Saints Pivotal Moments
Rams 1981: Saints Start Fast, Then Hang On
After opening the season with a 27-0 at Atlanta, the Saints faced another NFC West foe, the Los Angeles Rams, in the Superdome. The Rams, troubled by some internal problems, were smarting from a 27-20 home loss to Houston the week before.
Saints Coach Bum Phillips said, "Los Angeles has more individual talent than Atlanta. There's not a weakness on their football team."
The headline in the Baton Rouge Advocate declared: "If Falcons the pan, Rams the fire."
If you were told that the Saints would complete only four passes in 17 attempts with three interceptions and would be outgained in passing yards 167-78, you would figure they lost.
But a 226-88 advantage in rushing yards which helped them control the ball for more than 35 of the 60 minutes made the difference in the victory.

L-R: George Rogers, Benny Ricardo, Bobby Scott
Saints Settle for Field Goals
The Saints' game plan became apparent right away when TB George Rogers carried the ball on the first five offensive snaps, gaining 26y. Then QB Archie Manning scrambled from the pocket and ran for 13y. He aggravated the hamstring pull he suffered against the Falcons, and three plays later took himself out of the game for good as Benny Ricardo and the field goal team came in and put the Saints ahead 3-0.
One series later, with Bobby Scott replacing Manning under center, the Saints used their only pass completion of the first half, a 33y strike to TE Rich Caster, to set up another Ri­cardo field goal, this one from the 36 with five seconds left in the first quarter. 6-0 Saints

L-R: Rich Caster, Jim Kovach, Elois Grooms
Turnovers Set Up 10 Points
37 seconds into the second quarter, LB Jim Kovach put the Saints in position for their first touchdown of the young season when he separated WR Cullen Bryant from the ball after a short completion from QB Pat Haden. The ball bounced to DE Elois Grooms, who returned it 20y to the eight, where he was dragged down from behind by Haden.
"I was so disgusted that I didn't score that I banged my hand against the turf," said Grooms. "I think I broke some bones in it. Isn't that stupid?"
Rogers got the honor of scoring the touchdown, sweeping left end from eight behind deva­stating blocks from TE Brooks Williams and FB Jack Holmes. Saints 13 Rams 0
In the last minutes of the second quarter, Kovach struck again, recovering a Haden fumble at the Rams 35. The subsequent drive stalled at the 16. So Ricardo booted a 34y field goal. Saints 16 Rams 0 with 3:06 left in the first half.
That was enough time for the visitors to get on the board. Scott threw an interception that allowed the Rams to get a cheap three points on Frank Corral's 40y field goal.
Saints 16 Rams 3 at the half.

L-R: Brooks Williams, Jack Holmes, Frank Wattalet
The Rams drew closer in the third quarter as they took the kickoff and drove 74y in 11 plays. The touchdown came on Haden's 9y pass to Preston Denard in a seam between Frank Wattalet and Johnnie Poe. Saints 16 Rams 10
The Saints didn't produce any more points during the next 15 minutes of playing time, but the offense did an effective job of eating up some clock on each possession, then punting the Rams deep in their territory.
Nairne's Pick Leads to TD
Needing at least a field goal to feel more comfortable down the stretch, the Saints got more than that, thanks to another stellar defensive play. On first-and-10 from his 19, Haden spotted former Saints TE Henry Childs open on a crossing pattern at the NO 35. What Haden didn't see was LB Rob Nairne sprinting into coverage underneath. Nairne beat Childs to the ball and returned the interception to the LA 25.
"I was underneath the wide receiver," Nairne expained. "I saw Haden looking back in, I saw him pump - I don't even know who he was throwing to - and I took off."
Already in field goal range, the Saints got more than that. After Holmes ran for 2y, Scott found WR Wes Chandler for a 23y touchdown pass.
Chandler explained his route. "It's perfect when it's run against man-to-man coverage. Normally it's bee-line express, making the defensive back think fly. He (Rod Perry) wasn't gonna go for that fly business because he was inside of me, so I decided to drive post on him. After that he was out of the way."
Scott laid the ball on the money, and Chandler did a little toe-tap just inside the end zone and the sideline. Saints 23 Rams 10

L-R: Johnnie Poe, Henry Childs, Wes Chandler, Wayne Wilson
Saints Run Out Clock after Rams Pull Within Six
The Rams countered with an 11-play, 87y drive, culminating in another Haden to Dennard touchdown pass, this one from the 15. Saints 23 Rams 17
There was 4:05 left in the game, more than enough time for the Rams to get the ball back with a chance to win with a touchdown. But they never got their hands on the football again.
Wayne Wilson, in for Rogers, used a block from T Stan Brock to sweep left and gain 9y on a crucial third-and-five to keep possession. Then Rogers also converted another first down to run out the clock and give the Saints their first win under Bum Phillips.
Rogers broke two Saints rushing records. His 29 attempts broke the old record of 27 shared by Andy Livingston and Mike Strachan. And his 162y eclipsed Chuck Muncie's output by 1y.
Phillips summarized the game like this: "I thought it was a team effort, really. I don't think it was any one guy. Although George made 162y, I don't think he made them by himself."
Rams All-Pro DE Jack Youngblood praised the Saints offensive game plan. "They execu­ted some blocking schemes that strung things out real well. (George) Rogers did a real good job in finding the holes, but they didn't do anything unusual. They just executed."