls signals.
Despite falling behind, the Saints stuck with the running game behind an all-out effort (212y) from the offensive line: C John Hill, guards Terry Stieve and Emanuel Zanders, and tackles Don Morrison and Marv Montgomery. Bennett said afterward, "I knew the Saints would move the ball, but I didn't think they would move it like that."
The Saints got a break when LB Pat Hughes forced a fumble and DE Elois Grooms recovered at the Atlanta 32. Five plays later, from the 13, Manning rolled right and hit TE Henry Childs in the back of the end zone to cut the Falcons' lead to 20-14.

Henry Childs catches a pass against the Falcons in 1977.
The Falcons appeared to be on their way to a two-score lead when they drove 64y midway in the fourth quarter to set up a 28y field goal. Saints LB Joe Federspiel: "We called timeout, just to make him think a little more. We started talking to him, hoping we'd upset his rhythm."
Steinfort's attempt never got off the ground because of a low snap. So holder Kim McQuilken tried a desperation pass that didn't work.
The Saints took over at the 10 still six points behind with 5:51 on the clock. Facing third-and-five at his five, long-striding Manning ran out of the pocket and weaved and dodged 27y. Archie hurt his ankle on the play and had to leave the field. Douglass replaced him for two short runs before Archie came back in.
He soon faced another crisis: fourth-and-inches at the Falcon 49. Muncie took a handoff and headed off right tackle. Chuck explained: "Tony Galbreath made the block, their de­fensive end cracked down inside, and I saw the outside open." Muncie blasted through S Ray Brown for 25y. Galbreath then ran a draw play through the right side for 13y to put the ball on the 11.
When the next play lost 5y, the Falcons decided to blitz. Manning said, "We kept the backs in to block, so either you complete the pass or you don't." Because of the blitz, CB Rick Byas was marooned in one-on-one coverage with Childs. So Archie lofted a high toss to the back of the end zone. Despite being blanketed by the defender, Childs made a lunging catch just inches inside the end line. "Henry makes the tough catches," said Manning. "He's been our deep threat all year. He just made a great catch."
Rich Szaro's successful conversion put the Saints ahead 21-20 with 1:05 left.
There was enough time for Atlanta to get into field goal range. But two plays into their possession, Bartkowski launched a bomb that S Chuck Crist intercepted to put the final nail in the Falcons coffin.
The Saints' 21 points was the most scored against Atlanta at that point in the season.
Watch a video with clips of the game... (The audio is not in synch with the video at first.)