Saints Pivotal Moments
Vikings 1978: First Victory over Minnesota
After the Saints followed their 4-10 record in Hank Stram's first year as coach with a 3-11 mark in 1977, owner John Mecom fired him. Mecom considered several big-name coaches to replace Stram, including George Allen and Don Coryell. The replacement was Saints linebackers coach Dick Nolan, who had led the 49ers to the playoffs three successive years (1970-71-72) before three straight losing seasons cost him his job.
Nolan's low key approach to coaching was a welcome change from Stram, who, as one writer put it, "was attracted to the spotlight like a moth to a flame." One of the Saints who was especially pleased by Stram's departure was S Tom Myers. He publicly blasted Stram when the '77 season ended and asked to be traded. Rumors began to spread that Myers would be going to the Vikings.
Nolan's specialty was defense. He was a disciple of Tom Landry's "flex" defense, which Nolan had used with success with his 49er teams and the Cowboys as Landry's defensive coordinator.
One of Nolan's points of emphasis was increasing the Saints' strength, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.
QB Archie Manning had high hopes for the '78 season. "I was really crazy about Dick Nolan and his coaching staff. ... And I think you've got to give Hank Stram a lot of credit for this, our offense was kind of ready to go. We'd drafted (WR) Wes Chandler, we made a trade for (WR) Ike Harris, we had (TE) Henry Childs, and, of course, Hank had drafted (RBs ChuckMuncie and (TonyGalbreath. And we picked up (G) Conrad Dobler in a trade which really solidified our offensive line. So all of a sudden offensively we've got some weapons and we're scoring points. ... I really had great people to throw the ball to and to hand off to."
The schedule makers did Nolan no favor when they slotted the Saints to face Minne­sota in the opening regular season game. Bud Grant's Vikings had won at least one playoff game each of the previous three seasons, which included an appearance in Super Bowl XI.
Minnesota QB Fran Tarkenton, known for his scrambling, presented an immediate challenge for the Saints' defense. New defensive coordinator Paul Wiggin installed Nolan's flex defense, but injuries to defensive linemen Derland Moore, Joe Camp­bell, and Mike Fultz stalled the process.
The Saints hoped to end their six-game losing streak to the Vikings.

L-R: Dick Nolan, Tom Myers, Conrad Dobler
Saints Score Quickly
Mixing passes and runs, QB Archie Manning took the Saints on a 72y scoring drive in the opening period. RB Chuck Muncie gained the last 3y, and Rich Szaro booted the extra point. 7-0 Saints
Facing a makeshift defensive line that rarely put pressure on him, Tarkenton responded with a 67y drive that consisted primarily of lobs to his backs and tight ends. RB Rickey Young took a pass for the final 7y to tie the game 7-7.
Coach Grant: "We knew New Orleans didn't have much of a pass rush, and the Super­dome is a great place for passing, with no wind and good footing. So we felt we could throw the ball. And we did."
Before the action-packed first period ended, Muncie scored again, this time from the seven to end a 69y drive. 14-7 Saints

L-R: Bud Grant, Archie Manning, Chuck Muncie
The teams produced 20 more points in the second quarter. Rick Danmeier ended Min­nesota's first series of the period by booting a 44y field goal to cut the Saints' lead to 14-10.
Tony Galbreath ran in from the six to extend the Saints lead to 21-10.
As Coach Nolan explained afterward, the Vikings "ran a number of plays that were effective against a young team like ours. They had some delays to the backs, the tight end (Bob Tucker) would fall down and get up when the rush was past, ... that sort of thing." Chuck Foreman plunged over from the one. 21-17 Saints
Szaro's 32y field goal with 28 seconds left in the half made it 24-17 Saints at the break.
The defenses finally prevailed in the final 30 minutes of play. "We didn't try to sit on the ball," said Manning, "we just saved our mistakes for the second half."
Myers' First Interception
Myers ended the first Viking thrust in the third period with an interception. It came on a third-and-seven play from the NO 40. Everyone in the Superdome knew Tarkenton would pass as he had already done 22 times. Facing pressure for one of the few times on the af­ternoon, Tarkenton broke out of the pocket. So TE Bob Tucker, who normally didn't go deep, maneuvered to get open in the left corner of the end zone. Tarkenton tried to get the ball to him. "It was a busted play," said Tucker. "The pass was right to me, but Tom Myers had time to come across the field."
The Saints moved close enough for Szaro to kick a 36y field goal, but a holding penalty on TE Henry Childs negated the score. Later in the period, Manning's long pass just skid­ded off WR Ike Harris's fingers.
The Vikings embarked on a 17-play drive from their two. But the turnover bug bit them again when RB Chuck Foreman fumbled, and DE Richard Neal recovered for the Saints.

L-R: Tony Galbreath, Fran Tarkenton, Maurice Spencer, Clarence Chapman
Myers' Spectacular 97y Return
Early in the final quarter, with the ball on the NO 11, Tarkenton threw what he thought was a sure touchdown pass to WR Sammy White, who was running a post route at the goal line. DB Maurice Spencer got a hand on the ball, which popped into the air. Myers caught the deflection at the three and went to one knee at the four as the action seemed to stop. Some Vikings thought the ball might have hit the ground and said they thought they heard a whistle, but Myers got up and took off down the field. He broke into the clear at the 40 and continued to the end zone to make it 31-17. The 97y return broke the 10-year-old Saints' record of 94 set by Bo Burris, also against the Vikings.
Spencer: "I was watching his (White's) hands. I missed him on the downstroke swing and got the ball coming back up."
Myers: "He (White) ran a post, and Maurice Spencer got a hand in and tipped it out. I juggled it and started running. All their fast people were running patterns. I just took off. When I looked over my shoulder, and I didn't see anybody, it really felt great."
White: "Someone (Spencer) grabbed me from behind and pulled me off the ball."
Coach Grant: "That was the play of the game. It was a 14-point play. Instead of a tie, we were down two touchdowns."
Down 14, the Vikings didn't quit. Aided by a questionable 32y interference call against DB Clarence Chapman, Tarkenton moved Minnesota to the NO 30. Fran again went to White for the big play. But this time the ball never reached him. Spencer leaped up and intercepted the ball in the end zone.
But the Saints gave the ball right back with their only turnover of the day. Muncie, who left the field earlier with knee and ankle problems, fumbled when hit by DE Alan Page, and Randy Holloway recovered at the NO 10.
Tarkenton took advantage of the break to throw a 10y pass to RB Rickey Young to cut the lead in half with plenty of time, 11:25, left in the game.
The Vikings moved to the NO 25, but DT Alex Price stripped Young of the ball, and LB Pat Hughes recovered for the Saints.
Myers' Third Pick
Minnesota had one last chance, moving from their 20 to the NO 44. Tarkenton threw to White again, but a mistake by a rookie led to another Myers interception. Grant ex­plained: "The other receiver (rookie Harold Washington) was supposed to go down the sideline and clear the safety (Myers) out of there. But the receiver wasn't there. He went somewhere else." Myers returned 19y to the NO 46 to enable the Saints to run out the clock.
Coach Nolan, showing little emotion as usual, said Manning, not the bench, called the plays. "His play selection was good. The line blocked well and gave him the opportunity to throw some critical things that worked for him."
Bud Grant minced no words in his assessment of the game in which his team committed six turnovers in the second half. "It would have been an injustice if we'd won. You just can't give the ball away that much and win. Six turnovers are just too much."
Asked afterward about his rumored trade to Minnesota, Myers said, "I heard I might be going to them. I'm glad things have worked out. I wasn't unhappy with the Saints. I was uhappy with one person. It just happened that he was the head coach. When they fired him, I was happy to be a Saint."
Manning was asked if this was his finest hour. "I've throw the ball more, and I've thrown it better. But I've never directed the team as well. We are a better team, though, so my job is easier."
Tarkenton whose 48 pass attempts set a club record, complimented the Saint secon­dary: "I think it's a pretty good group. Their cornerbacks are quick, and Tommy Myers happened to be in the right places - three times, anyway."
No one was happier than Saints owner John Mecom. "I've just found the right coach for a change. There is no comparison to the past, but in this town we've got to learn not to look back. We've done too much of it. Now we've got a lot to look forward to. I believe we're go­ing in the right direction now. There are some things that need to be improved upon, but, my god, we beat a fine ball club."
Tommy Myers played his entire ten-year career with the Saints. He was the first Saints' defender to be named a first-team All-Pro. When he retired, he held the club rec­ord with 36 interceptions. He still ranks second all-time behind Dave Waymer, who had 37.