Season in Time: 1987

Diehard Saints fans know that 1987 was the year their beloved team made the playoffs for the first time. But what a journey it took to get there, including a visit from the Pope to the Superdome and a players' strike that threatened to end the season prematurely.

Games 1 and 2

Jim Finks

Jim Mora

Bernie Kosar

Bobby Hebert

Rueben Mayes

Hoby Brenner

Reggie Langhorne

Brett Maxie sacks Bernie Kosar for a safety

Brett Maxie

Carl Smith

Buddy Ryan

Brian Hansen

Mike Quick

Joe Kohlbrand

John Spagnola

Mel Gray

Reggie White

Terry Hoage

Tony Elliott

The Saints entered Year Two of the Benson-Finks-Mora regime with high expectations.
  • 1986 had netted a 7-9 record, only a two-game improvement over '85, Bum Phillips' last year at the helm. But a number of the nine losses had been close, such as 20-17 to the Giants in the Meadowlands, 14-6 to Washington, 21-20 to the Patriots (a game in which the Saints held NE to 2y rushing), 31-27 to Miami (despite 203y by Offensive Rookie of the Year Rueben Mayes), and 14-9 to the Falcons.
  • With GM Jim Finks revamping the front office and Jim Mora changing the team culture, Saints fans had every reason to hope for significant improvement in '87. Win two or three close games you lost the year before and 7-9 becomes 9-7 or 10-6. That not only gets you the franchise's first winning season but a playoff berth as well.
  • The Saints 3-4 defense finished 7th in the league in points allowed and 3rd in yards/play (4.6). The LB corps was already attracting attention around the NFL: OLBs Rickey Jackson and rookie Pat Swilling and inside backers Sam Mills (whom Mora had brought with him from the USFL) and Vaughan Johnson, another rookie.

Owner Tom Benson looked forward to the new season.

  • He hoped to do more victory dances on the field after the notoriety he attained with his "Benson Boogie" in the last minutes of the '86 victory over Tampa Bay in the Dome.
  • Already a hero to New Orleanians for keeping their team in his native city, Benson enhanced his stature with his spontaneous celebration. He reflected on his relationship with the fans: I guess I represent to them part of them and their feeling toward the Saints. Some of the things I've done, getting on the field, cutting up some, is just the reaction of the normal people in New Orleans. ... They say, "He's doing the things I feel like doing."
As the season loomed, the usual talk of teams' prospects was overshadowed by a different issue.
  • On August 31, a week before their contract with the league expired, the executive committee of the NFL Players Association, discouraged by the lack of progress in contract negotiations with NFL management, set a strike deadline of September 22.
  • Meanwhile, the owners' chief negotiator said teams were offering free agents released in the first major rounds of cuts a $1,000 bonus to agree to rejoin the teams in case of a strike.
  • Saints player representative Hoby Brenner proclaimed his squad unanimously prepared to strike if union leaders decided to do so.

Another distraction for the Saints and their fans was the visit of Pope John Paul II to New Orleans two days before the opening game against Cleveland.

  • Saturday, September 12, the pope spoke to a youth rally in the Superdome.
  • Many wondered if a team named "Saints" would now enjoy a "pope-field" advantage. The next day, a fan brought a sign to the Saints game proclaiming, Faith, hope and the pope. Could this be the year?
Game One: Cleveland @ New Orleans

The Browns came to the Dome still carrying baggage from 1986.

  • Seemingly minutes away from winning a berth in Super Bowl XXI, Cleveland saw John Elway lead the Broncos 98y to the tying TD with 0:37 left. Denver then won in OT.
  • QB Bernie Kosar admitted the game lingered in his mind but gave the experience a positive spin. I think we'll learn from it. We had a very young team last year. Hopefully, the experience from playing in two NFL playoff games will give us an edge in handling pressure-type situations. He also voiced respect for the Saints D.
  • The Monday before the opener, Mora named Bobby Hebert as his starting QB over Dave Wilson, who had started the final 13 games in '86 after Hebert went down with a broken foot.
  • A slight underdog, the Saints hoped to gain just their fourth season-opening victory in team history and the first since 1983.

The hard-fought game wasn't decided until Q4.

  • Q1: The home team got on the board first with a 61y six-play drive. Mayes ripped off 26y for the longest gain of the march, which ended when Hebert, with enough time in the pocket to have cup of coffee or drink a beer, connected on a 5y pass to TE Brenner in the EZ among several defenders. Saints 7 Browns 0 (3:22)

    Rueben Mayes runs vs. Browns.
  • Q2: The Browns tied the game on Kosar's 7y strike to Clarence Weathers. The 88y drive had been aided by a 29y pass interference against Milton Mack.
    Saints 7 Browns 7 (5:55)
  • Q3: The home team went back in front right after the kickoff following Dave Waymer's recovery of a fumble on the Cleveland 29. Two plays later, Hebert connected with Brenner again, this one for 16y with only 1:37 elapsed. Hoby, who now had two more TDs than in all of '86, made a fingertip grab just inside the right front pylon after Bobby eluded an onrushing defender. Saints 14 Browns 7 (13:23)
    Brenner: That one was a lot of luck. I was supposed to be in the flat, but it was a broken play. So I let my guy go and kind of wandered out to the goal line.
    But the Browns answered with a 85y advance in eight plays. Kosar fired a 30y TD pass to Brian Brennan with 9:16 on the clock. Saints 14 Browns 14 (9:16)
    The back and forth continued as the Saints responded with a 12-play march starting from their 25. Hebert's 15y pass to Eric Martin and 13y scramble kept the chains moving until Dalton Hilliard bolted in from the 5 behind a crushing block by rookie G Steve Trapilo with 2:22 remaining. Saints 21 Browns 14 (3:22)
  • Q4: Cleveland tied the game for the third time, moving 82y in nine plays with Kosar's 22y pass to Reggie Langhorne the biggest gain. Bernie ran in from the 3 2:23 into the quarter. Saints 21 Browns 21 (12:37)
    The Saints defense broke the deadlock with rare back-to-back safeties. Both came after Brian Hansen punts pinned the Browns inside their 10. The first two-pointer came courtesy of DE Bruce Clark with 9:45 left. Referee Dick Hantak ruled Kosar was "in the grasp" as Clark grabbed the QB's left leg just before he released the ball from the EZ. Saints 23 Browns 21 (9:45)
    Clark: We had a free rush on; so you just try to go in and beat the guy the best way you can. I guess it came at the right place and right time because they had been getting some long drives, and we needed to stop them some way somehow.
    After Hansen's 43y punt backed the visitors inside their 1 to start their next possession, Kevin Mack got 4y on a sweep to create some breathing space. But on the next snap, backup FS Brett Maxie blindsided Kosar, causing a fumble that rolled out of the back of the EZ before Frank Warren could corral it. Saints 25 Browns 21 (3:19)
    It was a weakside safety blitz, explained Maxie. I just lined up inside the CB, and I don't think they had me accounted for in the blocking scheme.
    Kosar simply failed to pick up the blitz. I just didn't see it. We called a play in the huddle but changed the protection scheme at the line. I was supposed to throw a sight adjustment, just dump it off, but I missed the call.
    After receiving the free kick, NO drove far enough for Morten Anderson to boot a 39y FG with 1:43 to play for a 7-point cushion that held up.
    Saints 28 Browns 21 (1:43)

The most encouraging aspect of the victory was the offensive production.

  • Hebert and Company nearly matched the potent Browns, amassing 338y of total offense to 376 for Bernie's Boys.
  • As usual, Carl Smith's offense featured the run, gaining 191 on the ground compared to 149 in the air (without including sacks).
  • New Orleans didn't turn the ball over a single time while the Browns lost an INT and a fumble.
  • The Saints special teams played well again. All five of Hansen's punts were downed inside the 20. Cleveland gained just 4y on punt returns and 39 on kickoffs. NO also blocked a FG attempt.

Postgame comments

  • Mora: We came up with the big plays when we needed them. Just remember, Cleveland had the best record last year (in the AFC), and many have predicted them going to the Super Bowl this year.
  • Browns LB Clay Matthews praised Mayes, who gained 147y on 24 carries: I think it was more of what he did rather than what we didn't do.
  • DE Sam Clancy on Hebert: I had him three times where I should have brought him down. He shook me off three times, and everytime he did, he made something happen.
Game Two: New Orleans @ Philadelphia

Buoyed by a rare opening day victory, could the Saints take their show on the road?

  • Second-year Eagles coach Buddy Ryan brought his famed "46" defense with him from Chicago. The Saints O line, especially C Joel Hilgenberg and T Stan Brock, would have to contend with DT/DE Reggie White, whom Mora compared to LB Lawrence Taylor as a dominant defensive force.
  • On the other side of the ball, the Black and Gold D line would have to contain QB Randall Cunningham, who was second on the '86 Eagles with 540y rushing. Fortunately, the Philly line gave up the most sacks in the league in '86.
  • The Eagles would be fired up for their home opener after losing 34-24 to the Redskins in Washington.
  • The Saints hoped to start a season 2-0 for the first time in their history.

When a head coach awards six game balls, four to players and two to staff members who formerly worked for the Saints, you know it hasn't been a good day for the opposition.

  • Q1: The Veterans Stadium crowd of 57,485 booed the teams when they met at midfield for their solidarity handshake before the game. After stopping the Eagles on their first possession, the Saints drove 43y in eight plays for a 45y Andersen FG. During the drive, Mayes had what would turn out to be his longest run of the day, 7y. Saints 3 Eagles 0 (7:32 remaining)
    Two plays later, Waymer's INT put the Saints in business on the 16. Six snaps later, Hebert shot a pass to TE John Tice from 6y out. Saints 10 Eagles 0 (3:14)
    The Saints wouldn't score again until two minutes were left in the game.
  • Q2: The home team took the lead by halftime with a FG and two TDs in the period.
    The Eagles started a possession from their 39 as Brian Hansen punted into a swirling wind. During the subsequent drive, TB Keith Byars appeared to move illegally on a critical third down, but officials did not call a penalty. Four plays later, Paul McFadden booted a 30y FG. Saints 10 Eagles 3 (8:20)
    The next Philly possession resulted in another 61y advance, this one consuming six plays, one of which was a 15y run by Cunningham to the 19. From there, Randall tossed a 19y scoring pass to Mike Quick. Saints 10 Eagles 10 (3:04)
    The Eagles forced a punt but bogged down on offense themselves. However, the possession continued after LB Joe Kohlbrand ran into punter John Teltschik.
    Asked about the play after the game, Kohlbrand responded: What does it look like happened? They called me for roughing the punter. My momentum carried me into him, but I didn't hit him that hard. I didn't try to back off of him, but he just had a good act, and the official fell for it. I beat my man cleanly and I tried to make the play. Things like that happen. I made a bad mistake.
    Cunningham connected on a 22y pass to TE John Spagnola to the 20. A few plays later, Randall threw a replay-confirmed 25y TD to Kenny Jack­son to give Philly the lead just before the half. Eagles 17 Saints 10 (0:11)

    Kenny Jackson catches TD pass over Reggie Sutton.
    The nickel back, Reggie Sutton, had the coverage on Jackson. We were in man coverage, and I had to play inside technique because it's so easy to throw that pass inside. He ran a fade route, and it was a good pass, and the guy caught the ball.
    Television replays seemed to show that Jackson's right foot was inbounds, but his left foot was partly across the EZ sideline. However, the replay official decided there wasn't enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.
  • Q3: Saints kick return specialist Mel Gray fumbled away a punt on his 23. To make matters worse, Gray was ejected for kicking TE Dave Little during the wild scramble for the loose ball.
    Mel explained: The punt was so deep, I just knew the guys would hold them up. I didn't think they would get there in time. I thought I had a chance to run the ball out. It was a hard decision, but, in that situation, I decided to take it. It was too late - the guy was already in my face - for a fair catch. I tried to manuever before I had the ball secure, and one little hit and the ball dropped out. Concerning the ejection, Gray said Little kicked him three times on the bottom of the pile. I lost my head. I was frustrated anyway, and I decided to kick back. I should have been smater than that. I was caught in the act.
    Starting from the 11 after the 15y penalty, the Eagles netted -2 on three plays. So McFadden propelled another FG through the uprights. Eagles 20 Saints 10 (2:13)
  • Q4: The Eagles wrapped it up on the third play of the period. As Hebert dropped to pass, LT Daren Gilbert missed his block on DE Clyde Simmons, whose hit on Bobby knocked the ball into the air. White tipped the loose ball to LB Seth Joyner, who scampered 18y to the EZ for an insurmountable lead. Eagles 27 Saints 10 (14:47)
    Dave Wilson took over and led a five-play, 79y drive. He connected with Eric Martin for a 38y pass-and-run. Then, from the 27, Dave looped a pass over the heads of two defenders to Tice racing down the right side toward the goal line. The TE's second TD of the day made the final score more respectable. Eagles 27 Saints 17 (1:04)

Eagles RB Keith Byers gang-tackled by Frank Wattelet (59), Rickey Jackson (57), Johnny Poe (25), and Sam Mills (51).

Randall Cunningham eludes the grasp of Frank Warren.

Ryan's patented attacking D was at its best, as the stats illustrate.

  • The Saints turned the ball over five times - three INTs and two fumbles. Hebert was sacked three times.
  • NO converted just 2 of 13 third-down plays.
  • The Eagles held Mayes to a measly 20y on 13 carries and the Saints to 32y on 18 tries.

Postgame comments

  • Mora: What it boils down to is they made the big plays when it counted. He added, Our special teams played poorly today.
  • One of the recipients of a game ball, D coordinator Wade Phillips, who held the same position under his father with the Saints, shrugged off any suggestion his unit could read the Saints minds on running plays. Everybody has tendencies. You've just go to stop them. Cleveland knew what he (Mayes) was doing. They just didn't stop him.
  • Mayes: A lot of times it seemed they knew what we were doing when we were running. Every time I tried to cut back today, it seemed like their free backer was in the hole.
  • One of the former Saints who received a game ball, FS Terry Hoage, broke up two passes and was in on nine tackles. Jim Mora predetermined who was on his team and never allowed me to play football. It was sweet for me to beat Mora and the coaching staff.
  • Another former Saints S, Russell Gary, excelled at nickel back and also prevented Gray from recovering his dropped punt, leading to a FG. All my friends are over there. We knew they like to throw the ball a lot, so we were giving them different looks and playing different defenses. We were hoping to get some turnovers that way.
  • Saints NT Tony Elliott announced: There's a very good possibility I may not strike. I know that won't sit well with my colleagues, but, when I wake up in the morning, I got to look at myself. I have obligations to my teammates, but I also have obligations to my family, too. ... Whatever decision I make will affect them, and I want to make sure I can afford to do what I do. It may get ugly.
  • Jim Finks said he planned to sign 35-40 free agents and veterans willing to cross the picket line if a strike were called. We're going to wait and see if there is a strike and then, if there is one, we will do our best to field a team. We have not signed anybody to a contract yet, but we have contacted some players to see if they will be available.

Two days later, as promised, the NFL Players Association declared a strike, the principal bone of contention being free agency.

Continued below ...

Strike and Game 3
The NFLPA declared a strike for midnight EDT Monday, September 21 following the con­clusion of the Monday night game between the Patriots and Jets.
  • About 40 Saints players gathered at 8 AM Tuesday mornin g and formed a picket line along a two-block area of Saints Drive in front of the team's administrative building.
  • Owner Tom Benson and President/GM Jim Finks announced the 1987 season would continue with free agents if the work stoppage didn't end soon. Benson read from a prepared statement: We endorse the [NFL] Management Council's policy to play because we felt strongly that we owe it to the City of New Orleans and all people affected by our presence. ... Research shows that the Saints generate 2,500 jobs, an important segment of the city's economy. To stop playing our games would effec­tively put those 2,500 people out of work, at a time when our city's economy is try­ing to rebound from perilous times.
  • The owners were determined to avoid what happened in 1982 when the players held a 57-day walkout that wiped out seven weeks of the season.
  • Like most teams - but not all, the Saints had been compiling a list of free agents ready to play if necessary. The newcomers started arriving Wednesday morning to take physicals and could begin practicing as early as Thursday.
  • G Steve Korte, who underwent surgery for a shoulder separation September 8, drew the wrath of his teammates by crossing the picket line. It's a decision I had to make, and I've got to stand up for what I believe in. I've got a family to support and a business to run, and it was just something I felt I had to do. The bottom line was I felt I couldn't afford it financially. G Brad Edelman said Korte's action was not in the best interest of the team. I'm not pleased with it at all, and the guys didn't look upon it too favorably. I'm sure it'll have some repercussions down the line ... maybe league-wide.
  • The NFL cancelled the games scheduled for Week 3 but announced plans to resume the season the following weekend.

Thursday morning, a bus load of replacement Saints slipped into training camp five minutes before picket lines were established, thus avoiding the confrontations that took place in other NFL cities.

  • For example, picketing Redskins broke windows of a bus carrying replacements while some Houston Oilers broke a window and pelted the bus with eggs and a rock. In Cincinnati, QB Boomer Esiason and two teammates sat in the path of a bus arriving to pick up scabs but got up when two police cruisers arrived.
  • The substitute Saints drew equipment, attended team meetings, and went through a light workout. Every one of them had been in either an NFL or a CFL camp.
  • The most familiar replacement name to New Orleanians was QB John Fourcade, who starred at Archbishop Shaw High School and Ole Miss. I have an opportu­nity to make some money and impress somebody. ... I'm only 26, and I think I can still play. I'm not a scab. I'm just an unemployed football player looking to play some football. He said several other teams offered him more money, but he decided to sign with his hometown team for $50,000. However, he didn't think he'd earn much money. It probably won't last long. We'll probably be out of here by the week­end. I'd be really shocked if we ever step on the field and play a game.
  • Other recognizable names among the new Saints were LSU TE Malcolm Scott and former Cleveland WR Dwight Walker of Nicholls State, both of whom, like Fourcade, were released by the Saints during the 1986 training camp, as well as RB Garland Jean Batiste of LSU, LB Joe DeForest of USL, and John Fourcade's brother Keith, a LB from Ole Miss.
  • The team that Jim Mora tried to whip into shape to play the Los Angeles Rams October 4 included a security guard, a car salesman, and a bricklayer. The atti­tude, enthusiasm, and hustle is excellent, he said. I was very pleased with our first practice. We'll coach the heck out of these guys and get them ready to play.
  • In the meantime, many of the striking Saints went through a 90-minute workout organized by QB Bobby Hebert and LB Sam Mills at Mike Miley Playground, across the street from the Saints' practice complex.
  • As the resumption of play loomed with negotiations to end the strike going nowhere, additional Saints union members joined the replacements: WR Eric Martin, DT Bruce Clark, NT Tony Elliott, SS Antonio Gibson and Gene Atkins, and CB Reggie Sutton and Michael Adams. One teammate called Martin a "sis­sy" for rejoining the team. At least Eric wasn't spit on, as happened to Jets DE Mark Gastineau, leading to a fist fight with several teammates.
Finally, Sunday, October 4 arrived.
  • Not surprisingly, Fourcade won the starting QB spot over Kevin Ingram. John's mo­bility would be an asset behind an inexperienced offensive line.
  • The best runner, TB Dwight Beverly, was no Rueben Mayes but he would have to do.
  • The only defensive area with no scabs was LB, but those are the guys making the defensive calls.
  • The Saints needed the defense to score a TD or at least set up a short drive.

The 0-2 Rams also benefitted from some late defections from their picketers.

  • QB Steve Dils rejoined the team on Thursday. TB Charles White was no Eric Dickersen but was solid.
  • Punter Dale Hatcher crossed the picket line Friday as did four defensive players: DT Greg Meisner and Shawn Miller, LB Jim Collins, S Nolan Cromwell.
  • The only receiver with any experience was Bernard Henry, who spent 1982-85 with the Colts.
Game Three: Los Angeles @ New Orleans

How many people would show up at the Superdome?

  • The answer was the smallest home crowd in Saints history, 29,745, many of whom gave the union picketers a rough time. One sign said "TAKE YOUR PICKET AND STICK IT." Another banner asked, "WHO DAT IN DEM UNIFORMS?"
  • The attendance was the second largest in the league after Denver's 38,494. Overall, the NFL played to only 26.2% capacity in its stadiums on the first day of replacement ball. Detroit and Philadelphia, playing in big union cities, drew less than 5,000 each.
  • When the replacement Saints took a 13-0 lead, the crowd chanted, "Stay on strike! Stay on strike!"
  • They also saw their new QB set a Saints record for longest TD pass.

The Saints took control immediately.

  • Q1: After an exchange of punts, Fourcade led a 17-play, 72y drive that con­sumed 10:18. John was 5-of-6 for 30y and kept the drive going twice with two third-down runs, a 2y sneak and an 11y scramble. The TD came on his 1y toss to wide open TE Ken O'Neal. Saints 7 Rams 0 (1:23 remaining)
    Replacement football was epitomized by a play that made the Saints' 1987 Highlights video. Fourcade underthrew a long pass down the right sideline that a Ram intercepted and ran back 20y until he lost control of the football. A Ram lineman picked up the pigskin and continued toward the Saints' goal line until he fumbled while apparently trying to lateral the ball. Fourcade picked up the ball and ran down the left sideline untouched to pay dirt. But all in vain as the play was nullified by a penalty.
  • Q2: On the Rams' next possession, CB Sutton broke through untouched, blocked Hatcher's punt, and ran the ball in from the 13. The PAT failed. Saints 13 Rams 0 (13:01)
    Three plays later, the other CB, Adams, also a strike defector, recovered a Dils fumble at the LA 29. Seven plays later, Fourcade hit Martin for an apparent 11y TD but offsetting penalties nullified the play. No problem. John scrambled and connected with Eric again. Saints 20 Rams 0 (8:36)
    John got flushed and reversed his field, said Martin. I saw him and adjusted my route.
    Before the period ended, Covington native Vincent Alexander from USM ran in from the 1 to cap a 12-play, 54y march that consumed 5:23. The halftime scoreboard read Saints 27 Rams 0. (1:44)
  • Q3: The visitors finally got on the board with a 37y Mike Lansford FG following an interference penalty on Adams to put the ball at the NO 17. Saints 27 Rams 3 (9:42)
    The Saints answered with another grinding drive, 12 plays for 80y, to set up Mike Cofer's 27y FG. Saints 30 Rams 3 (2:10)
  • Q4: The next TD set a Saints record: 82y from Fourcade pass to TE Mike Wa­ters, who beat regular LA S Cromwell with 13:16 to go. Saints 37 Rams 3 (13:16)
    The Rams took some solace from a 40y pass from backup QB Bernard Quarles to WR Stacey Mobley pass for six points with 5:11 left. Saints 37 Rams 10 (4:10)
    Nothing interesting happened the rest of the way.
    FINAL: Saints 37 Rams 10

The statistics bore out the home team's dominance.

  • Fourcade completed 16-of-21 for 222y and three TDs. He also rushed 39y on six carries.
  • The makeshift Black and Gold offense converted 14 of 18 third-downs, including nine straight.
  • The defense limited the Rams to 207y and just a little more than 22 minutes of possession time.
  • The only blot on the afternoon was the nine penalties for 87y. But that was un­derstandable for a team with so little time to prepare.

Postgame comments

  • Mora: I'd like to thank the fans. They made a big difference in the football game. The response we got was all positive from the beginning, even before they knew how it was going to turn out. The fans had a lot to do with our win today. For the first time since he became head coach in '86, Jim walked around the dressing room con­gratulating each player individually. The players came together in a short period of time. We had 13 practices and really came together as a team. I'm talking off the field, in the locker room ... They achieved a closeness.
  • When told his name would be in next season's Saints media guide because of the record-long TD, Fourcade replied: I just hope I'm in the media guide as one of the players on the ball club. I feel like I can play in this league. ... The last time I played in an actual football game was 1983 in Canada. If they want to bring me back [when the strike ends], that's their decision. ... The coaches told me all week to be a Phil Simms, not a Dan Marino. Take the short stuff. John surprised everyone by showing little emotion during the contest. When I played college ball, people thought I was arrogant. Today, I figured if we scored, I'd just keep quiet and cele­brate later. It was very emotional for me out there, though.
  • Waters said of his QB: I'm surprised he's not playing somewhere. He played a hell of a game. From everything I saw out there, he should have been in the NFL before, walking outside with the striking players, not in here playing with us. He's got a rifle. I think he's a great quarterback.
  • Rams coach John Robinson was also impressed with Fourcade. He had a great game. If he could play like that week in and week out, he'd certainly be playing in this league somewhere.

How long would the strike continue?

To be continued ...

Steve Korte

Brad Edelman

John Fourcade

Bruce Clark

Steve Dils

Eric Martin

Reggie Sutton

Mike Waters

John Robinson

Games 4 and 5

Stacey Dawson

Vai Sikahema

Leonard Smith

Tommy Barnhardt

Gene Stallings

Sean Payton

Mike Hohensee

Florien Kempf

Mike Ditka

Michael Adams

Reggie Sutton

Glen Kozlowski

As the players' strike entered its 19th day, the 2-1 Saint Elsewheres (as one wag named them after a popular hospital-based TV show) traveled to St. Louis to meet the Cardinals.
  • Free agency remained the main impediment to a settlement. Owners had re­portedly rejected eleven different proposed by the NFLPA. One plan would have allowed total free agency only after a player had spent 10 years in the league, but the owners wouldn't budge on even that mild a proposal.
  • Union official Doug Allen said of the owners, I don't think they're interested in breaking the cycle. They're interested in breaking the union.

Times-Picayune writer Jimmy Smith started his story the day of the game this way: For the most part, they remain anonymous even after a week in the limelight. With another week of strike-induced fame coming their way, the replacement Saints, it seems, aren't exactly on their way to becoming household names.

  • TE Mike Waters had caught a record-setting 82y TD pass against the Rams the week before. But when asked if he had received any fan mail, he asked, Does this count? and produced a form letter from coach Jim Mora informing him he had been fined for missing weight training.
  • WR Stacey Dawsey, who caught six passes for 79y, replied, No fan mail. But I went to a club the other night, and the policeman at the door recognized me. He said, "Stacey, come over here. You played a hell of a game." It kind of surprised me.
  • The exception to the anonymity was QB John Fourcade, a Gretna native. I went to a restaurant with a friend of mine the other night, and I had to get up and leave. We couldn't eat. When asked if he was following the strike, Fourcade replied: I just turn on the TV and watch the news. All I want to hear is they're still on strike. Most of these guys here want to hear that. We don't want to hear it's over.
  • John was happy that the Saints activated his brother Keith, a LB, to replace an injured player. But RB Vincent Alexander, who rushed for 71y against LA, didn't report for practice Wednesday, and the team had not heard from him since then.
  • The two rosters featured 30 of the 130 players who had crossed the picket lines. The Cardinals were bolstered by 18 scabs, including RB Earl Ferrell and return specialist Vai Sikahema. LBs E. J. Junior and Charles Baker anchored the de­fense along with DLs Mark Garalczyk and Curtis Greer and S Leonard Smith. Also regular punter Greg Cater returned to camp.
  • St. Louis entered the fray with a 1-2 record following a 28-21 loss to the Red­skins in their first replacement game.
Game Four: New Orleans @ St. Louis

A paltry crowd of 11,795 showed up in Busch Stadium to watch the Saints special teams give the victory to the home team.

  • Q1: The visitors held the ball for 8:38 on the opening drive. But when Mike Cofer set up for a 33y FG, second-team QB Kevin Ingram, who last played in 1984 in the CFL, fumbled the snap. Blowing the FG was bad enough, but as Ingram dove on the ball, he was hit by Leonard Smith. The ball squirted loose into the hands of CB Mark Jackson, who ran 77y untouched. It was an error on my part, said Ingram afterwards. The snap was good. Cardinals 7 Saints 0 (6:22)
    Six plays later, Tommy Barnhardt, the Saints regular punter, booted 37y to Sikahema, who returned 29y. With 15y added for a face mask penalty, the Cards set up shop on the 17. Six plays moved the ball to the 6 and led to a 24y FG by Jason Staurovsky, whom the Saints had cut in the preseason.
    Cardinals 10 Saints 0 (0:45)
  • Q2: Fourcade twisted his knee when sacked by S Smith. John would return twice after having his knee taped.
    With six minutes left, Fourcade, still gimpy, went down a second time while handing the ball to RB Dwight Beverly. So Ingram came in again and, after two running plays, sprinted to the left to pass and, while jumping over a prone team­mate, was leveled by LT Garalczyk. When the ball popped free, Smith ran it 29y for another TD. Cardinals 17 Saints 0 (5:42)
    Ingram redeemed himself to some extent by throwing a 5y TD pass to WR Eric Martin as time ran down in the half. Martin did an excellent job of keeping his feet in bounds in the back of the EZ. However, the EP was blocked. Cardinals 17 Saints 6 (0:18)
  • Q3: New Orleans bogged down after receiving the kickoff. So Barnhardt punted 49y to the 1.
    The subsequent punt by Greg Cater traveled only 30y to the 39.
    Taking advantage of the great field position, Fourcade led an eight-play drive that culminated in a 3y Beverly run. The PAT again failed. Cardinals 17 Saints 12 (4:29)
  • Q4: Barnhardt dropped back to punt on 4th-and-10 from the NO 39. But three Cardinals broke through and trapped Tommy, who was tackled on the 26.
    Seven plays later, second-string QB Sammy Garza bootlegged in from the 2. Cardinals 24 Saints 12 (10:59)
    Starting from their 32, the Saints scored again, Beverly running 5y to paydirt with 6:56 on the clock. Cardinals 24 Saints 19 (6:56)
    The Saints third and final fumble came with 4:18 to go as they were driving for a go-ahead TD. Beverly coughed up the ball at the NO 49.
    Beverly: Someone came on the blind side. Unfortunately, the ball got loose. We were definitely going to put the ball in the end zone on that drive. Maybe I blew the game in some way.
    St. Louis ran the clock down to 58 seconds by driving to the NO 2.
    The game ended with Fourcade throwing a long pass that was intercepted by Mark Mathis on his 15. FINAL: Cardinals 24 Saints 19


  • The Saints held the league's top-rated O (409.7ypg) to 143y and the #1 passing offense (298.3ypg) to 4 net yards, a Saints record. Altogether, the Cardinals offense drove only 37y for their 10 points. Defense and special teams did the rest.
  • The New Orleans offense, meanwhile, amassed 29 first downs, 368y (213 rushing), and led in possession almost 2:1 - 39:35 to 20:25.
  • Despite limited mobility, Fourcade completed 16 of 34 for 177y. TB Dwight Beverly tied a team record with 35 carries for 139y.

Postgame comments

  • Mora: I thought our guys battled their butt off. These guys are trying hard, and they're accepting our coaching and doing the best they can. When you feel like you moved the ball offensively, and you feel like you did a good job defensively, you feel lik you ought to win. It's frustrating.
  • CB Reggie Sutton: This is a good example of how important the kicking game is.
  • Cardinals coach Gene Stallings: I told the team not to worry about how we won, although there are some plays we'll talk about Monday. ... It's a compliment to thse guys they do as well as they do. That's the reason we have a training camp. Sixteen weekends make a year for us, and we train all year for those 16 weekends. Now, all of a sudden, we've got to get a team ready to play in one week. It's a struggle. Look at New Orleans. They lost their QB with a twisted knee for a time, and it hurt them, even though the other kid took them in for a score. But it sort of messed up what they were trying to do.
Game Five: New Orleans @ Chicago

By the time the Saints met the Spare Bears (or Care Bears or UnBearables) at Soldier Field October 18, the strike had ended.

  • With an increasing number of defectors, the players union caved in after 24 days and called off the strike on Thursday, October 15 without a new collective bar­gaining agreement. The NLFPA would not officially return as a union until 1993.
  • So the replacement teams would take the field one last time before the strikers returned to practice.
  • The NFL raised the roster limit to a whopping 85 - 45 active, 40 inactive - to fa­cilitate the return of the striking players.

Many Saints and Bears players prepared for their last game in an NFL uniform.

  • LB Joe DeForest said, To tell the truth, I've been trying to concentrate on the Bears. But he admitted being worried that he might not get his old job back as a systems analyst for the space shuttle at Cape Canaveral FL. I got a leave of ab­sence, but it was only for three weeks. We're in Week 4 now. ... My boss ... told me they'd have a hard time keeping a spot open.
  • RB Nate Johnson would return to the unemployment line in Houston if he didn't stay on the roster. I guess I'll have to go back and look for a job, go to school in the spring.
  • OT Ken Kaplan, a two-year NFL veteran, could return to his part-time job for UPS at $12/hour after making $4,375 per week with the Saints. I'm taking it day by d ay just like everybody else. I didn't think the strike would go longer than a week. Maybe I've got a chance to stick. I was thinking about retirement before I came down here, but playing these last two games have re-lit the flame.
  • RB Dwight Beverly, NO's leading rusher with 171y, had a steady job waiting in Calgary, Alberta, Canada if he didn't make the 85-man roster. He was a bouncer in a striptease club. It's a nice job. I escort them out when they drink too much. I like the job. But I don't want to make a career out of it.

The Bears had honored a request made by their veterans before the strike and de­clined to offer training camp cuts the $1,000 retainers that many clubs used to stockpile fringe talent. Only two of Chicago's five scouts were deployed to rate talent.

  • But personnel man Jim Tobin gathered the best talent he could from the Arena Football League, including 14 of the 18 players who appeared in the league's all-star game.
  • Bears DT Jim Althoff planned to return to his executive position for a mechanical construction job. LB Bobby Bell, whose father played for the Kansas City Chiefs, might go back to cleaning carpets or working at his father's barbecue restaurant. QB Sean Payton could return to either the Arena Football League or the Canadi­an Football League after playing in both leagues earlier in 1987 following his col­lege career at Eastern Illinois.

Which team could put the distractions aside and concentrate on winning?

  • The Bears, with no scabs on their team, sported the top-rated defense in the league both against the pass and the run, the major reason they were 4-0, in­cluding replacement wins over the Eagles and Vikings by a combined 62-10. The Saints O-line would have to protect Fourcade to mount a passing game that could open up the 6th-ranked running attack. That was easier said than done as the Bears had 20 sacks the last two weeks.
  • Fortunately for the Saints, the Chicago passing offense struggled (13th at 197 ypg). To make matters worse, QB Mike Hohensee, who had thrown 4 TDs and only one INT in his two starts, practiced all week but was scratched an hour be­fore kickoff because of cartilage damage in his knee.
  • The Saints cut K Mike Cofer during the week and replaced him with Florien Kempf, who had been working for the University of Pennsylvania's personnel department. The move would pay dividends immediately.

46,813 (14,000 more than the previous week) turned out on a 51° afternoon to watch the visitors, with eleven regular players on their roster, upset the Bears to spoil Mike Ditka's 48th birthday.

  • Q1: Former Indiana QB Steve Bradley started the game for the home team and tried to read plays numbered 1-50 from a piece of paper tucked in his waistband under a towel. But Ditka started alternating Bradley with Payton, even play-by- play at times.
    I was trying to save their lives, Iron Mike said later. Really, there was no difference. That was really the best way to bring in the plays. Bradley liked the arrangement. It gave me more of a chance to talk to the coaches, to get input. It was hard to get anything established as it was.
    DL Jon Norris snagged Fourcade's pass and returned it 15y to the 9. But the Bears had to settle for Tim Lashar's 22y FG. Bears 3 Saints 0 (6:49)
    Lightning struck the Saints when Egypt Allen recovered a fumbled kickoff return by Mike Adams at the NO 8. On the next play, Bradley hit Chris Brewer for a TD. Bears 10 Saints 0 (6:31)
  • Q2: Kempf booted a 48y FG early in the period. Bears 10 Saints 3
    CB Reggie Sutton blocked a Kevin Brown punt, and Gene Atkins fell on the ball in the EZ for an apparent TD. But officials ruled that Sutton held Brown as the two scrambled for the loose ball, and the Bears were awarded a first down on their 27.
    I though it was an unfair call, Sutton said afterwards. I was going for the ball. But referee Gene Barth explained afterward: We have a holding rule that if one player holds another player to allow a teammate to grab possession of a loose ball, that's a foul.
    Chicago got another break on the same drive when Allen fell on his second loose ball, this time on a fumbled punt on the Saints 18. Two plays later, Bradley went inside to hit Glen Kozlowski on an 18y TD pass. Bears 17 Saints 3
    Kozlowski would leave the game later with a broken ankle.
    The visitors finally got a TD on Fourcade's 14y pass to Eric Martin in the last minute before the break. Earlier in the march, John hit Stacey Dawson for 14 and Martin for 16. Bears 17 Saints 10 (0:42)
  • Q3: Continuing what amounted to a tryout for another team once Morten Ander­sen returned to the Saints, Kempf booted a 31-yarder. Bears 17 Saints 13
  • Q4: With the defense holding Chicago scoreless the entire half, the Saints kept chipping away at the lead with Kempf's third FG, this one from the 32. Bears 17 Saints 16
    The Saints finally went ahead on Kempf's 21y FG into the wind. Saints 19 Chicago 17 (4:30)
    Kempf on the short FG: It was an extra point, but it was a special extra point.
    Sutton stepped in front of a quick out from Payton for his third INT of the after­noon - and the Saints' fourth - to end the Bears final attempt to get into position for a wind-aided FG. FINAL: Saints 19 Chicago 17

Stacy Dawson runs after a catch against the Bears. Cut by the Saints
in training camp, he got a second chance during the strike.

Postgame Comments

  • Mora: We heard before the game that Hohensee wasn't going to play. So we keyed on their running game. You've got to do that against any team, not just the Chicago Bears. Jim also bade farewell to his replacement players. I'm proud of the job these players have done in three games for us. I'm happy to see the strike is over, but these replacement players did a heckuva job.
  • Sutton on his last INT: The QB kept running a quick out. On the last one, he took three steps, the guy ran out, I timed it and was able to pick it off.
  • Kempf on his four FGs: The protection was great, the snaps and the holds were great.
  • Ditka: In all honesty, we didn't deserve to win. They moved the ball, and we didn't. It blemished our record. We didn't want the blemish, but it's there, and now we have to pick up the pieces. In addition to Honhensee, the Bears also missed Anthony Mosley, their best replacement RB. Ditka: They knew we couldn't run the football, and they had better people than we did. They had two veteran defensive linemen, and all four of their defensive backs were together in camp.
  • Althoff: We wanted to go out with a win. I'm sure the regular players are as dis­appointed in us as we are disappointed in us.

Continued below ...

Games 6 and 7
Game Six: San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans

The striking Saints players returned in time to play against their chief NFC West rival.

  • The secondary ranked #2 in the NFC in pass defense thanks to an unfusion of experienced players who crossed the union picket lines.
  • On the other side of the ball, N.O. ranked #3 in rushing offense in the NFC, averaging 140.4 ypg. Replacement TB Dwight Beverly had provided a spark in that area with 217y in three games but would not play another NFL game once the strikers returned.

The San Francisco replacement team, which, like the Saints, had 13 scabs, finished 3-0 to bring the Niners overall record to 4-1, one better than the Saints' 3-2.

  • "They're the class of our division," said Saints coach Jim Mora of the 49ers, who had reached the playoffs five of the last six years while winning two Super Bowls.
  • QB Joe Montana, who didn't play in either game against the Saints in 1986 be­cause of back surgery, returned to the Superdome to head Bill Walsh's West Coast offense. He brought along his usual cohorts: WR Jerry Rice, TE Russ Francis, and FB Roger Craig.
  • However, the 49ers defense came in minus several injured players in their front line. Also, veteran RB Joe Cribbs was injured and would be replaced by rookie Terrence Flagler.

K Morten Andersen set a team record with five FGs, but it wasn't enough.

  • Q1: Montana revealed his game plan when he threw deep but incomplete to Rice on his first snap. However, Dave Waymer was flagged for illegal contact. But the 49ers soon had to punt.
    Many in the crowd of 60,497 booed Bobby Hebert when he took the field but cheered as he engineered a Saints drive starting from their 23. He hit Mike Jones with a 22y third down pass to put the pigskin on the SF 49. When the drive bogged down after 11 plays, Morten Andersen booted a 39y FG. Saints 3 49ers 0
    On the first play of Frisco's next possession, Joe went deep for Rice again, who was covered this time by first-time starter Van Jakes. Jakes replaced Johnnie Poe, who saw his streak of consecutive starts end at 87. The only way Jakes could stop the completion was to interfere. Again, the visitors could not take advantage of the break.
    Near the end of the period, SF S Ronnie Lott grabbed Rueben Mayes' fumble and returned it 33y to the 14. Three plays later, Montana lofted a pass to Rice in the right corner of the EZ. 49ers 7 Saints 3
  • Q2: The visitors got the ball back on their 4. After gaining one first down, Mon­tana & Company faced 3rd down at their 21 when Joe connected with Mike Wil­son to the 33 to keep possession. Finally, Montana threw over a leaping Way­mer to TE Ron Heller for 39y and a TD. 49ers 14 Saints 3
    I jumped at the wrong time, Dave ex­plained afterward. I thought I had the interception.
    Jakes had a moment of glory when he scooped up Roger Craig's fumble that was caused by Sam Mills' hit and ran 30y down the sideline amid a convoy of blockers to the SF 18 where Craig made amends by making the tackle. That was crucial since the Saints could do nothing with the break.
    Later, the Niners consumed 6:10 on a 13 play drive from their 36 to the 14 from where Ray Wesching booted a 31y FG with just 1:28 remaining. 49ers 17 Saints 3
    But that was enough time for the Saints to drive 45y in five plays, most coming on Mayes' 38y run, to set up Anderson's 49y FG with 0:02 left. 49ers 17 Saints 6 at the break.
  • Q3: The Saints defense shut down the Niners in the period. SF ran just nine plays, including two punts, and gained 7y with no first downs. Meanwhile, Hebert led a 12-play 62y march. The big play was a 15y reception by TE Hoby Brenner to put the ball on the 14. But on first-and-goal from the 7, Bobby overthrew a wide-open Brenner in the corner of the EZ.
    It was a touch pass, said the Saints QB. I couldn't drive it to him. I was trying to get it to the corner where, if Hoby doesn't get it, no one else does.
    After two runs gained 5, Andersen booted a 19-yarder with 8:05 showing on the scoreboard. 49ers 17 Saints 9
    The Saints also reached the 2 on their next series, but Dalton Hilliard was stopped cold on third down, and Andersen kicked his second straight 19y FG with 38 seconds left. Instead of a possible 20-17 lead, the Saints trailed by five heading into the final 15 minutes. 49ers 17 Saints 12
  • Q4: The home team finally got a TD, but it was the special teams that secured it. Jakes struck again, blocking Max Runager's punt, which went high in the air to Alvin Toles, who ran it in from the 11 to put the Saints in front. Saints 19 49ers 17
    But the defense couldn't hold. From the NO 14, Joe fired his third and final TD pass to Wilson, who beat Jakes with 11:26 to go. The play culminated a five-play, 80y drive. The key advance came on a 39y Montana-to-Rice pass over Waymer and a 15y face mask penalty on Dave to put the ball on the 14. 49ers 24 Saints 19
    We were blitzing, explained the Saints CB. We just didn't get there. I tried to strip the ball out. I was running right with him. Joe threw the ball inside. I saw his hands go up. I raked down and got caught in his face mask.
    But the Saints fought back. Hebert connected with Jones for 33y to the SF 23. Two plays netted 3y, with Hebert splitting his lip on the second one when he was leveled by John Tice while passing. (Bobby would get three stitches after the game.) Facing 3rd-and-7 from the 20, Jones and Herbert Harris, just off seven weeks on injured reserve, lined up left with FS Ronnie Lott covering Harris one-on-one. But both receivers went to the same vicinity, and the pass fell incomplete. Hebert walked off hopping mad. So Andersen came on and booted a 37-yarder. 49ers 24 Saints 22 (5:36)
    Needing a stop, the Saints got it but only after the Niners advanced to the NO 45. Walsh decided not to chance it on 4th and inches and sent out Runager, whose punt traveled just 21y to the 24 with 1:52 to go.
    Hebert electrified the crowd with a 31y completion to rookie Lonzell Hill to the SF 43 with 1:15 left. But three runs by Rueben Mayes made it 4th-and-2 at the 35 with just under 30 seconds to play.
    No problem. The Saints called their final timeout at the 0:07 mark. Andersen was four-for-four on game-winning FGs in his career. But his 52y attempt for the win sailed long enough but well left. FINAL: 49ers 24 Saints 22


  • Rueben Mayes gained 144y on 29 carries. Jakes made 10 tackles but also committed two interference penalties.
  • Montana finished 13-of-32 for 256y.

Postgame comments

  • Mora was not a happy camper. His news conference included quotes that were repeated for years to come and set the tone for the rest of the season. We got stuffed every time we got down to the goal. I'm tired of coming close. I'm tired of should'a, would'a. The bottom line is who gets the "W" and whose gets the "L." ... The Saints ain't good enough, and you guys shouldn't write about us being a playoff team and all that bull. That's malarkey. We've got a long way to go, a lot of work to do. We're close, and close ain't worth **** and you can put that on TV for me. ... For people to even think we're a playoff caliber team is ridiculous. If we're a playoff caliber team, we would have beaten San Francisco today. On the play calls on the last drive: We thought we could get the ball close enough by running it. We wanted to get close for him to kick a FG. That's the obvious reason.
  • T Stan Brock on the red zone frustration: It was horrible execution on our part. There's no excuse. They just outplayed us on the goal line. It was absolutely disgusting.
  • Hebert: I really think we have the potential to put it in. But everyone has to come up with the big block.
  • Jakes: I expected them to come after me. If I was a QB on the other team, I would too. It was my first time out there, so I expected them to. I wasn't up to the challenge today. I didn't do that well. I gave up a lot of passes, but it will come in time.
  • Andersen on his final miss: I'm disappointed. I'm mad at myself. I have no one to blame but myself. He denied he was rusty from the three-week layoff. I didn't feel tired, but I kicked a lot this week, trying to get back into it. Still, Mort now ranked #1 all-time in kicking accuracy with 104-of-130 for .800.
  • Walsh: Our defense forced them to kick the field goal all day. Because of that, I think they depended on it too much.
Game Seven: New Orleans @ Atlanta

Next came another divisional rival, the Falcons, in the only meeting between the two after the strike wiped out the game in New Orleans.

  • Atlanta stood a game behind the Saints at 2-4. Both opponents were coming off tough losses, the Falcons having fallen to the Houston Oilers 37-33.
  • Coach Marion Campbell emphasized improving his pass rush, including adding a fourth down lineman to its 3-4 scheme. "We've got to have a meaner attitude," said NT Tony Casillas. "We all feel pressure to do better."
  • The Birds, who had boasted the league's most improved defense in 1986, ranked last against the run and 27th in overall defense.
  • On the other side, the Saints hoped to bring pressure on QB Scott Campbell. "I really like him," said Mora. "He's got a good arm, excellent mobility. He's a better passer than David Archer." The latter, more of a scrambler than Campbell, had been demoted to backup. After having his secondary exposed by Montana the previous Sunday, Mora knew his defense would need to force Campbell out of his comfort zone.
  • The Saints hoped to avoid the franchise's 200th loss - especially since no NFL team had lost that many in its first 21 years.
  • Instead, the Black and Gold, favored by two points, planned to celebrate All Saints Day, their 21st birthday, with a victory.

The headlines in The Marietta (GA) Daily Journal the next day summarized the game nicely: Campbell threatens jobs as squad looks hapless and After Sunday, the Saints ain't Ain'ts anymore. Behind a "systematic offense and an opportunistic defense," New Orleans shot down the Falcons 38-0 for their most decisive triumph in the 36-game history of the series.

  • Q1: The crowd of 42,196 included some 10-12,000 Saints fans.
    When Scott Campbell trotted onto the field for Atlanta's first series, the team's streak of starting seven different QBs in seven consecutive regular season games came to end.
    The Saints opened the scoring on their first possession when Hebert hit Jones in the back right corner of the EZ just beyond a defender for a 7y TD to cap a 10-play, 80y march. Bobby was 3-for-3 for 19y and scrambled twice for 25 in addition to benefitting from 10y for tripping against Casillas. Saints 7 Falcons 0
    Two plays on NO's next drive may have been Atlanta's undoing. After forcing a punt, the Saints played 1st-and-10 at the Atlanta 44. As Hebert dropped to pass, a strong rush by DE Mike Gann allowed him to grab Bobby by the ankles. But as the QB fell, he completed a 10y pass to Rueben Mayes. The Falcons thought the whistle should have blown because Hebert was in the grasp.
    Gann said later, That was a bad call on that in the grasp thing. They need to be more consistent.
    After a 17y completion on the next play, Hebert found TE Brenner who ran to the 7. But the ball came free as Hoby was being tackled, and Bobby Butler fell on it for the Falcons. Atlanta had the drive stopped. Cheers from the home crowd. But wait. The replay official, after watching the video, ruled the ground had caused the fumble. Cheers from the Saints' crowd, boos from the locals. But wait. After further observation, Brenner did indeed fumble. More cheers and boos only with the roles reversed. But wait. Referee Dick Hantak revealed that an official had inadvertently blown his whistle while the ball was loose (to make up for the silent whistle on Gann's sack?), thereby stopping the play. Saints' ball, 1st-and-goal from the 7. Frustrated because they had to settle for FGs inside the 10 against the 49ers, the Saints changed their blocking schemes during the week. The move paid off when, two plays later, Barry Word dove over from the 1. Saints 14 Falcons 0
  • Q2: With the lead, the Saints shut down the Falcons' formidable running game while their combination zone and man-to-man defense confused Campbell. Antonio Gibson, Jakes, and Reggie Sutton had thefts in the first half.
    Sutton's pick led to the only score of the period on Hilliard's 5y run. A 23y reception by Jones and one for 20y by Brenner earned all but 6y of the advance. Saints 21 Falcons 0 (2:55)
    Atlanta's deepest penetration the first half was the Saints 38.
  • Q3: The Falcons defense continued to give a good account of itself, but the offense could make no headway.
    One play after Falcons FS Brenard Wilson missed an INT on his numbers, Andersen kicked a 48y FG. Saints 24 Falcons 0
  • Q4: Brett Maxie and Milton Mack snared INTs #4 and 5 for the Saints.
    Hilliard scored his second TD of the day, this one on a 30y run through a gaping hole at LT. Saints 31 Falcons 0 (5:21)
    As the game neared its end, the Saints followers danced happily in a conga line down the aisles while the Falcons fans made a bee line toward the exits.
    After Hebert hit Hilliard with a pass for 7y on 3rd-and-3 at the 18, Mel Gray tacked on the final six points with a 3y plunge in the waning moments. Saints 38 Falcons 0 (0:29)
    The final TD so excited the Saints' self-proclaimed mascot, "Moses," that he jumped out of the stands and ran with Gray to the sidelines before being escorted off by two uniformed guards. Some of the Saints tried to dissuade the security people from taking Moses into custody. NT Tony Elliott said afterwards, They should give him police protection just like all the other mascots.
    FINAL: Saints 38 Falcons 0


  • "Run-of-the-mill Saints QB Bobby Hebert" (as described by Wayne Minshaw in the Marietta paper) completed 16-of-26 for 171y without an INT. Mayes gained 112y on 19 attempts.
  • On the other side, Scott Campbell hit on only 14-of-29 for 156y with five INTs. He endured four sacks, two by Frank Warren, for -28y. RB Gerald Riggs managed only 46y on 14 carries.
  • The Saints led in first downs 29-12, rushing yards 244-55, passing yards 171-156, total yards 410-183, and time of possession 37:37-22:23.

Postgame Comments

  • Mora: I don't have much to say today - no tirade. What can you say about a game like that? It was just a great effort ... We played well in all phases of the game. On the errant whistle on Brenner's fumble: That helped. ... That was a break that we got. I don't know if it was a legitimate call or not, but that helped us.
  • Hoby said he didn't lose the ball until his elbow hit the ground, which would justify the whistle. He added: It was a strange feeling to be ahead like that. It was nice to come in at halftime with a 21-0 lead. That changes the whole outlook of things. It was a good feeling.
  • Hebert: We feel that if we can control the line of scrimmage and keep them off balance with the run and pass, we can play with anybody in the NFL.
  • LB Rickey Jackson: We will make the playoff; there's no doubt about that. ... [Last week] really made us mad. We gave up a game we should have won. If we had won last week, I don't know if we would have been the same ball club today. Losing last week really taught us a lesson - Dont count none of them until you get them. ... The shutout means a lot because we haven't had one in a while, and Atlanta kind of beat us pretty bad last year in the first game. Now I feel like we've gotten even.
  • Coach Campbell to the press after reading the Riot Act to his team: I won't stand for that kind of play (spicing his conversation with profanity). I can't make anything good out of it. I won't stand here and try to. I want to be honest with you. We've got to get ourselves to work. Either do it with what we've got in the locker room today or with somebody else. And that's exactly what I told our football team. Asked if he would change QBs, Marion replied, No, no, no. I'm not gonna go fooling around with that position.
  • T Mike Kenn verified what Campbell told the team. It won't be a very fun week of practice. But what can you do, quit? ... We gotta play it one at a time. Forget about New Orleans and get on to the next one.

Continued below ...

Van Jakes

Marion Campbell

Tony Casillas

Scott Campbell

Mike Gann

Milton Mack

Games 8 and 9

Charles White

Jerry Gray

Jim Everett

Damone Johnson

Lonzell Hill

Vaughan Johnson

Steve Young

Barry Word

Tim McKyer

Harry Sydney

Ron Heller

Joe Marciano

Game Eight: New Orleans @ Los Angeles Rams

The 4-3 Saints played the second of three straight road games.

  • The Rams, who lost to the Saints in the Dome 37-10 in the first replacement game October 4, had a stranglehold on last place in the West Division with a 1-7 record.
  • So for once it was not the Saints who were at the bottom of the division midway through the season.
  • The Los Angeles club had just undergone a shakeup, trading unhappy RB Eric Dickerson, who became the Rams leading rusher in franchise history in four years. The Rams received six first- and second-round draft choices and two RBs in a three-way deal with Indianapolis and Buffalo. Charles White moved into the starting RB spot during the strike and led the NFL with 436y.
  • The Rams began the A.D. (after Dickerson) era with a 31-10 loss to San Francisco.
  • On Wednesday, head coach John Robinson suspended disgruntled CB LeRoy Irvin for "conduct detrimental to the team."
  • "They've started to change a little bit without Dickerson," said Jim Mora. "What we're preparing for is a little more passing, more two TE, one-back formations, then some two-back sets with White and (Mike) Guman. I think John is always going to feel you have to run the ball to be successful."
  • The Saints had beaten the Rams on the road just three times by 7, 8, and 15 points.

43,379 saw the Saints defeat the Rams like the L.A. team usually beat them.

  • Q1: As they did against the Falcons the week before, the Saints had the opponent's D befuddled from the beginning. Rueben Mayes ran for 7, then 21y. Two plays later, QB Bobby Hebert, who was becoming less and less of a dancer in the pocket, connected with WR Mike Jones for 30y to the LA 19. Four plays later, Morten Andersen booted a 32y FG. Saints 3 Rams 0 (10:37)
    On NO's next possession, CB Jerry Gray snatched an Hebert pass. But the Saints stopped the Rams on 4th-and-3 at their own 33.
    Enter RB Dalton Hilliard, who, two weeks earlier, the coaches decided needed to get the ball more. After an Hebert-to-Eric Martin aerial gained 16 to the LA 39, Dalton gained 0. But then Bobby spotted his HB open in the middle of the field on a safety-valve pass. Making tacklers miss the way he did at LSU, Dalton eluded four Rams and bounced off the tackles of several others en route to a 38y TD. Saints 10 Rams 0 (1:42)
  • Q2: The Saints' fourth turn at offense included a 30y Hebert-to-Hilliard connection. From the LA 23, Hebert handed to Dalton who rolled right, stopped, and lofted a pass in Mike Tice's direction in the rear of the end zone. Defenders Nolan Cromwell and Gray crawled up Tice's back, blatantly interfering. "But I looked back," Mike said, "and the bleeping ball was right there. It was a perfect pass." Saints 17 Rams 0 (10:14)
    Fans booed owner Georgia Frontiere as she left the sidelines with 8:07 left in the half.
    The Rams carried some momentum into halftime with a TD right before the break. Hilliard fumbled, and LA recovered at the NO 23 with 1:45 to go. It appeared that the RB was down, but a review of the play upheld the call. That seemed to take some of the starch out of the Saints. Shortly afterward, QB Jim Everett hit Damone Johnson with an 8y TD pass. Saints 17 Rams 7 (0:51)
  • Q3: The home team continued their momentum on the second half's opening drive. Starting from their 33, the Rams moved down the field to cut the lead to 3. Everett avoided a three-and-out by scrambling 9y to his 35. The advance culminated in his 32y pass to Greg Bell. Saints 17 Rams 14 (11:44)
    When New Orleans had to punt, the home team had a chance to tie or take the lead. But Brian Hansen lofted a 47y boot which, coupled with a holding penalty, put LA in a hole at the 8. After White gained 3 on first down, Everett dropped back to pass. WR Henry Ellard broke out of his assigned route, trying to make a big play. However, FS Brett Maxie, playing deep in a zone, targeted Henry all the way. The ball ticked off the receiver's fingertips right into Brett's arms at the 35. Five plays later, Mayes ran it in from the 2 for his first TD of the season. Saints 24 Rams 14 (4:56)
    Ellard explained the INT afterwards: I came out of my route and just reacted to the ball.
    Maxie: All you have to do is read Ellard. He takes you to the ball every time.
  • Q4: Johnson's recovery of a Greg Bell fumble midway through the period led to an icing TD. Hilliard gained 50 of the 63y on the drive that ended when Hebert scrambled and hit rookie Lonzell Hill with a 3y scoring pass amid a bevy of defenders in the EZ. Saints 31 Rams 14 (10:35)
    Reggie Sutton's INT, his fifth of the season, shanghaied the Rams' last-gasp drive. FINAL: Saints 31 Rams 14


  • Dalton Hilliard enjoyed the best game of his short pro career: 14 carries for 92y and four receptions for 84 more and a TD. He also threw a TD pass.
  • The Saints' top-rated D held the Rams' running attack to 102y. Although they didn't sack Everett, they intercepted him twice and held him to 50% completions for 202y.
  • NO held a 36:54-23:06 advantage in time of possession.

Postgame comments

  • Mora was asked if he felt differently about his team from two weeks ago. We've won two games. We're getting better. ... I just don't know yet. I'll probably know in a few more weeks. In response to another question, Jim replied: I don't want to talk about the playoffs. We've got seven games left, and all I'm thinking about is San Francisco. Jim didn't hesitate, though, to identify the key play of the game. That interception [by Maxie] was the turning point in the game.
  • LB Vaughan Johnson disagreed with his coach's assessment of the team. It's time for people to stand up and take notice of the New Orleans Saints. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Today. Hilliard added: Today was a day when the New Orleans Saints put the rest of the league on notice that we're a force to be reckoned with.
  • Dalton's teammates lauded his effort. Stan Brock: Unbelievable. He had a great game. If he's not the NFL offensive player of the week this week, there's something wrong with the voting. [Hilliard was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.] I've see Hokie (Gajan) do things like that, but it's been awhile. I'm real tickled for him. ... You see a back make those kinds of runs once in a year. We watched Dalton do it all day long. I can't wait to watch the film and see him do it all over again.WR Eric Martin, a teammate of Hilliard at LSU: That was Dalton at his best. He made some amazing runs in college, just like he did out there today. G Brad Edelman: I caught a few glimpses of him bobbing and weaving, running over people after he got past the line of scrimmage. It was sweet. FB Buford Jordan: They didn't draft him No. 2 for nothing. I saw him run like that on TV at LSU, but it's even better seeing him in person. He ran over people all day long. If you think you're going to bring him down arm-tackling, you got another thing coming. ... He's going to be a great one.
  • Rams CB Mickey Sutton explained why his team had so much trouble with Hilliard. He's built so low to the ground, he doesn't give you a good target. He kept making us miss him.
  • Dalton cited his competition with Mayes for the starting position. When you're constantly competing against someone like Rueben, it helps. It was like that at LSU with Garry James. You push each other, and you work hard together.
  • Some of his teammates had a theory about why Hilliard had such a good day, saying it had something to do with Alabama's 22-10 victory in Baton Rouge the night before to hand the Tigers their first loss of the season. After LSU lost, he was mad at the world, said chuckling CB Van Jakes. Dalton denied the charge. Those guys are just playing around. I wanted LSU to win, but I hope I played like I did today because I was ready to do it.
  • LB Rickey Jackson was happy that Dickerson no longer lined up for the Rams. There were a couple of holes out there today that Dickerson would have gained 60 or 70 yards and maybe even scored on, but today without him they only gained three or four yards.
  • John Robinson was at a loss to explain the defensive shortcomings of his team, which finished fifth in the league in defense in 1986. We've played good opponents. Still, I can't help but believe the problem lies with us. What's going on right now is just plain embarrassing. I don't have any answers.
  • The Rams' were impressed with the Saints. SS Vince Newsome: If the Saints keep playing at this pace, they could be on their way. They still have to take it week by week, but I think they can make the playoffs.
Game Nine: New Orleans @ San Francisco 49ers

The Saints now began a stretch of three games against coaches with a combined seven Super Bowls among them: Bill Walsh of the 49ers, Bill Parcells of the Giants, and Chuck Noll of the Steelers.

  • San Francisco led the NFC West with a 7-1 mark, the only loss coming in the opening game against Pittsburgh, 30-17. They won all three of their strike games.
  • Was it just the usual coachspeak when Walsh praised his upcoming opponent? New Orleans is one of the strongest teams we will face this year. So we have to be at our very best just to stay on the field with them. His words made you wonder why the Saints were a four-point underdog. Maybe it was the fact that the Niners beat them in New Orleans 24-22 three weeks earlier.
  • Walsh again: They're executing better all the way around. Defensively, they've stopped everybody dead in their tracks. They have the No. 1 defense in the NFL at this moment, which is saying an awful lot. The offense has moved the ball efficiently. They can run and pass. The development of Hilliard as a running back gives them depth.
  • To what did Bill attribute the Saints' rise? You can start with the coaching. It's among the best in football. There's sound leadership at the top in Jim Finks. They have had, for a period of years, a number of outstanding players.
  • When apprised of Walsh's remarks, Mora smiled. He's trying to stroke us. He wants our guys thinking we're so good. It makes him look better if they beat us.
  • The important question was, Who will start at QB for the 49ers? Walsh said lefty Steve Young would start instead of Joe Montana, who had been limited in practice because of a sprained finger suffered in practice Wednesday while holding the ball for placekicks. But the skeptical Saints fully expected to see Montana under C Sunday.
  • One Saint seeking redemption was CB Van Jakes, who made his second NFL start when the 49ers came to the Dome October 25. I gave up two touchdowns and allowed five completions when we were in man-to-man coverage, Jakes said. That's way too many, personally, for me. I take pride in being a tough cover guy. It's a big game for me, to come back and maybe come up with some big plays.

The crowd of 66,436 saw this game, like the first between the teams, come down to a FG try in the last minute - but with a different result this time.

  • Q1: The visitors got on the board first on Andersen's 40y FG, which hit the right upright near the top but dropped over. The score was made possible by Bobby Hebert's 19y pass to Eric Martin on third-and-8 at the NO 31. Rueben Mayes contributed a 17y run, and Hebert threw a 14y pass to FB Barry Word. Saints 3 49ers 0 (6:05 on the clock)
    Young started but left after only one quarter because of a mild concussoin. He completed 5 of 6 passes, the last a 46y TD to a wide-open Jerry Rice. 49ers 7 Saints 3 (1:00)
    At halftime, Steve thought it was still the first quarter, said Walsh afterwards. Young: I tried to argue with the coaches that I was all right, but they said it was the doctor's decision. Obviously, it was correct. I was excited to get a chance to contribute.
  • Q2: Montana replaced Young but couldn't get anything going offensively.
    The only scoring came on FGs by Andersen from 27 and 51 yards within 1:44 seconds of each other. (Mort also missed a 41-yarder earlier in the period.) The first FG came about as a result of a 15y personal foul penalty on Jeff Fuller, Dalton Hilliard's 9y run, and Hebert's 9y aerial to Martin on third-and-3 at the SF 23. 49ers 7 Saints 6 (1:54)
    With time winding down, Dave Waymer's INT of a Montana pass and 17y return to the SF 23 set up the second three-pointer. Saints 9 49ers 7 (0:10)
  • Q3: Hebert connected with Mike Jones for a 43y TD to cap a drive that started at the NO 35. With the Saints needing only 3y on third down, Jones took a quick-out, slipped the tackle of CB Tim McKyer, and ran down the right sidelined, just beating the pursuit across the goal line. Saints 16 49ers 7 (11:26)
    It's designed to get the first down, but I wasn't surprised it went for a touchdown, said Mike.
    Minutes later, the 49ers pulled a dipsy-do to fool the defense. Montana pitched out to HB Harry Sydney who floated a 50y TD pass to Rice, who had gotten behind SS Antonio Gibson. We had a communication problem there, explained Gibson. We were in a zone and hadn't yet decided who was going to cover who when they snapped the ball. Saints 16 49ers 14 (5:10).
    The home team moved into FG range late in the closing seconds. But Reggie Sutton blocked the 47y attempt by Ray Wersching, and Johnnie Poe scooped up the ball on one bounce and, with no one near him, raced 61y to score. Saints 23 49ers 14 (0:03)
    I got a good jump off the ball, and nobody touched me, said Sutton, who had blocked two punts earlier in the season. I almost ran past it, but I slowed down and stuck my forearm out, and it hit me.
  • Q4: The Niners drove far enough for Wersching to connect on a 35y FG. Saints 23 49ers 17
    San Francisco took the lead for the first time since the second period when Montana threw a 29y TD pass to TE Ron Heller and Wersching converted. The key plays in the 11-play 63y march were Rice's 5y reverse on third-and-1 at the SF 46, and Roger Craig's 8y run on 4th-and-1 at the NO 40. The TD came on a 4th-and-7. 49ers 24 Saints 23 (2:54)
    It looked like another heartbreaking loss for Saints fans to swallow. But these weren't your father's Saints. Hebert made two clutch throws, one to Lonzell Hill for 23y and another to Martin for 31y to the 24, close enough already for a FG. After two plays netted only 1y, Martin got behind the defenders but dropped a pass at the 3. So Andersen took the field for a try that would be harder than his 52y off-target boot three weeks earlier in the Dome that left the Saints two-point losers. This one was only 40y but into a stiff wind. As soon as Mort booted it, he fell back on his behind. From that position, he watched the ball pass inches inside the upright and barely clear the crossbar. The Saints came off the bench to congratulate their kicker. Saints 24 49ers 22 (1:09)
    Would Montana lead another patented drive to pull out the victory? The Niners reached the Saints 40 with 18 seconds remaining. However, with no timeouts left, Montana made a rookie mistake. Instead of throwing the ball away, he scrambled up the middle to the 31, and the clock ran out before he could get another play off. FINAL: Saints 24 49ers 22


  • Hebert completed only 10 of 27 for 181y. The 49ers held Hillard, the star the week before, to just 30y on 11 tries.
  • Montana hit on 16 of 29 for 144. SF outrushed the Saints 140-105.

Postgame Comments

  • Mora on what some writers called the biggest victory in Saints history: We're a contender. But being a contender doesn't count. What counts is where you are at the end of the season. ... It took a lot of ways to win this football game. The kicking game participated, the offense participated, the defense participated. I felt that's what it was going to take to beat these guys. Based upon what I saw coming into this game, I thought they were the best team tht I've seen so far on film. ... I want to give Morten Andersen a lot of credit because that was a very tough kick into a tough wind. We had some real concern about him kicking into the wind and making a 40-yarder. We wanted to get closer, but that was a real clutch kick.
  • Andersen: I like those situations. I've done it many times before. I thrive on pressure. I don't think about the past. I saw what I had to make and a 40 yarder was what it was. I don't look at the wind either. I had to sacrifice something there because I knew I had to really get under it. I knew they were coming, and, if they block it, it's their game. I sure had a bad taste in my mouth the last few weeks. I was pleased to be able to pay them back today.
  • Hebert: The offense really wasn't in sync today. The 49ers were doing some different things, but we hung in tough until that last drive. We figured out what they were doing and finally executed properly.
  • Sutton said he had to beg special teams coach Joe Marciano to go for the block in Q3. On the extra points after their first two touchdowns, I saw that they weren't even worried about me. I came back and told coach, "Let's go right side block. I guarantee you I'll get it." On the field goal, he said it was OK to go after it. But he said, "You better get it." And I told him I was gonna get it.
  • Poe: It was an early Christmas present. It was so easy; it was like a quarterback giving me a handoff. I just picked it up and headed to the end zone. Johnny played on special teams because he lost his starting CB job to Van Jakes three weeks earlier. It's just a case of playing special teams and doing anything to help the team. You just have to accept your role. I can't change what's happened so I might as well do the job I have to do.
  • Walsh: This (loss) could shock us and ruin our season. But we have a good team, and I don't think that will happen. ... We played the No. 1 defense in the league today. I think the offense did pretty well under the circumstances. ... I'm not pleased with our defensive tactics at the end of the game. We should have been in a deeper zone defense. Instead, we played right up on top of them, which allowed them to make plays.

Continued below ...

Games 10 and 11
Game Ten: New York Giants @ New Orleans Los Angeles Rams

The Saints finally returned home after a glorious 3-0 road trip.

  • The opponent was the New York Giants, who, at 3-6, were hardly playing like the defending Super Bowl Champions.
  • The strike had taken its toll on the G-men, a strong union team that lost all three games with replacement players to bring their record to 0-5. Since the strike, NY had won 3 of 4.
  • Many Giants came to the Crescent City hurting: star LB Lawrence Taylor (hamstring - questionable), QB Phil Simms (knee - probable), who had missed the last two games, RB Joe Morris (shoulder - probable), T Brad Benson (knee - probable), and NT Jim Burt (leg - probable)
  • Coach Bill Parcells on the Saints: They are very physical and running it very hard. They are doing a good job against the run and making good use of the personnel they have. They are gaining confidence in their ability to win.
  • The confidence the Big Tuna spoke up came from the fact that the Saints enjoy­ed the best start (6-3) in franchise history, in part because of a +6 takeaway/ giveaway differential.
  • You couldn't blame the Black and Gold players for approaching the game with confidence. "I think we are Super Bowl contenders," said LB Rickey Jackson. "I'll put us on the hot stake. I don't care. That's a big goal, but it's a goal I'm trying to reach."
  • Such talk made Coach Jim Mora cringe. "We have to keep our heads screwed on, not get carried away by our little success. That's very important."
  • NT Tony Elliott was still waiting for his boss to acknowledge his team's success. "I think everyone else has respect for us, but we are still trying to gain coach Mora's respect. We haven't heard his latest word. Are we playoff contenders or not? We are still waiting for his blessing. I want to hear him spit it out. ... Maybe after the Giants game. He's got to say it if we keep winning."
  • LB Pat Swilling took a different approach. "I don't want coach Mora to tell us we are playoff contenders. That would take some of the fun out of it. I want us to stumble into it one win at a time."
  • NO's running attack, led by Rueben Mayes, second in the NFC with 579y, would be challenged by the Giants, who, like any team with Bill Belichick as D-coordi­nator, prided themselves on stuffing opponents' ground attacks.
  • The Saints listed only three players as being probable: WR Lonzell Hill (shoul­der), S Antonio Gibson (shoulder), and TE John Tice (back).
  • Gibson's participation would reopen a wound with the Giants from 1986. Anto­nio put WR Lionel Manuel on the disabled list for 12 weeks with a crunching end-zone hit at the Meadowlands. Manuel underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee a day later. Many Giants thought it was a cheap shot, and sports­caster Dan Dierdorf, calling the game for CBS, agreed. Gibson denied the alle­gation. "It wasn't anything intentional. I'm sure from their standpoint, they might look at it as a cheap shot. I know myself, it wasn't a cheap shot." Antonio added that he had nothing to say to Manuel that couldn't be said on the field during the game. "I'll approach him just like I approach playing Jerry Rice or anyone else. I won't go out of my way to apoogize. I don't feel like I did anything wrong. ... I've had guys hit me and hurt me, and it's just part of the game. Next time I played them, I didn't expect them to walk up to me and apologize."

A rollicking sellout crowd of 67,639 saw the Saints dominate the final period to win their fourth in a row for the first time in their history.

  • Q1: Phil Simms watched from the sidelines as Jeff Rutledge took every snap in his place. Lawrence Taylor played four series before aggravating his pulled hamstring. In addition, TB Joe Morris didn't participate.
    Before leaving, Taylor overhauled Mayes to hold what might have been a TD run to 16y. He also batted down a TD pass in the EZ, forcing the Saints to settle for Morten Andersen's 19y chip shot on their first possession. Saints 3 Giants 0 (11:03)
  • Q2: The Giants struck for a TD after a fumble recovery. First, a holding penalty nullified a 28y Saints gain. Pepper Johnson and Andy Headen hit RB Dalton Hilliard simultaneously to knock the ball loose, Erik Howard recovering at the NO 46. Shortly after, with only three Saints rushing, Rutledge had time to sur­vey the field and found rookie Stephen Baker racing past CB Van Jakes down the left sideline. Jeff pumped right, then heaved the ball the other way, and Baker leaped for it at the 1 and flew into the EZ. Giants 7 Saints 3 (13:48)
    The Saints responded with a 15-play, 77y drive to run 9:30 off the clock and retake the lead on Barry Word's 1y plunge. Saints 10 Giants 7 (4:14)
    Word crashed the middle of the line behind C Joel Hilgenberg and guards Chuck Commiskey and Steve Trapilo. It was tight, it was tight, Barry said afterwards. I just had to get through on that one. I had to get the ball in. There wasn't anything there, but I got in.
    But the home team wasn't through. Regaining possession with 0:44 on the clock, they drove 60y to set up Andersen's 43y FG. Hebert hit Hilliard with two passes worth 37y, and Mayes darted 22y on third down. Saints 13 Giants 7 (0:00)

    Pat Swilling (56) and Jim Wilks sack Jeff Rutledge
  • Q3: Twice during the period, the NO D got good field position with turnovers, but twice the offense failed to take advantage.
    Giants RB George Adams fumbled a handoff from Rutledge, and LB Pat Swilling recovered at the NY 41. But the Saints had to punt after gaining only 4y in three downs.
    The G-men scored their second TD on a beautiful catch by TE Mark Bavaro of a 22y throw from Rutledge. Bavaro made a one-handed stab of a high pass and got both feet down just before going out the back of the EZ.
    Giants 14 Saints 13 (10:35)
  • Q4: After a run lost yardage and a sack, Manuel caught a 17y pass that left the Giants just 1y shy of a first down. Parcells, after thinking about going for the first down, sent in Raul Allegre for a 40y FG. But Allegre, who had made FGs of 52 and 52y the week before, missed.
    The NO defense forced another turnover, and this time the offense capitalized. Swilling rushed around LT Benson and knocked the ball out of Rutledge's hands. CB Dave Waymer recovered at the 27. The Saints and their fans had some anxious moments as the play was reviewed, but the call of a fumble was upheld.
    The break ignited the offense, which had been stagnant at best in the second half. On 3rd-and-5 from the 22, Hebert connected with WR Eric Martin on a TD pass. Saints 20 Giants 14 (6:30)
    Hebert later explained: The call was "K 60 speed free." Nine times out of 10, the ball would go to Martin. When the Saints QB came to the line of scrimmage, he noticed that DB Herb Welch picked up Martin at the line. When I came out of the huddle, I wanted the ball, said Eric. I knew Bobby would throw it to me, es­pecially with the Giants guy pressing me. I expected to get the first down but not a touchdown. Sensing a blitz, Hebert took the snap, dropped three steps, and fired the ball to Martin slanting right to left. Eric caught the ball at the 17. Welch and CB Perry Williams appeared to have the WR sandwiched at the 15, but Eric slipped through, then easily sidestepped S Greg Lasker at the 2 for the TD. Eric: After I got out of that (sandwich), I knew I was going to score. We had to score, because time was running out, and they were up by one point. You never know when one play is going to make the difference in the ball game. I think that play made the difference. Hebert: They were coming hard with the pass rush. I saw them bracket Eric. Usually, when I see the bracket, I turn to another receiver, but the guy (Welch) had his back turned. I knew he couldn't see the ball coming, so I just threw it past his head, and Eric made a great run.
    The NO special teams created the next break that led to the clinching FG. First, the Saints D played like madmen, pouring in, knocking down passes, forcing quick throws, sacking the harried QB. Finding themselves pushed back to the 11, the Giants lined up to punt. "Maligned CB" Johnny Poe partially blocked Sean Landeta's kick at the NY 11. SS Gene Atkins recovered at the 12, and an un­sportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball to the 6 with 5:44 on the clock. Four plays later, Andersen's 28y FG put the Saints up by 9. Saints 23 Giants 14 (3:26)
    In his film study, special teams coach Joe Marciano noticed a NY punt-team tendency. WB Gary Reasons, if given a choice of blocking an inside or outside rusher, always blocked the inside man. He figures the outside guy won't have enough time to get to the ball, said Poe, the outside rusher on the play. When Reasons blocked the inside man, Reggie Sutton, Poe came around the outside untouched. Landeta: I never saw him until the kick. I'm supposed to angle the punt right, but I never saw him. One punt turned a great day into a disaster. Mora later said, We didn't have a block on. We weren't trying to go after it. We weren't going, "Hey, we got to block this sucker."
    Both of New York's last two possessions ended in INTs, one by Jakes and the other by Dave Waymer, who leaped high to get his.
    At the end of the game, owner Tom Benson grabbed a fancy umbrella and boogied on the field with the Saintsations.
    FINAL: Saints 23 Giants 14


  • The Giants held a 20y advantage in total yards (298-278), but the Saints out­rushed the G-men 103-75.
  • Hebert threw for 175y against a Giants D that sacked him three times and pressured him on numerous other occasions.
  • The Saints sacked Rutledge five times and forced seven turnovers with five INTs, two by Atkins and one each by Brett Maxie, Jakes, and Waymer.

Postgame comments

  • Mora: This may be the most important victory I've ever been around. The key for us today, maybe as much as it ever was, was that it was a team effort. I know that's an old cliche, but it's certainly true for this team. The offense, the defense, the kick­ing team were all big contributors. That's the reason we've won the last four games. Everybody played great. ... We just fought and fought and fought. We have to keep doing that. I think these guys can play better. These guys know why they've been successful: they play as hard as they can after a hard, thorough week of practice.
  • Hebert was asked about the frustration of not taking advantages of opportunities in the first 45 minutes. It wasn't like we weren't trying. The Giants are just a tough team to play. But we came up with the big play at the end. ... They were by far the best defense we've played this year. They were tough. Leonard Marshall is an awesome ballplayer. It seemed like he was always in there on me. They have an awesome defense, but we have an awesome defense too. That's why we were able to win.
  • Jackson: We're going to make the playoffs, there's no doubt about that. But now we're starting to think about going far into the playoffs, not just making the playoffs.
  • Martin: I think we're playoff contenders. But coach Mora will never tell us until we get in. If we win two or three more games, we might hear something from him. Knowing him, he probably won't say anything until after we play our first playoff game.
  • Swilling, wearing 56, the same number of Taylor: Lawrence Taylor has always been my idol. Just watching him on film - how he plays, what he does - has been a big help to me. I'd sure like to be known one day as the "new 56." On the crucial fumble Pat caused in Q4: I felt like we had to make some plays at that point. The defense decided that we had to make something happen, and we did.
  • Poe: We can win a game on offense or we can win a game on defense or we can win a game on special teams. Guys can't wait to get to practice. The climate began changing last season, and now there's only one way to go - forward. You begin to realize how contagious winning can be.
  • Elliott: The fans were our 13th man on the field.
  • Parcells: You are talking to a coach who has just lost the game that eliminated us from the playoffs. It doesn't sit well with me. Concerning the controversial fumble recovery: It looked like the call could have gone either way, but that's not what turned the game. You can't blame it on one play. We gave them too many opportu­nities, and they capitalized on enough of them.
  • Taylor agreed with his coach that the Giants' playoff hopes were extinguished. The fat lady started singing weeks ago, and today she finished her tune.
  • Rutledge wasn't sure his Q4 turnover was a fumble. He believed his arm was already in its passing motion, and it should have been ruled an incompletion. I know in my mind I was fixing to let it go. The ball went forward. I gave my side to the officials, but ...
Game Eleven: New Orleans @ Pittsburgh Steelers

The Saints found themselves in unfamiliar territory - only one win away from the fran­chise's first winning season.

  • Mora: It's always written, or said, "New Orleans, the only NFL team without a win­ning season." Each year when it doesn't happen, it becomes more of an objective, more of something to talk about. It's become a big thing. But once we do it, once we have a winning season, we won't have to hear about it, or read about it, anymore.
  • But first, the Saints had to take care of business against the 6-4 Steelers in or­der to regain a one-game advantage over the Minnesota Vikings in the race for home-field advantage in a wild card game. The Vikes had beaten the Cowboys 44-38 on Thanksgiving.
  • Mora: They're very comparable to our team. They're one game behind Cleveland, we're one game behind the 49ers. They're challenging for a division championship as we are, and fighting for a playoff spot. It's a meaningful game for us and them. We can't overlook anybody, and I don't see that happening to our football team at all.
  • Another similarity between the Saints and Steelers lay in the fact that they both had 22 INTs to lead the league. Pitt had a +12 turnover advantage to +11 for NO. One odd stat showed Pittsburgh fumbling 24 times but losing just four.
  • The Steeler QB, Mark Malone, ranked among the worst in the NFL. He had com­pleted just 43% of his passes and thrown 11 INTs to just six TDs. His QB rating of 47.5 put him dead last.
  • Chuck Noll, with four Super Bowl rings in his 19 seasons at the helm, wanted to avoid his third straight losing season after going 7-9 in '85 and 6-10 in '86.

Chilly damp weather (47°, 95% humidity, 12 mph wind) made the afternoon uncomfor­table for the teams and the 47,896 who gathered in Three Rivers Stadium.

  • Q1: The Saints looked sluggish in their fourth road game in five weeks. Both offenses started slowly, combining for only a FG in the first 15 minutes of play.
    Late in the quarter, Poe got his hand on a punt for the second straight week. Buford Jordan picked up the deflected kick and returned 13y to the Pitt 10. But the Saints had to settle for a 25y three-pointer by Andersen.
    Saints 3 Steelers 0 (2:42)
    The visitors wouldn't score again until Q3.
  • Q2: Pittsburgh went in front when Hebert overthrew his receiver straight into the hands of DB Dwayne Woodruff, who returned the INT 33y for the Steelers' sixth defensive TD of the year. Steelers 7 Saints 3 (12:30)
    With 4:29 left in the half, Mayes fumbled deep in Pitt territory, one of three on the day but the only one Pitt got hold of. The home team converted the turnover into its second TD. On the tenth play of the march, Walter Abercrombie ran over from the 5 shortly before halftime. Steelers 14 Saints 3 (0:46)
  • Q3: The Crescent City boys jumped back into the game when their sputtering offense got back in gear with an 86y scoring drive to start the half. On the 13th play, Mayes, who led his team with 73y on 22 carries, scored around RE from the 5. The key play was an Hebert-to-Hoby Brenner hookup for 20y to the Pitt 41.
    Steelers 14 Saints 10 (8:07)
    Unfortunately, that didn't cure the offense. For the rest of the quarter into the final period, they got good field position to start possessions without capitali­zing: their 40, Pitt 37, and their 45 and 42. Three of those four starting positions came after the defense forced turnovers: two fumbles and an INT by Poe. Hebert had to leave for one play after scrambling for a 4y gain that was wiped out by a penalty. Dave Wilson came in and threw an incompletion to force a punt.
  • Q4: Finally, the special teams made another important contribution to victory when reserve LB Joe Kohlbrand crushed an unsuspecting Rod Woodson on a punt return, and Dave Waymer fell on the ball at the Pittsburgh 21 with 8:58 to play.
    Kohlbrand: The guy held me up at the line of scrimmage, and I was late getting downfield. I went left and he (Woodson) went right. I don't think he saw me, and I ran right into him. I didn't even know I had caused a fumble.
    Mora: I saw the hit on the replay ... it was a great hit by Joe. He's the kind of guy you expect to make that kind of play. He gets his chance to shine on special teams, and he's done a great job.
    After two plays gained 2, Hebert lofted a pass just over the head of Steeler rookie CB Delton Hall to Eric Martin at the left edge of the EZ to take the lead. Saints 17 Steelers 14 (8:16)
    Hebert: It was a corner route where Eric fakes to the post and then goes over to the corner. On the presnap read, it looked like they were going to bracket [double cover] him, but the safety never went over there. Martin: We knew we definitely had to do something there. We didn't know if we would get another opportunity.
    On the second play after the kickoff, Milton Mack got in front of a Malone pass to put the Saints in business in Pitt territory. After falling short on 50 and 53y tries earlier, Andersen pushed the lead to six with a 32y FG. Saints 20 Steelers 14 (6:10)
    But the game was far from over. Pittsburgh would have two great chances to erase the deficit.
    Ron Woodson ran the kickoff back 30y to the Steelers 38. Malone and WR Calvin Sweeney combined on three passes for 52y and a first down at the 4. Then came one of the great goal-line stands in Saints history.
    1st down: Reserve RB Rodney Carter gained 2 up the middle.
    2nd down: Another reserve RB, Merril Hoge, picked up 1.
    3rd down: OLB Jackson, playing in the city where he starred in college for the Pittsburgh Panthers, deflected Malone's pass intended for RB Frank Pollard wide open in the EZ.
    4th down: Eschewing a FG from the 1, the Steelers kept their offense on the field. Malone flipped the ball to Pollard heading left. OLB Vaughan Johnson turned the play in and MLB Sam Mills and DE Jim Wilks met the runner head on less than a yard from the goal and drove him backward.
    The right side of the line did a great job of stuffing that play, Sam said afterwards. We anticipated run, and Jim and Vaughan did a great job of forcing him back into the strength of our run defense. ... My job, basically, is to come and clean up and make sure he doesn't fall forward. If he keeps his feet driving, I have to make sure he doesn't get that extra push. ... When you look at a team like Pittsburgh, you figure in a do-or-die situation, they'd run the ball. I was unblocked, and I got a good shot at him.
    Wilks: We knew Pollard was going to get the ball. Vaughan made a heckuva play by wiping out the lead back. When Vaughan did that, Pollard had nowhere to go. If was a big-league play by Vaughan.

    Sam Mills (51) makes goal-line stop on 4th down.
    When play resumed after a TV break with 2:13 on the clock, the Steelers had to use one of their precious timeouts because they had only 10 defenders on the field.
    We had a player hurt, and the substitute didn't go in, explained Noll. It was actu­ally the second wasted timeout in the period for having only ten men on the field, the earlier snafu occuring on offense. Those miscues would come back to haunt the home team later in the game. A month earlier, the Pittsburgh assis­tant coaches laughed at Cincinnati's Sam Wyche, nicknaming him "Wicky Wacky" when the Bengals mismanaged the clock and couldn't get their kicker positioned for a possible tying FG as time expired.
    The Saints decided to take an intentional safety after running three plays. Punt­er Brian Hansen ran out the back of the EZ. Saints 20 Steelers 16 (1:05)
    But the strategy nearly backfired. After Woodson returned the free kick to the his 44, the Steelers moved right back into scoring range as Malone picked the zone apart. He hit John Stallworth for 19, Weegie Thompson for 18, and Swee­ney for 10. Combined with a 5y penalty on the defense, that planted the ball at the 3. Hurrying his unit to the line of scrimmage, Malone chose not to spike the ball. As he went back to pass, Swilling and S Toi Cook broke though for a sack back to the 11. The officials stopped the clock momentarily to place the ball. When time resumed, Malone took the snap and threw a short pass toward Sweeney, but the ball never reached him. Waymer intercepted at the 4 - the Steelers' sixth second-half turnover and NO's 17th INT in the last five games. Suddenly, two decades of frustration were erased.
    Malone on why he didn't spike the ball on the first play from the 3: I was going to take one step and, if somebody flashed open, get them the ball. If nobody flash­ed open, I was going to throw it in the dirt.
    Noll questioned his QB's judgment. When you're out of timeouts, you have to throw the ball away and organize. Organizing (with the clock running) takes too much time off, and we didn't have that much left.
    Swilling on his sack: We knew that we had to make something happen at that point. He didn't have any timeouts left; so we came with the all-out blitz. The of­fensive line was being pushed back in the middle, and that allowed me to come in free from the backside.
    Saints fans at the game and the multitude watching back home wouldn't have to visit their cardiologists any time soon. If their tickers could survive this tension, they were in good shape.
    FINAL: Saints 20 Steelers 14


  • For the third straight week, the opposition won the yardage battle. Pittsburgh had 284 to 258 for the Saints.
  • Hebert had a shaky day: 14-of-23 for 154y.
  • Most important, though, the Steelers lost their turnover margin lead in the NFL after losing that battle 6-2.

Postgame Comments

  • Mora began with some uncharacteristic humor. We might have to win another one because they might put an asterisk on this one. It was a fight and a helluva battle. Credit our football team because they were able to come back. That's got to indicate something. Our guys have a lot of determination and believe in themselves, in what they can do, in their ability to come back. When you work hard all year, you fight a little bit more when the going gets tough. ... By achieving this, people can no longer write and talk about the Saints being the only team not to have a winning season.
  • NT Tony Elliott explained why there was no whooping and shouting in the locker room. We're always happy with a wn, but believe it or not, no one is excited because we're still in shock. We've been winning like this, as a team, for five weeks now. That's the only way we can win. We can't win with just the offense, or just the de­fense, or just the special teams. On the double scare at the end: We were mess­ing up our coverages and, before we knew it, they're down on our one and we're fighting for our lives. It was a great stand.
  • Hebert: The defense had been playing great. It was just a matter of us getting it together offensively. Their big people were putting pressure on me, and I wasn't able to move around a lot. On his injury: I'll get treatment on it all week. It'll be OK.
  • Poe: For a while during the game, it seemed like the monkey had become a gorilla that didn't want to get off.
  • Johnson: It was a total effort by our defense. But he admitted to being on the Steeler's last thrust. That shows you can never relax in this game. I was scared right down to the last second, but we did the job. The bottom line is that they didn't get it in.
  • Swilling: I like to look at a player's eyes to see what he's thinking. You could see in Malone's eyes that he wasn't quite sure what to do. When we pressured him in the pocket, he didn't know what to do.
  • Noll didn't apologize for the playcalling on the first goal-line stand series. The defense played well, and the offense played well. We just weren't able to overcome the fumbles and the turnovers. ... They played good defense down at the goal line. That's a pretty good football team. ... We made some mistakes that we almost over­came. We ran out of time. It comes down to that.
  • Abercrombie, the lead back on the failed 4th down run: I felt that play would work because it's worked before. I got my block, and everyone else had their block. The way I saw it developing, I thought we would score. I don't know why we didn't.

An estimated 2,500 screaming faithful waited for up to two hours at New Orleans In­ternational Airport for their heroes' return.

  • Many carried ice chests. Most were decked out in black and gold, and many sported umbrellas trimmed with the team colors.
  • As they waited for the plane, the happy throng danced, partied, and chanted "Who dat," the refrain of a song that became popular when the team last flirted with the possibility of the playoffs in 1983.
  • Signs proclaimed, "Bag Heads No More." "Mora's Knocking on the Door," and "Shudda, Wudda, Cudda. The Saints Did It."
  • One elderly man carrying a sign that read simply "Thank God" said, "I can't give you my name. My wife's out of town and thinks I'm home tonight. But I just couldn't miss this. I've been waiting for 20 years."

Continue below ...

Lawrence Taylor

Tony Elliott

Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells

Antonio Gibson

Pepper Johnson

Joel Hilgenberg

Steve Trapilo

Gene Atkins intercepts a pass intended for Lionel Manuel

Mark Bavaro

Joe Marciano

Sean Landeta

Leonard Marshall

Mark Malone

Chuck Noll

Buford Jordan

Dwayne Woodruff

Joe Kohlbrand

Rod Woodson

Calvin Sweeney

Frank Pollard

Vaughan Johnson

Jim Wilks

Sam Mills

Toi Cook

Games 12 and 13



Ray Perkins

Steve DeBerg

Vinny Testaverde

Tice celebrates the first of
his two TD catches vs Bucs

Bruce Hill

Rueben Mayes

Mark Pattison

Frank Garcia

Donald Igweibuke

Mark Carrier

Stan Brock

Johnnie Poe









Jerry Glanville

Warren Moon

Walter Johnson

Ray Childress

Eric Martin breaks loose
for a Q1 TD.

Mike Rozier

Tony Zendejas

Frank Warren

Ernest Givins

Paul Boudreau

Willie Drewrey

Drew Hill

Haywood Jeffires




Brett Maxie

Game Twelve: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans

Winners of a franchise-record five in a row to clinch the club's first winning record, the 8-3 Saints needed one more victory to achieve another breakthrough - a playoff berth.

  • The next opponent in the soldout Superdome would be the 4-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losers of four in a row.
  • Even though there would be three more opportunities to sew up a wild card spot, LB Vaughan Johnson spoke for many Saints when he said that losing to the Bucs would spoil the fun. You're only as good as your last game. We can go out there, mess around, and lose this game, and everybody that jumped on the bandwagon will be ready to jump off.
  • The Saints also needed to win in order to keep pace with the 49ers, who led the NFL West by one game.
  • Coach Jim Mora still refused to get caught up in playoff fever. Our goal is to beat Tampa Bay. That's all. He didn't think his squad would be overconfident. You can't be at an emotional peak 16 times during a season. I'm not naive enough to think you can be. But I still think you can approach every game the same way. You can't overlook anybody. We're certainly not a team that can afford to overlook anybody. As for the Bucs, They're very capable of beating anybody they play.
  • New Orleans entered the fray tied for third in the NFL in scoring defense and leading the league with 37 turnovers.

One Saint who looked forward to facing the Bucs was leading rusher (736y) Rue­ben Mayes.

  • He sliced the Tampa D for 172 and two TDs in the 38-7 victory in 1986.
  • The Bucs' 2-14 record led to Ray Perkins resigning as Bear Bryant's suc­cessor at Alabama and taking over for Leeman Bennett.
  • Perkins presided over a house cleaning with the result that the Bucs' roster listed as many as 17 rookies. He admitted that he was building for 1988.
  • We're not a very good football team. To be competitive, or even hope to be com­petitive, we knew we had to be on the same page and overachieve.
  • He rued the strike. To measure what the strike did, I don't know how I can put a gauge on it other than to say, I definitely don't think we have the same atti­tude we had prior to the strike.
  • The Bucs had a QB controversy of sorts between nine-year veteran Steve DeBerg and rookie Vinny Testaverde, the first player selected in the '87 draft who signed a six-year contract worth $8.2M.
  • DeBerg suffered a back injury in the previous game against the Rams. Per­kins wouldn't divulge who would start against the Saints until "two minutes before kickoff." But he did say that Testaverde "may get into the game and play some."
  • Saints LB Rickey Jackson expected the rookie to play. I hope so. It's about time for the guy to play. I can't understand a guy getting all that money, and he's not getting a chance to show his talent. LB Pat Swilling, who led the Saints with 7.5 sacks, agreed. I think we'll see him. It's all speculation, but, to me, it really doesn't matter.
  • Mora: We prepare for an offense, not necessarily people. I don't think they're go­ing to change a lot whether DeBerg's the QB or Testaverde is. They can't put in a whole new offense for Testaverde. We've got to prepare to stop formations, pass routes, running plays, blocking schemes. It doesn't matter who the QB is, but I would assume that we'll probably see Testaverde.

Since the game started at 3 PM, the Saints received good news early in Q2.

  • The Eagles beat the Giants 23-20 in OT, and the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Redskins 34-17.
  • Those results meant that a Saints victory would not just clinch a tie for a playoff berth but earn it outright.

The Saints made the thunderous crowd of 66,471 nervous when they gave up the most points in any game all season, 34, but still won by ten.

  • Q1: Testaverde started for the visitors but took awhile to get untracked.
    He fumbled on successive snaps, the Saints turning both turnovers into TDs.
    Bruce Clark covered the first bobble at the 27. Three plays later, Bobby He­bert hit TE John Tice for an 8y TD.
    Saints 7 Bucs 0 (11:19)
    On the first play after the kickoff, Vinny pulled out from C too early and dropped the snap. Swilling embraced the ball on the 33. Again, the Saints needed only three plays to score. The Hebert-Tice combo struck again, this time from the 6.
    Saints 14 Bucs 0 (9:31)

    Pat Swilling exults after recovering fumble.
    Perkins revealed after the game that he had decided to go with his rookie QB the night before and never considered pulling him after his slow start.
    On the Bucs' fourth possession, Testaverde, who admitted he was "too ea­ger" to start with, settled down and led a seven-play 49y drive that he end­ed himself with a sneak after a 3rd-and-18 strike to Bruce Hill put the pig­skin on the 1. Along the way, the Bucs used the last of their first half time­outs.
    Saints 14 Bucs 7 (2:31)
    The Saints answered right back. After two plays netted nothing from the 23, Hebert hit Lonzell Hill on a slant-in for 11y and a first down as the period ended.
  • Q2: The Saints faced 3rd-and-9 from their 35. Bobby connected with a wide­open Mark Pattison up the left sideline to the TB 29.
    Pattison: All the wideouts went straight up the field. Bobby got a little flustered in the pocket, but what he does so well is reease the ball fast. The guys coming at me went inside. I was wide open.
    During a timeout after the catch, Jerry Romig announced the Giants and Cardinals results, electrifying the crowd and the Saints.
    On the first snap after play resumed, Hebert threw to Hilliard for 12. After Mayes got 2, Mike Jones caught a play-action pass to the 7. Mayes swept LE to pay dirt from there.
    Saints 21 Bucs 7 (10:56)
    Soon after, Gray caught Frank Garcia's punt at the NO 16, saw an opening, and shot through it. 80y later, Garcia dragged Gray down. Dalton Hilliard scored from the 3 on the second snap.
    Saints 28 Bucs 10 (7:40)
    Gray explained afterwards: I saw a big hole on the left side, and I took it down the sidelines. Milton Mack did a good job of containing their force man, so I had room. The return was supposed to go to the right, but I decided to go back in the direction he punted it.
    Before the half ended, the visitors drove 60y, far enough for Donald Igwe­buike to boot a 37y FG.
    Saints 28 Bucs 10 (2:13)

Mel Gray begins his 80y punt return.
  • Q3: The Saints extended their lead to 21 on Morten Andersen's 40y three-pointer. Mayes' 13y scamper highlighted the 44y, nine-play march.
    Saints 31 Bucs 10 (10:56)
    Gray allowed Garcia's punt to bounce at the NO 47, reached for it, hesita­ted, then scooped up the ball, and set sail up the sideline. As in Q2, he didn't quite reach the EZ, being tackled at the 3.
    Again, it took two plays for Mayes to put six more on the board.
    Saints 38 Bucs 10 (8:11)
    Testaverde got better as the game progressed, and Tampa actually out­scored the Saints 24-16 in the second half.
    Testaverde fired a 37y bomb to WR Mark Carrier from Nicholls State, who beat CB Van Jakes. Saints 38 Bucs 17 (5:10)
    Another Igwebuike FG, this one a 43-yarder, cut the lead to 18.
    Saints 38 Bucs 20 (0:25)
  • Q4: Hebert teamed up with WR Eric Martin on a 67y pass and run to set up Andersen's second FG, a chip shot from the 14. Saints 41 Bucs 20 (11:43)
    Starting from the 20, the Bucs marched to their third TD, which Bruce Hill scored on a 12y pass from Vinny. Saints 41 Bucs 27 (9:49)
    Hebert and his cohorts continued to move the ball - 66y in 11 plays - but again bogged down short of the EZ. Andersen's 32y FG ended the Saints' scoring. Saints 44 Bucs 27 (3:34)
    With 3:59 left, two mounted policemen entered the playing area to help keep fans off the field after the final horn.
    Testaverde & Company ended the scoring with a 74y march that finished with Bobby Howard running in from the 2. Saints 44 Bucs 34 (1:56)
    Owner Tom Benson stood in the corner of the south EZ, his feet and hands constantly moving as he blew kisses, waved, and signed autographs.
    As time expired, T Stan Brock and CB Dave Waymer, the only players remaining from the 1-15 season in 1980, knelt together as Benson boogied over to congratulate Coach Mora as the PA blared "When the Saints Go Marching In." Benson wanted to lead a victory lap, but Mora waved his men into the dressing room while the jubilant throng broke into the "Who Dat" chant. FINAL Saints 44 Bucs 34


  • Hebert enjoyed a career-best performance: 16-of-24 for 255y and two TDs.
  • Gray totaled 203y on returns - 130 for two punts and 73 on three kickoffs.
  • Despite his shaky start, Testaverde ended the day 22-for-47 for 369y, the finest performance by a Tampa Bay rookie

Postgame comments

  • Mora finally broke down and said the magic word. I think we ought to talk about the playoffs. Are we a playoff team? You bet we are. When you get there, you're a playoff team.
  • GM Jim Finks: This is a milestone in Saints history. Now, nobody can ever say again that we're the only team that's never gone to the playoffs. But our season is not going to be a success unless we win our division. If we win the next three games, good things are going to happen. Believe me. ... The most gratifying thing about this victory is the fans. These people have suffered for 21 years. Finally, their hopes and dreams have become reality.
  • Brock had spent all eight of his NFL years in the Crescent City. This is some­thing you work for every year, and every year you believe it's going to happen. In the past, my dreams, our dreams, this organization's dreams, have always got shot down. They ain't shot now. We're in the playoffs, and they can't take that away from us.
  • Gray: It felt really good to finally break one. All year, I've been really close, but I've been having trouble getting my momentum up.
  • Jackson: We didn't have to mention it [the playoffs] at halftime. We all knew it. But we haven't reached anything yet. Our goal is to go 12-3, and if we don't do that, I'll be disappointed. I think everybody would be disappointed. We want to win the division ... That's our goal.
  • Mayes: The players on this team still have big goals. We're not satisfied with a wild-card spot. We want to win the division.
  • DB Johnnie Poe on making the playoffs: I feel like someone took a load of bricks off me. DL Tony Elliott: I feel like we crossed the Jordan, but we still gotta get to the Promised Land.
  • In the other locker room, Perkins, just one year removed from the college game, voiced an interesting take on the Saints. They play like a crazy college team. They play like I'd like us to play. Hilliard sounded the same theme in the Saints' dressing room. After we beat the 49ers, I felt like I was back at LSU. I'm talking about the way guys were hugging one another, screaming, shouting. Just like it was in college.They play like a crazy college team. They play like I'd like us to play.
  • Perkins on starting Testaverde: Vinny had learned as much as he was going to learn on the sideline. He had been ready for the last three, four weeks. I told him last night that his education was going to start on Sunday. This was part of his education. I didn't want his first experience to be a negative one. He got off to a bad start, but he showed remarkable poise; he had great composure. You could drop a Sherman tank on the field, and it wouldn't shake him.

The Saints' lost game against Atlanta in the first week of the strike loomed large.

  • After beating the Packers 23-12, San Francisco retained their one-game margin in the Division.
  • If the Saints won out while the 49ers lost to Chicago but beat the Falcons and Rams, the foes would finish with identical 13-2 marks.
  • Since the teams split their two meetings, the second-level tiebreaker would give the division title to the 49ers because of their 5-1 record within the division. The Saints would finish only 4-1 in the West because of the lost game.
Game Thirteen: Houston Oilers @ New Orleans

The Saints' achievement attracted attention all over the nation.

  • Austin Wilson, a sportswriter for the Associated Press, explained the origin of "Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" According to him, the chant originated at a high school and was first heard at a Saints game in 1983 in Atlanta when the players heard the fans singing it late in a victory.
  • Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, a high school T in his youth, proclaimed 1987 "The Year of the New Orleans Saints." We have forever cast aside our Ain'ts bags, learned the meaning of Mardi Gras in December and taught the rest of the nation to respect New Orleans football.
  • Times-Picayune sports editor Peter Finney called Bum Phillips at his 1,600­acre ranch outside Houston in advance of the game between the two teams he formerly coached. The Oilers were trying to make the playoffs for the first time since he coached them in 1980. The man whose acquisitions while Saints coach included six offensive starters and seven on defense along with Morten Andersen said, I couldn't be happier for Tom Benson, for the city, for those fans. No one deserves a winner more than New Orleans. My hat's off to those coaches, too. They got to be doing a helluva job.
  • Even Jerry Glanville, current coach of the 7-5 Oilers, expressed happiness for the Saints and their fans. As a defensive assistant with the Falcons, he had seen many bad times for the Saints, including the Big Bens and punter Russell Erxleben's lousy attempt at a pass after a bad center snap. I tell you what, looking at the Saints, I'm probably more excited for them than anyone. They've done a whale of a job. It's going to be great to be down there to be part of all the excitement. I'm really a Saints fan. I've always said that, if you're going to win in any city, New Orleans would be the best. I know the people there must be excited. It should be a heck of a ball game. ... It's no mystery why they're the hottest team in the league. They're playing excellent offense and defense. They've got good kick return people. It's no accident.

Oddsmakers installed New Orleans as 7 1/2-point favorites.

  • The Saints entered the fray with the league's longest winning streak, six games. Would they suffer a letdown after the euphoria of clinching the first playoff berth in franchise history?
  • Mora was his usual worry-wart self as he faced Houston's "Run and Shoot" offense. I'm very worried about their passing game. They've got five really good wide receivers, maybe the best group we've played against so far this year. And Warren Moon is an excellent thrower who can run, too. He's an excellent ath­lete who can really move around bcak there. We'll have to try to stay in his face and keep the rush on him, not give him any lanes to run the football.
  • Which Oiler team would show up in the Dome? The one that whacked the Chargers 33-13 the week before or the one that lost to the Browns 40-7 and the Colts 51-27 the previous two Sundays?

Another sellout crowd, 68,257 to be exact, enjoyed another exciting game.

  • Q1: If the Saints were still reveling in the previous week's game, what happened on the first play got their minds into the present. Moments after sending the opening kickoff on its way, Morten Andersen was leveled by Houston LB Walter Johnson, a hit that Mort called "a cheap shot." Knocked woozy for a few minutes by the shot under his chin, the Saints K suffered injuries to his left shoulder, left wrist, and two fingers on his right hand and had to be assisted from the field.
    When the Oilers had to punt, Jeff Gossett booted only 20y to the NO 46, Toi Cook returning 3y to give the Saints excellent field position.
    The home team started its possession with three WRs to break a string of three games in which they opened with three TEs. On the first snap, DE Ray Childress beat LT Jim Dombrowski and sacked Bobby Hebert. The signal-caller got up slowly and limped toward the huddle. Two plays later, Bobby threw a simple out and up pass to WR Eric Martin, who was wide open be­cause SS Jeff Bostic blitzed on the play. Eric did the rest, breaking free from a tackler and racing down the right sideline to the EZ. Saints 7 Oilers 0 (11:41)
    Neither team added any points the rest of the period.
    G Chuck Commiskey was called for a chop block with T Jim Dombrowski on the Saints' second possession. One problem with the call. I wasn't even in there, said Commiskey, laughing. I was waving to everyone while standing on the sideline.
  • Q2: Michael Adams broke through and blocked Gossett's punt and the ball rolled back to the 7, where the punter fell on it. Three plays later, the He­bert-Martin connection scored again, this time from the 7. Saints 14 Oilers 0 (9:15)
    Martin said his two TDs came on the same route, a Y-W flat-X-and-up. On the first one, we didn't expect to get a touchdown, just a first down. I was wide open. The second one, we were close to the goal line. It made it a lot easier.

    Adams blocks Gossett's punt just ahead of Van Jakes
    The block was the Saints' fifth of the season and the first of Gossett's six­year NFL career. On his previous four punts, the Saints had run the "freeze," holding the punting team at the line of scrimmage to prevent it from getting downfield fast. But this time, special teams coach Joe Marciano called for the "freeze block." Ten players rushed, CB Van Jakes from the left and CB Adams from the right. Adams just beat Van to the ball. We kept freezing him, said the rookie third-round draft choice from Arkansas State. We set him up. We went after him. It just opened up. It was there. He was a pretty fast kicker, but with my speed I just ran toward him, and he came right to me.
    Jakes attributed part of the block to returner Mel Gray, who had returned two punts for 130y the week before. The other team has two things to worry about. Us blocking one or Mel returning one. All the time now, we're begging the special teams coach to send us.
    Marciano: They had a tight punt formation, out of respect for our punt rush. I didn't see any way we could get one. We just ran the freeze two or three times, holding them up, and they got a little careless on that one. They were a little un­disciplined.
    Johnson came after Andersen again on the kickoff, but Mort avoided him.
    Starting from their 24, Houston moved to a 1st-and-10 at the 11. RB Mike Rozier gained 3 up the middle. But Moon threw two incompletions from there. So Tony Zendejas booted a 25y FG. However, DL Frank Warren was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct to give Houston a first down on the 4.
    Warren: I was called for taking a running leap before the ball was snapped. I always thought that what you couldn't do was use a teammate as leverage to block a kick. We used the running start a couple times this year, and nothing was called.
    After Rozier gained 0 over the left side, Moon again went to the air on 2nd and 3rd down without success. So Zendejas kicked again. Saints 14 Oilers 3
    Taking over with 3:54 remaining, the Saints embarked on a 75y, nine-play journey that culminated in Hebert's 26y pass to Lonzell Hill who cut across from the left side and snared the pass on the run just before stepping into the EZ by the right pylon. Saints 21 Oilers 3 (0:54)
    Moon finished the half with only four completions and 52 passing yards. How­ever, he would bounce back in the final 30 minutes.
    At halftime, the Saints made Archie Manning's #8 the first number in the Wall of Fame at the top of the Superdome.
  • Q3: Needing to score first to get back in the game, the Oilers took over on the Saints 49 when LB Al Smith sacked Hebert, causing a fumble that Chil­dress recovered.
    Two plays later, Ernest Givins caught a 34y TD pass from Moon. Replays showed that Givins had one foot out of bounds in the EZ, but the call was not reversed. Saints 21 Oilers 10 (12:16)
    When the Saints O-line returned to the sideline after Hebert's fumble, coach Paul Boudreau gave them an animated 90-second lecture. When asked afterwards what he said, Boudreau answered with tongue in cheek. I told them that the United States is a great country to live and work in, and, if they wanted to remain here, they better do a better job.
    After Houston scored its TD, Mora threw his headset down in disgust at the feet of the offensive linemen.
    With Cummiskey replacing Brad Edelman at LG, Hebert & Company moved 71 methodical yards in 12 plays to put Andersen in position for a 28y 3-point try. The key play came on 3rd-and-6 at the Oiler 47 when Martin made a di­ving catch on the 32. Trying to compensate for his injured left side, Mort missed earlier FG attempts of 46 and 48y. But he banged this one through the uprights. Saints 24 Oilers 10 (8:51)
    Martin was one of only two Saints (with Bruce Clark) who crossed the pick­et line in September. While his decision infuriated some Saints, the experi­ence matured Eric, who had driven his LSU coach, the seemingly unflappable Bill Arnsparger, to distraction. Forced into a leadership role with the re­placement players, Martin became more focused and consistent. When the regulars returned, Eric had to make peace with his teammates, especially Hebert who had said at the beginning of the strike, Shut up, Eric, or you won't catch another pass. "We've kidded one another about that ever since," said Bobby. Coach Mora had also accelerated Eric's journey to becoming Mr. Clutch during a preseason practice. Johnny Poe recalled, You didn't have to be close to hear. Coach got pretty loud. I guess he was making a few points. Martin agreed. He got some things off his chest. Somewhere along the line, a coach is always gonna chew you out. I guess you can say coach came on pretty strong.
  • Q4: The teams traded punts into the final period. The Oilers D stopped blitz­ing and played zone behind a three-man rush to shut down the Saints' pass­ing game.
    With seven minutes left, Moon put the Oilers in position to cut the lead to 7 with a 20y pass to Willie Drewrey and 50-yarder to Drew Hill for a 1st-and­goal at the 9. After Rozier gained 4, Moon threw to Givins at the goal line. Officials ruled that CB Milton Mack stopped the receiver a foot short of the EZ. Replays indicated Givins might have pushed into the EZ, but the call was also allowed to stand. On the next snap, MLB Sam Mills put his helmet right on the ball as Rozier carried up the middle. The pigskin popped backward to the 6, where Moon picked it up, returning to the 4. Houston decided to go for it on 4th down. Pressured, Moon rolled left and looked for Haywood Jeffires. But the rookie from North Carolina State made a critical mistake by coming back across the goal line to catch the ball. Mack, himself a rookie from Alcorn State, tackled Jeffires before he could get back into the EZ.
    Mills on the forced fumble: Since they were lined up in the I, I figured they'd try to get over the pile with Rozier. I was pretty much right. They ran right inside. It was a good defensive call. When I saw him, I knew it was just me and him. I had to make the play. I think I showed up quicker than he expected me to.
    Mack on his crucial 4th down tackle: I was keeping one eye on him [Jeffires] and one eye on the ball. When I saw him come out (of the EZ), I said, "Good. Just let him complete it, don't go for the ball and an interference play, and I'll come up to make the tackle.
    During the game, Houston ran 13 plays inside the Saints' 10 and scored only three points. Moon attributed some of his unit's problems to the noise from the stands toward the north end zone. I don't think we were getting off the ball quick enough late because we couldn't hear. Sometimes I couldn't hear myself.
    The goal-line stand essentially ended the game.
    FINAL: Saints 24 Oilers 10

The victory, coupled with Green Bay's 16-10 win over Minnesota, meant that the Saints would host a wildcard game if they didn't win the NFC West.


  • For the first time all season, the Saints did not force a turnover.
  • New Orleans converted 10 of 18 third down opportunities against the defense that led the league in stopping opponents on third down. Houston, on the other hand, went a pitiful 1-for-13 on third down.
  • Moon ended up with more passing yardage than Hebert, 258 to 254. But Warren threw 36 passes to complete 16 for his total while Bobby was 15-of­27 in the first three-TD performance of his career. Neither QB threw an INT.
  • The 89y on 10 penalties were the most against the Saints under Mora. Eight infractions came in the first half.

Postgame Comments

  • Andersen pointed out that the hit on the opening kickoff was the second time this season that an opposing team had targeted him, citing the 49ers at Candlestick Park November 15. Mort chased down Glanville after the game to give him a piece of his mind. I said good luck the rest of the season. It was a cheap shot to come after me like that, and you guys deserved to lose. He didn't say too much to me. He was bummed out because they lost the game. The special teams coach was denying that he had a designated guy to come after me. We asked the guy that came after me (Johnson) and he said, "The coach told me to do so." So there's a little hypocrisy there. But in the Houston locker room, Johnson changed his tune. Nobody told me to do it. It wasn't premedi­tated. It was a clean block. Andersen said the beating he took on the kickoff gave him greater admiration for his teammates. That was just one play, and I'm miserable right now. I don't know how these guys go through a whole game getting hit on 60 or 70 plays.
  • Mora: We were fired up and excited to play this game. And if we weren't, that (hit on Andersen) sure got us ready. It was a cheap shot. No place for that in football. What purpose does it serve if you nail the kicker? Why do it? I think they were trying to hurt and intimidate the guy. That's bull crap. He's not cov­ering anybody.
    On the seventh straight win: Again, it was the offense, defense, and kicking game. It was another win for us where all three phases contributed.
  • Ricky Jackson: Coaches had been telling us all week that they might cheap­shot us. That first play was the biggest mistake they made today. If they had come out and laid low to see what kind of temperature we were playing at, it would have been better. That gave us a chance to get fired up too fast.
  • OT Stan Brock admitted he overreacted to the Oilers' style of play. You look at film after film and see the same guys doing the same thing. We didn't estab­lish control early. Then I jumped on top of the pile on one play, which I shouldn't have done, but we just wanted them to know that they weren't going to come in here and intimidate us.
  • Concerning the penaties, Mora said: You hate penalties and don't want too many of them, but some are going to happen.
    Brett Maxie said the Oilers' reputation for rough play made the officials ready to throw flags. They know Houston is a real good push-and-shove kind of team.
    Jakes added: We didn't cut back on our aggressiveness, though, because that's part of our game. To cut back would defeat the purpose.
  • Hebert did a good job of picking up the blitzers. They got after me pretty good. I twisted my knee. I just had to stick with it. ... They bring a lot of people. But if I read the defense and the receivers don't, then the plays might not go for any­thing. The receivers have to read the blitz just like the QB.
  • Oilers CB Audrey McMillian had the same observation from the opposite viewpoint. They were breaking off a lot of routes when we were blitzing. The receivers did a good job of reading our blitz and going to the spots we left. What was frustrating was that we had them on first and second down, but we couldn't stop them on third.

The Saints and their fans rooted for the Bears in their Monday game at San Fran­cisco, but the 49ers rolled 41-0 to maintain their one game lead in the NFC West with two games to play.

Continued below ...

Games 14 and 15
Dave Sell of the Washington Post wrote a syndicated article about the phenomenon known as the 1987 Saints and their stoic head coach.

Even for a town known for music and merriment, this city is full of song and celebration over the success of the Saints. Black and gold are the colors of choice. The old Monkees song "I'm a Believer" has been altered to champion the Saints' mission and can be heard about every 15 minutes on area radio stations. "Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints" is the phrase that pays in town, and at one area school, children with good grades earn the title of Who Dat Scholar.
But some would argue that the person having the least fun is the man most responsible for bringing about a 10-3, playoff-bound season. Why, some ask, won't Coach Jim Mora just once jump in the air, let out a holler or roller skate down Bourbon Street?
"It wouldn't just surprise me if he did," said rookie G Steve Trapilo with a smile. "I would probably die. He would never do it. It's not even a maybe. There's a better chance of it snowing in the jungle."
Mora has heard this wet-blanket theory. In one breath he says it's unfair and in the next talks about the perils of partying before the final play.
"I really am excited," he said. "And yet, our job isn't done. We can't celebrate yet." ...
"I think this team reflects him," nine-year veteran T Stan Brock said after last week's victory over Houston. "We just won our 10th game and you don't hear any whooping and hollering in here. It doesn't work that way. We won the game and tomorrow we go back and find out what we did wrong. We'll be excited when we find out how this team ends up. ..."
Mora replaced Bum Phillips, whose son Wade served as interim coach until Mora was hired. When Bum Phillips left, so did an easy-going approach to practice.
"When he left, it was like part of our family was taken away," Brock said. "We were orphans and they were bringing in somebody else to raise us. I wasn't going to like him and that's how it was going to be. But Coach Mora has earned the respect of everybody. He did it last year, which is the reason we had such a quick turnaround. I've never believed that you had to respect a man just because he has a title in front of his name. He has to earn it. I don't think Coach Mora is concerned if everybody likes him. Some like him, some don't. But everybody respects him."

Game Fourteen: New Orleans @ Cincinnati

The 4-9 Bengals wouldn't be a threat to the Saints,' seven-game winning streak, would they?

  • While reviewing films of his upcoming foe, Cincy coach Sam Wyche didn't take long to assess the challenge his club faced. I think the New Orleans Saints right now have peaked or are peaking, and I think they're playing as well as anybody in football. You just watch the film, and you see they're a team playing with a lot of confidence.
  • Wyche felt that the Saints' offensive confidence stemmed from QB Bobby Hebert. He must be a tremendous field general in the huddle there because you can see as they break the huddle the command he seems to have over that.
  • With two games left, the Saints still had a chance at the NFC West crown. They trailed the 49ers by one game but could still gain the home-field advan­tage throughout the playoffs if they won both remaining contests and the Niners lost to either the Falcons or the Rams, both division foes.
  • Mora on his players: They're fighting to win a division championship. And as long as we've got a shot at it, they're gong to continue to feel that way.
  • The Saints were returning to Riverfront Stadium for the second time in 1987 after dominating the Bengals 26-14 in the final preseason game. Mora had fond recollections of the game. That game was the best preseason game we played ... and I knew Cincinnati had a good team. So I felt better about our team coming out of that game than going into it.
  • The Bengals had yet to win a home game during the regular season.

The Saints looked like the old "Aints" for most of the first half, piling mistake upon mistake and falling far behind on a chilly afternoon in front of 43,424.

  • Q1: Working without a huddle, southpaw QB Boomer Esiason took the home team on a snappy nine-play TD drive on their opening possession. Esiason kept the drive alive with an 11y scramble to the NO 30. The score came on his 10y pass to WR Eddie Brown. Jim Breech booted the PAT. Bengals 7 Saints 0 (9:18 on the clock)
    Hebert & Company answered back with a 10-play drive. Bobby hit Eric Martin on a 14y 3rd down pass to the Cincy 47 to keep the momentum going. But TE John Tice dropped a TD pass in the back of the EZ, and the Saints settled for a 21y Morten Andersen FG. Bengals 7 Saints 3 (4:26)
    Continuing to call plays at the line of scrimmage, Boomer needed only three snaps to find pay dirt on the second possession. A 35y interference against CB Dave Waymer on WR Tim McGee in the EZ put the ball on the 1. Boomer tossed to RB Stanford Jennings from there. Bengals 14 Saints 3 (3:14)
    Mora: It's not like we came out flat. It was just that things were going against us. The wind was in our face. We dropped passes (six in the game, including two in the EZ). We did dumb things (two penalties that kept Cincy scoring drives alive). But the guys kept battling.
    The next time the Bengals got their hands on the ball, the Saints declined a holding penalty that would have pushed Cincy back to their 35. So Esiason fired to WR Mike Martin for 24y to the Saints 29.
  • Q2: On the first play after changing ends, Breech booted a 43y FG. Bengals 17 Saints 3 (14:55)
    With their offense continuing to make no headway, the Saints thought they had stopped the Bengals on the next possession when CB Michael Atkins intercepted a pass in the EZ. But a head-slap penalty on Tony Elliott gave Cincy a first down on the 6. A short time later, FB Larry Kinnebrew pushed in from the 1. Bengals 24 Saints 3 (5:45)
    LB Rickey Jackson: They got all their points by tricking us. We were playing soft stuff, not attacking.
    As if things weren't bad enough, Hebert went down with a sprained right knee with about four minutes left following a hit by DE Jim Skow, who slipped past LT Jim Dombrowski. Bobby had just flipped a screen pass to Rueben Mayes who carried the ball 16y to the Bengals 43. Saints personnel helped their QB off the field. It was the same knee he first injured against the Giants. On came Dave Wilson, who had thrown only seven passes, with four completions, all season. On his first snap, Wilson connected with Tice for 22y to 23. Four plays later, Dalton Hilliard ran over from the 2. Bengals 24 Saints 10 (1:54)
    Wilson: They called a pass on that first play, and, fortunately, I completed it, and all the butterflies just kind of flew away. After that, the defense started playing good, and the guys were protecting well. Things just started clicking.
    The Saints had some momentum heading to the locker room.
    Mora said afterwards that he wasn't angry at halftime. I didn't have to be. The guys were mad at themselves. They knew what they had to do. They just had to go out and do it.

L: Pat Swilling chases QB Boomer Esiason in first half. R: Jim Wilks chases fumble in second half.
  • Q3: Hebert, his knee retaped at halftime, came back onto the field in case he was needed. Continuing their attack mode, the Saints D forced a three-and-out.
    Wilson, carrying over his fine play from the first half, led a lickety-split three­play one-minute march from the NO 49. Dave connected with WR Mike Jones for 27 and 29y, the latter in the front left corner of the EZ behind CB Lewis Billups. Bengals 24 Saints 17 (11:55)
    Jones: We just spread a back (Mel Gray) out there and, if the safety comes up to cover Mel, we knew it would be one-on-one coverage. We just beat it.
    The defense did even better on their next foray onto the field. On the second play, Jackson blitzed, hit Esiason from his blind side, and caused a fumble. The ball bounced upfield, and the opposite LB, Swilling, recovered on the 28.
    Jackson: I threw No. 63 upfield and came up under him. I had a clean shot at the QB. I was able to hit him and knock out the ball. That's the advantage I have on a left-handed QB. He can't see me.
    Swilling on the same play: I was on a rush upfield when I saw Rickey hit him on the backside. I was playing a little soft, because I thought he might run with the ball. I think that turnover came at a pretty critical time because we got seven points out of it.
    Wilson passed to TE Hoby Brenner for 19 before a holding penalty on Billups on a 3rd-down play from the 6 kept the drive alive. Hilliard ran 3y into the EZ. Bengals 24 Saints 24 (9:34)
    Going back to the first half, the Saints had tallied 21 points to tie the score in a little over 11 minutes of clock time.
    The game settled down, and the tie continued into the final period.
  • Q4: The Bengals deepest penetration in the half was the Saints 28, but Breech missed a 47y FG attempt.
    Midway through the period, Wilson engineered an 11-play drive that produced the go-ahead 30y FG by Andersen. The biggest chunk of real estate came on Dave's 25y pass to Martin to the 15. Saints 27 Bengals 24 (6:57)
    Martin on his crucial reception: The ball just seemed like it was drifting away. When I caught it, I fell right down, because I wanted to make sure I stayed in bounds.
    Shortly afterward, Van Jakes returned an INT 27y to the 1. The shortest D-lineman, 6'2" Patrick Swoopes, a holdover replacement player who had just been activated Friday, tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage.
    FB Buford Jordan did the honors from there. Saints 34 Bengals 24 (5:55)
    But the onslaught wasn't over. Jackson reprised his fumble-forcing-sack rou­tine. Jim Wilks scooped up the loose pigskin and ran 10y to the Cincy 23. Six plays consumed 3:31 on the clock, with Jordan again covering the final 8y over RT. Saints 41 Bengals 24 (1:55)
    The Saints had run off an astonishing 38 straight points!


  • Wilson finished 9-of-15 for 160y and 0 INT.
  • Hilliard led Saints' rushers with 52y on 16 carries.
  • The teams finished even in first downs with 24, but the Saints won the yard­age battle, 321-237.
  • Esiason endured six sacks, including two by Swilling, who led the team with 10 1/2, one more than Jackson.
  • The Saints comeback from a 21-point deficit tied the largest in club history. In 1969, the Saints rallied for a 43-38 victory over San Francisco after trailing 21-0.

Postgame comments

New Orleans

  • Mora on the performance of his backup QB: Hey, David has done a great job all year keeping himself prepared to play. You saw it today. There was hardly any drop-off at all. When he goes in there like that, the offense has confidence too. Again, that's a credit to Dave. Concerning the upcoming Green Bay game: Injuries always create changes. But if Bobby is healthy, he's our starting QB. I think Bobby will be all right. He could have come back in and played if Dave or John Fourcade got hurt, but we felt it was best to keep him out unless we def­initely needed him.
  • Standing next to Hebert, who was dressing gingerly, Wilson told reporters: I told Bobby this after the game, and I'm not just saying it because he's standing right here, he's the one who's done it the whole year. ... Lately, I knew Bobby wasn't real healthy. You realize it (an injury) can happen any time. ... We won this game because of what we've done the last seven weeks.
  • OT Stan Brock: It kills me to see Bobby playing so well, and he gets hurt. But Dave stepped in and did a tremendous job in the huddle. We never lost a step.
  • Jackson on his sack that turned the game around: I've been coming up with the big play all year, and this is the time you're trying to make the Pro Bowl and the playoffs. The team needed something out of me. I tried to give it to them.
  • Swilling: Big plays breed big plays. We're always talking about making big plays. Me and Rickey talk all the time about getting the ball out. We're trying to make big plays all the time. It's enabled us to win football games.
  • LB Vaughan Johnson: Coach Mora told us at halftime that all we had to do was line up and play. And then they'd drop their heads and fold.
  • Jakes on the 4-10 Bengals: They've got some talent. It's unbelievable how they can have such a bad record.


  • The Bengals respected the job that Wilson did. Wyche, whom many expected to be fired at season's end: Wilson came in and did a beautiful job. I think he's a starter just like Hebert. When a backup, as he is labeled, comes in and drives you in for a touchdown, it's certainly a momentum change.
    LB Reggie Williams: I respect their depth at QB, but the thing I respect more is the ability of their team to rally around the QB, regardless of who is manning the position. I hope Bobby Hebert is all right, because he means a lot to their team, and he is a fine performer. We felt he represented the charisma of the New Or­leans Saints. When he left the game, we felt it enhanced our chances of winning. But they made the plays and got the turnovers - all of which snowballed into a very lopsided score.
  • WR Mike Martin identified the turning point. I thought our downfall came on our first possession of the third quarter when we went three downs and out. They scored, then we fumbled, and they tied it up.
  • Pro Bowl OT Anthony Munoz: What they've done to a lot of people is what they tried in the first half, and it wasn't successful. They've been getting all the pres­sure, all the sacks, from their people up front. In the second half, it was like they said, "Let's just bring everybody." They seemed to bring them from the right spots. There are times you can get killed blitzing like that, but today they seemed to hit it just right. They hid their blitzes very well, and you'd have to say they executed them very well. They're a good team. I wish them well.

Unfortunately, the 49ers belted the Falcons 35-7 to stay a game ahead in the division.

Game Fifteen: Green Bay @ New Orleans

The big question all week leading up to the finale against Green Bay was: Will Bob­by play?

  • Mora revealed the day before the game that Hebert would indeed be under C for the first offensive snap.
  • He had run the Saints' first unit at practice all week. His mobility didn't seem to be affected by his knee injury.

Once again, the opposing coach praised the Saints to the sky.

  • When Packers coach Forrest Gregg looked at the videotape, he said, "I couldn't believe my eyes." The former G on Vince Lombardi's championship teams in Green Bay was particularly impressed by the victory over the Ben­gals. When the Saints were down 24-3, for them to come back in that game the way they did and win, was just unbelievable. ... The Saints are playing great de­fense. They lead the league in caused turnovers. What we'll see is probably the best team we've played all year.
  • Since the Packers were out of the playoff chase, how would they perform in the final? Would playing the spoiler and knocking the Saints out of contention for the NFC West bring out the best in them?
  • Along those lines, Gregg was asked if he would experiment during the final game. I really wouldn't call it experimentation. The only place where we'll probably do something different is in the backfield. For the first time this year, our HBs, Kenneth Davis and Brent Fullwood, are healthy at the same time. There was also the possibility that rookie Don Majkowski would replace banged-up starter Randy Wright at QB.
  • Mora considered Green Bay's 5-8-1 record an aberration. Their defense has given up fewer touchdowns (28) this season than we have (32), and we think our defense is pretty good. They've only given up more than 30 points one time in 14 games. They're a very physical football team, and they've lost a lot of close games. The difference between 5-8-1 and 8-5-1 in this league is very close.
  • On the possibility that Green Bay would make a change under C, Jim said, I haven't seen a lot of Majkowski on tape. But what I have seen of him shows me he has a little more mobility than Wright. ... But they don't change their offense depending upon who the QB is.
  • One item of good news for the Saints was that DE Jumpy Geathers was ac­tivated for Sunday's game. The DE, a four-year veteran and a fan favorite, was expected to miss the entire season after tearing the MCL and ACL in his left knee in an exhibition game August 29. However, after surgery and extensive rehab work with assistant trainer Doug Arnold, Jumpy convinced Mora that he could contribute again. I wouldn't play him unless he's effective enough to be a football player, and he is, said the coach.
  • Jimmy Smith's note in the Picayune the day of the game about the roster change shows the at titude in the Crescent City about their team. Notice the last sentence: To make room for Geathers on the roster, the Saints placed their first-round draft choice, DE Shawn Knight, on injured reserve because of a sprained ankle. "It was supposed to be a one-week deal; I just don't know," Mora said. Knight is out for four weeks. He could return if the Saints make it to the Super Bowl.
  • If the Saints won, they would have to wait a few hours after their noon game to see if they captured the division because the 49ers hosted the Rams in the Sunday night game.

An enthusiastic crowd of 68,364 saw their heroes come back from a halftime deficit to win their 9th straight.

  • Q1: The game started great for the home team. On the first play, rookie QB Don Majkowski fumbled the snap, and Sam Mills recovered at the 19.
    But, as a sign of how play would go the first half, the Saints couldn't make a first down and settled for Morten Andersen's 31y FG. Saints 3 Packers 0 (13:58)

    Sam Mills beats Don Majkowski to fumbled snap on first play.
    Knowing Hebert would be conscious of his ailing knee, the Packers blitzed re­peatedly. Our QB got hit too many times, Mora said after the game. I was in­consistent, admitted Bobby.
    The Packers came right back, moving 80y in only five plays to tie the game on a 29y TD pass to Walter Stanley, who beat Pro Bowl CB Dave Waymer by three steps. The visitors were helped in their march by a 36y pass interference penalty on CB Milton Mack that put the ball on the NO 40. Tony Zendejas kicked the tying point. Packers 7 Saints 3 (11:40)
    He's a guesser, said Stanley of Waymer. And on the TD play, Dave guessed wrong.
    Green Bay got the ball right back when Kenny Johnson's hit caused Mel Gray to fumbled returning the kickoff, and Tiger Greene corraled the pigskin on the NO 41. Two plays later, the Majkowski-Stanley combo struck again, this time from the 39. Flanked wide, Walter took several steps downfield as Waymer backpedaled furiously. Then Stanley took the ball behind the line of scrimmage and, aided by a block from WR Patrick Scott, bolted down the sideline and did a backflip into the EZ that cost his team a 5y delay of game penalty on the en­suing kickoff. Packers 14 Saints 3 (10:42)
    Reeling from two Packer TDs in a minute of playing time, the Saints countered with another Andersen three-pointer. First, Buford Jordan returned the short kickoff 16y to the NO 45. Five plays gained 20y, with 15 coming on a completion to Lonzell Hill. The Saints were called for clipping on a 13y third down completion to the GB 35. But the Packers turned down the penalty. So Andersen came on and booted a 52y FG. Packers 14 Saints 6 (8:10)
    When the defense throttled the Packers, Gray returned Don Bracken's punt 27y to the NO 49. Still having trouble with blitzes, Hebert led a five-play drive that set up Andersen's third three-pointer from the 38. Packers 14 Saints 9 (2:51)
    Majkowski sparked a scoring drive by scrambling 33y on a 2nd-and-11 from the GB 40. He also threw completions of 19 to Stanley and 11 to Jesse Clark.
  • Q2: The march finally stalled at the 7. So Zendejas converted the chip shot. Packers 17 Saints 9 (14:11)
    Swilling: We were worried about their draw play, and he (Majkowski) froze us a few times with his play fakes.
    The home team answered with a 13-play drive that covered 53y to end with a 32y FG. The longest gain came on Hebert's pass to TE Hobie Brenner from the NO 32 to the GB 49. Packers 17 Saints 12 (7:31)|
    Neither team threatened the rest of the quarter.
    The Saints ended the half with only 56y rushing on 15 attempts.
    Mora told the team at halftime, You know what you've got to do. Do it.
  • Q3: The Saints opened the half with a 12-play, 72y march that ate up 6:45 on the clock. Hebert connected with TB Rueben Mayes for 11, WR Mark Pattison for another 11, and WR Eric Martin for 10. Mayes also scampered 23y. At the GB 34, TB Dalton Hilliard saved the drive with a 23y ramble on a draw out of shotgun formation to beat the blitz from S Ken Stills. Mayes covered the final 3y for the Saints' first lead of the day. Saints 19 Packers 17 (8:15)
    Hilliard on his 23y run: That was a good call. We thought they would come with the blitz, and all I had to do was figure out which guy was coming. He overran the play, and the big hole was there.
    But the advantage didn't last long - just 5:40 to be exact. Auditioning for the starting job in 1988, Majkowski steered the offense 90y. The drive was jump started when Phil Epps took a 5y pass to the 15. But a 15y personal foul pen­alty against Rickey Jackson made it 1st-and-10 on the 30. Don then found WR Frankie Neal for 13. The score came on a 20y pass to Epps, who beat Van Jakes. Packers 24 Saints 19 (2:35)
    The back-and-forth volleys continued as the Saints regained the lead before the period ended. Hilliard returned the kickoff 74y to the GB 20. Gray pro­vided Dalton with the key block at the NO 24.Two plays later, a pass interfe­rence penalty on Dave Brown put the ball on the 5. From there, Hebert found John Tice in the EZ. Saints 26 Packers 24 (1:27)
    Dalton on his kickoff return: I just followed the blocking. The guys did a great job of getting to their man. Mel let me take the ball, adjusted, and got to the man that I was supposed to block.
  • Q4: The Black and Gold D finally controlled the Pack attack and allowed no more points on the last five drives.
    A key exchange came early in the period when Hebert gave the Packers life by throwing an INT to OLB John Anderson, who returned it 13y to the NO 42. But on the very next play, Swilling returned the favor to Majkowski, running it back 10y.
    The Saints then took a huge stride toward winning the game with a 53y ad­vance that culminated in Hilliard's 1y run. Along the way, Martin hauled in a 15y pass to the 9. Also, another Packer penalty, this one on Mark Murphy for defensive holding, wiped out by sack by Jerry Boyarsky. Saints 33 Packers 24 (6:36)
    Robert Brown recovered a Mayes fumble forced by Tim Harris to give Green Bay the ball at the NO 36 with 4:07 to go. But two plays later, CB Brett Maxie blindsided Majkowski, who was back to pass. Bruce Clark gathered in the loose ball at the Saint 45. That ended the last Green Bay threat.

Hilliard up and over for Q4 1y TD

Maxie causes Majkowski fumble in Q4.
  • Andersen finished the season as the NFL's leading scorer among kickers with 121, second only to WR Jerry Rice's 138 in the NFC.
  • The Saints had more first downs, 22-27, but Green Bay gained more yardage, 330-292.
  • New Orleans won the time of possession battle, 35:05-24:55.
  • Majkowski completed 14-of-29 for 219y, 3 TD, and 1 INT.
    Don would become the starter for new coach Lindy Infante in 1988.
  • Sore knee and all, Hebert acquitted himself well: 16-of-23, 160y, 1 TD, 1 INT. He also scrambled twice for 17y.
  • Bobby spread the ball nicely among nine receivers, seven of whom caught two each.

Postgame Comments

New Orleans

  • Mora praised his team. I think that 12-3 is just an outstanding accomplishment for this football team, and nine straight to end up the regular season, I think, is another outstanding accomplishment ... What this team has accomplished over the regular season is far beyond my expectations that I had at the beginning of the year, and I'm sure everybody else's. I'm just very, very proud of this football team and this coaching staff.
    He didn't think lack of playoff experience would hurt his team. I don't believe in that. If your team's going to go out and play good football, they're gonig to go play good football. I don't care if you're at home, on the road, whatever ... that's a bunch of malarkey playoff experience. He would regret those words a word later.
  • Jackson on the winning streak: I thought we had a chance. But looking at it realistically, it's hard to put together nine in a row. After the Frisco game (the last loss), I thought we had one of the best teams in the league. But nine in a row ... I didn't see that many. Maybe seven or eight. Not nine. Not realistically.
  • Hilliard: Once we get behind, we realize we still have the chance to come back and get the victory.
    Dalton was confident the Saints would be able to handle their first playoff experience. We never had a winning experience before this year, and that didn't hurt us. Going into the playoffs will be just another step for us, and we'll have to be able to adjust to whatever we come across. ... I think this game will motivate us for the playoffs. You want to establish yourself in the regular season, and you want to keep the momentum going. I think we were able to accomplish those things today.
  • Swilling: That touchdown they got (to regain the lead in Q3) really turned the game around for us. We got concerned that something was brewing here, and we didn't want that to happen. We knew that if we turned it up a notch and made enough big plays, we could win the game.

Green Bay

  • Gregg: I'm sad that we lost. I felt we had a chance to win the ballgame. We knew what we were up against. We were up against a great football team with a playoff berth clinched and a crowd that was going to be a factor in the ballgame. I really thought, overall, we handled that part of it pretty well. I was really proud of what they did. Hey, don't anybody knock these guys. Otherwise, they can come to me.
    On his QB: I thought he played pretty well. I thought he really handled himself well, particularly early in the ballgame. He did well under pressure. ... I think he has some things going for him. He has the ability to run. When he was doing that, that really kept them off balance. Quite frankly, he had some opportunity later on to do that and didn't. But he was throwing the ball pretty well, too.
    On Morten Andersen, who booted four FGs and boomed most of his kickoffs into the EZ: Give us the chance every once in a while to run one back. We worked on that all week long. I've never seen a guy who can kick that ball any farther.
  • LB Brian Noble: This loss was frustrating in the sense that this time the offense put a lot of points on the board, and we weren't able to shut them down. We did a decent job in the first half, but in the second half we gave up too many big plays and penalties that really hurt us.
  • Stanley: We opened our offense up today. It's just that simple. We weren't play­ing as much ball control as we have in the past. Maybe that's why we surged. I really don't know. We went deep a lot more than we have before.

The entire Saints nation gathered in front of TV sets in homes and taverns through­out the area in hopes of watching the Rams upset the 49ers.

  • Alas, it was not to be. L.A. never had a chance, falling 48-0.
  • So the Saints would enter the playoffs as a wild card team despite having a better record than any other NFC team except San Francisco.
  • At least their 12-3 mark gained them a home game against the 8-7 Minnesota Vikings, who backed into the playoffs thanks to Dallas upending the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday after the Vikes lost to Washington Saturday.

Times-Picayune Sports Editor Peter Finney summarized the mood of the city:
Twelve-and-three. Who would have thought it? ... Four months ago, such a pronouncement would have made you a candidate for a Las Vegas asylum. Four months later, you find a city that has just finished celebrating a Merry Who Dat Christmas and is looking forward to an I Believe New Year.
As for a turning point, Finney rejected Mora's "coulda, woulda, shoulda" tirade after the last Saints' defeat on Oct. 25. Instead, he offered one of his own. I think "Saints History - 1987" will tell us Mora's football team, 1-1 at the time, grew closer during the four-week strike. Although Jim Mora had nothing to do with this, once all of the vete­rans returned and it was back to business, Mora, by remaining honest, intense, disci­plined, and focused, was able to move into a "new" season as though nothing traumatic had taken place.

Continued below ...

Steve Trapilo

Sam Wyche

Eddie Brown

Jim Breech

John Tice

Tim McGee

Stanford Jennings

Larry Kinnebrew

Jim Skow

Jim Dowbrowski

Hebert goes down in Q2.

Dave Wilson

Mike Jones

Hoby Brenner

Van Jakes

Patrick Swoopes

Buford Jordan

Vaughan Johnson

Forrest Gregg

Don Majkowski

James "Jumpy" Gaethers

Morten Andersen

Walter Stanley

Milton Mack

Lonzell Hill

Dalton Hilliard

Ken Stills

Mayes scores in Q3 against Packers.

Phil Epps

Frankie Neal

John Anderson

Robert Brown

Tim Harris

Bruce Clark

Pat Swilling celebrates victory over Packers

Brian Noble

Playoff Game

Jerry Burns

Keith Millard

Tim Irvin

Henry Thomas

Jim Mora

Jim Finks

Wade Wilson

Gary Zimmerman

Joey Browner

Stan Brock

Alvin Toles

Toi Cook

Bobby Hebert

Mel Gray

Chris Doleman

Rueben Mayes

Vaughn Johnson

Eric Martin

Brad Edelman

The Minnesota Vikings entered their playoff game with the Saints with a chip on their collective shoulders.
  • Dave Lagarde wrote in the Times-Picayune that Minnesota crawfished into their manna-from-heaven wild card playoff berth without so much as making a tackle or scoring a touchdown on Sunday. The Vikings lost three of their last four, including a Saturday defeat at the hands of the Redskins after leading by 10 with five minutes to play. But Dallas beat St. Louis on Sunday to give the 8-7 Vikings the last playoff berth in the NFC.
  • Second-year Minnesota coach Jerry Burns set the we-don't-get-respect tone on Monday. You bleepers come in here and say we don't belong in the playoffs. The 10 best bleeping teams go to the playoffs. Period. You guys can say all the bleep you want - how we backed into the playoffs and all that bleep. We started out the season to get in the playoffs, and we're in. Who gives a bleep how we got here? We're here. Burns also reminded the press that three of his club's seven losses came during the strike, making Minnesota the only play­off team that lost all their replacement games. I told them (his players) not to believe all that b.s. they read in the papers. No team has had to overcome the adversity that this team has had to overcome this season, but all you guys want to write about is how we bleeping backed in.
  • DT Keith Millard started backpedaling from remarks he made after Satur­day's loss that questioned whether his team was playoff-worthy based on their blowing Q4 leads against Chicago, Green Bay, and Washington. That was my emotion talking. Whatever happened last Saturday, or the week before, or the week before that, doesn't matter now. It's a one-game season, and we got as good a chance as anyone if we play like we're capable of playing. I think we're a better team than the Saints, but we've got to come out stormin'. We were lucky (to get in), and we've got to take advantage.
  • OT Tim Irvin didn't care how the Vikings made the playoffs. Sure, we would have liked to beat the Redskins, but we didn't. But I'm not ashamed how we got here. We're a good football team. We don't have to take a back seat to anyone. I can look every NFL player in the eye and not be ashamed. We are here, and 18 teams aren't.
  • Minnesota Star-Tribune columnist Dan Barreiro compared the Vikings to the '87 Minnesota Twins, who made the American League playoffs as a divisional winner with only 85 victories only to win the World Series. Say this for the Twins. If they entered the playoffs whimpering, they went out roaring. The Vikings have been given the same opportunity and challenge. Unfortunately, if things go according to recent form, they will back away.
  • NT Henry Thomas (from LSU) relished the underdog role. Let the Saints take us lightly. I hope they do. Please, tell them for me that we're still down from losing to the Redskins. I hope they don't take us seriously, because then we can go down there and sneak up on them.

The Saints could play the No Respect card also.

  • Despite compiling the second-best record in the NFL, New Orleans got only one player on the Associated Press All-NFL team - K Morten Andersen. Of particular surprise was the absence of the entire "Dome Patrol" LB corps from the elite squad.
  • The Saints could prove the naysayers wrong by winning at least one playoff game.
  • Minnesota boasted two All-Stars: OT Gary Zimmerman and S Joey Brown­er.

The Saints' most recent two contests against Minnesota didn't provide fodder for optimism.

  • The Norsemen roared to a 30-3 halftime lead on their way to a 33-17 victory in the final game of the 1986 season. That game's still fresh in my mind, said OT Stan Brock. They sure have given us fits, added DB Johnnie Poe.
  • The real worry warts remembered the first 1987 exhibition game when Min­nesota jumped out to a 17-3 first half lead, outgaining NO 265-93 before non-starters flooded the field.
  • Noting that his team had fallen behind 24-3 and 14-3 in their last two regular season games before rallying, Coach Mora warned, We better get with it from Play 1 and not halfway through the second quarter next week.
  • The Saints had defeated Minnesota in their last two meetings prior to '86 (17-16 in '83 at home and 30-23 in Minneapolis in '85) but overall the former Ain'ts were just 4-9 against their visitors from the top of the Mississippi River.

The bruising final game against Green Bay had taken its toll on the Saints.

  • LB Alvin Toles - hyperextended left knee that caused him to watch the second half on crutches but would play against Minnesota.
  • DB Toi Cook - partially torn tendon in his left shoulder; SS Antonio Gibson, out with a broken arm since November 22, would replace him.
  • LB Vaughn Johnson - bruised ribs; will play.
  • OL Brad Edelman - swollen left knee; will play.
  • QB Bobby Hebert - sprained right knee still not 100%; will play after getting fluid drained.

Times-Picayune Saints Beat writer Jimmy Smith pointed out that the strike still divided some Saints.

Offensive players who honored the 24-day walkout don't converse off the field with offensive players who crossed picket lines.
Defensive players who honored the 24-day walkout don't converse off the field with defensive players who crossed picket lines.
That's to be expected, but you'd have thought winning would have healed a few old wounds.
It evidently hasn't.
But things are now becoming petty. Tailback Rueben Mayes plans to buy personally engraved shotguns for the offensive linemen, tight ends and fullbacks who blocked for him this year, players who are starters.
But Mayes isn't including strike-breakers Steve Korte, James Campen and Daren Gilbert on his gift list.
It has nothing to do with the fact those three players crossed union picket lines, Mayes said Monday. Just coincidence. ...
Non-strikers have been left off invitation lists to a couple of Christmas parties. Non-strikers received no Pro Bowl votes from the Saints and, in some cases, were not placed in nomination. ...
"I thank God this team didn't have to vote for me," said non-striker Tony Elliott, a first alternate
(for the Pro Bowl) along with non-striker Bruce Clark. ... Players can't vote for members of their team in Pro Bowl bal­loting.
Elliott, one of the most outspoken Saints, makes a valid point regarding this selective blackballing.
"It's an intangible we shouldn't have to worry about at this time of year," Elliott said. "We can eliminate the possibility of that intangible being a factor if our players can unify for one common goal: to be the best.
"All those other things are not important. The longer we hold on to these things, our odds are decreasing of possibly winning it all."

Still, the team had just completed "the most magical two months in Saints history" (to quote Christian Serpas) with nine wins to close the regular season. So how big could the rift in the team be? Finks didn't seem too concerned.

Anytime you have a bunch of football players, they're not all going to be Boy Scouts and they can't all love each other. As I said during the strike, people who made excuses about the strike dividing them ... were just setting themselves up for failure. Whether the players love each other is not an issue at all. ... This doesn't impress me at all, as long as they're performing on the field, and I haven't seen any signs of that. I dont like to see that kind of stuff, but I think time heals all wounds.

On Tuesday, Burns surprised most observers by naming Tommy Kramer as his starting QB for the wild card game.

  • The 11-year veteran had been bothered by an assortment of injuries during the season, most recently a pinched nerve in his neck that kept him on the shelf for the last two games of the regular season.
  • Jerry refused to go into detail on why he chose Kramer over Wade Wilson, who had started seven non-strike games to Kramer's five. But the Vikings head man added, I expect that both of them will play. We'll do whatever it takes to win. If (Kramer) isn't moving the team, I won't hesitate to make a change.
  • Wilson had thrown an INT at the goal line in the 27-24 OT loss to Washington in Game 15. All-Pro CB Barry Wilburn ran back the pick 100y for a TD.
  • Wade had led the team in rushing the last two games - a first for the fran­chise since Fran Tarkenton in 1961. Being able to run is a plus on my side, said Wilson, but not being able to get us in the end zone inside the 20 is a negative.
  • Jim Mora shrugged off the announcement, saying the Saints design a game plan to stop an offensive scheme, not a QB. Both Wilson and Kramer can run, but Kramer is more of a dropback passer. They're both very similar QBs.
Karen Cortello of New Orleans radio station WQUE reported that listeners didn't want to hear Christmas songs as much as Saints songs. So stations flooded the airwaves with a new song, "Saints Go All the Way," filled the air waves along with the old standby "When the Saints Go Marching In." Other favorites were "I'm a Believer" by the Homeboys and "We Ain't the Aints No Mora" by the Fan Club.
Merchants reported brisk sales of Saints cufflinks, Who Dat pins, and playoff T-shirt. Jeff Whitehead sold nearly 130,000 bottles of Who Dat and Benson Boogie cham­pagne.

Mora's team refused to be drawn into the playoff hysteria gripping the Crescent City.

  • TE Hoby Brenner: It's great making it here, because you finally see the finish line. But the Super Bowl is the ultimate finish line. If we don't win the rest of our games, we'll still end the season on a sour note.
  • OT Stan Brock: It's just a regular game for us. We'll prepare the same way. It's nice to be in, but you want to do better than just getting there.
  • When the club clinched the post-season berth with a victory over Tampa Bay in Game 12, they didn't celebrate wildly because they hoped for the division crown. QB Bobby Hebert: The excitement's kind of worn off. I really haven't thought about it that much. When we beat Tampa Bay, I don't think you had people on this team saying, "Wow, we're in the playoffs."

Many observers felt the Vikings were a better team than their record and recent play showed.

  • Mora: You can't look in and say, "Well, we got to shut this down, or we got to shut that down." They can do so many things well. There's no one guy you can zero in on. They've got so many weapons. They're a very tough team to the defend.
  • RB Darrin Nelson rushed for 642y, an impressive total considering he played only nine games because of the strike and injuries. D. J. Dozier added 257y while FB Alfred Anderson gained 319. Wilson pitched in 263, a substantial amount for a QB. Overall, the Vikes averaged 165.3 yards per game on the ground.
  • WR Anthony Carter led the NFL in average-yards-per-catch (24.3 on 38 re­ceptions for 922y). Another wideout, Leo Lewis, snagged 24 aerials for 383. The Saints couldn't neglect TE Steve Jordan, the target of 35 completions for 490y. Kramer: These guys make my job a lot easier. If they're trying to stop one person, then there's always somebody else you can go to.
  • Minnesota closed their Wednesday practice to the media after 15 minutes. The previous week, a local TV station aired footage of a practice that showed them working on a HB option. Former coach Bud Grant saw the telecast and called GM Mike Lynn, who told Burns not to use the play.

Former Chiefs and Saints coach Hank Stram, an analyst for CBS radio, sized up to the opposing QBs.

  • On Hebert: I just don't think that Bobby Hebert gets the credit that he de­serves. I saw him play in the USFL, and I was very impressed with him. It doesn't make any difference what your system is as long as you have a phi­losophy, exercise the philosophy, and win the game. That's what he does. They want to run the ball, and that's a great philosophy. He's very deliberate and reads defenses extremely well. He's getting the ball to the right people. He has a lot of cool and confidence.
  • On Kramer and Wilson: I think that (quarterbacking) and their kicking game have been their Achilles' heel. They have not been on a par with the rest of their team. They've had people open and just overthrown them. They're both fine quarterbacks except they just never caught up with the situation since the strike. They're still a very dangerous team because of the lightning they have at the skill positions. It's funny. In the past, they've had a good situation at QB and didn't have the supporting cast, and the QBs have not been as sharp as they'd like them to be.
New Year's Eve brought the news that Jim Mora had been voted NFL Coach of the Year in just his second season in the league. GM Jim Finks would win Executive of the Year.

The Saints entered the fray favored by 7 points.

  • Mora's team led the NFL in possession time, averaging 28 minutes per game.
  • NO sat atop the league in takeaway ratio as well, 48 to 28 for a +20 advan­tage.
  • Another category the Saints topped was interceptions with 30.
  • They were tied for first for throwing the fewest interceptions, 12. Hebert had a personal streak snapped when he threw a pick in the final game against Green Bay, his first after 104 error-free passes.
  • Punt returner Mel Gray led the league with 352y in 24 attempts for a 14.7 average, two yards per return better than the next man on the list.
  • Against common opponents, the Saints were 6-0, the Vikings were 3-5.
  • Burns saw no weaknesses in the Saints. Everything about them is impressive.
One New Orleanian made the news for attempting to use his knowledge of voodoo - everything from dolls to magic powder - to help the Saints advance in the play­offs.
Saints enthusiasts filling the French Quarter during the long New Year's weekend exchanged shouts of "Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" wherever they went.

The teams' offensive statistics looked strikingly similar.

  • They ranked exactly in the middle of the league in total offense: 4,964 for the Saints (#14) to 4,809 for Minnesota (#15).
  • Both ran the ball better than they passed.
    Saints #3 in rushing (2,190y), Vikings #11 (1,983).
    Minnesota #20 in passing yards (2,826), with New Orleans next with 2,774.

Both clubs ranked higher on defense.

  • Saints #4 in yards allowed (4,350), Vikings #10 (4,824).
  • New Orleans #6 in passing yards given up (an even 2,800), Vikings #16 (an even 3,100).
  • Both ranked higher against the run: Saints #3 (1550y), Vikes #11 (1724).
The Saints front office was experiencing difficulties in managing their first playoff game. Three days before the game, some season ticket holders had yet to receive their playoff tickets, which had supposedly been sent by registered mail.

The Times-Picayune felt the Saints would win if:

  • the left side of the O-line kept DE Chris Doleman (11 sacks, tied for 6th in the NFL after shifting from LB to DE) away from Hebert;
  • TB Rueben Mayes ended his streak on non-100y games rushing;
  • the Saints' D kept the opposing QB in the pocket.

The TP pegged the Saints to lose if:

  • The Vikings got three or more sacks;
  • Hebert threw more than one INT;
  • the Saints fail to gain 100y rushing;
  • the Minnesota QBs exploited the secondary with deep passes.
Playoff Game: Sunday, January 3, 1988 - Minnesota @ New Orleans

Saints fans, giddy over a 12-3 season and supremely confident the Vikings would be the first victim on the road to the Super Bowl, packed the Dome to the tune of 68,127. However, the visitors refused to play the role of the Christian martyrs against the lions in the Roman Colosseum.

Randy Galloway of the Dallas Morning News started his syndicated article on the game for Monday's newspapers this way.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
The Minnesota Vikings came to this town to face the sizzling New Orleans Saints in front of all those ragin' Cajuns in the Superdome.
The Vikings were supposed to be shucked like oysters at Felix's in the French Quarter. For the Saints, this was going to be easier than squeezing the head off a crayfish.
It was all over by halftime ...

If ever there was a time when an opponent beat a team at its own game, this was it.

  • Q1: The Saints started quickly. Kramer was sacked on the first play from scrimmage. Then he fumbled the second snap, and LB Vaughn Johnson recovered on the 11. Three plays later, Hebert flicked a 10y scoring pass to Eric Martin. Saints 7 Vikings 0 (13:37)
    CBS had a noise monitor on the sideline that measured the crowd noise at 106 decibels - about as loud as a jet plane.
    The Black and Gold defense returned to the field and, aided by a sack and another Kramer fumble which he recovered, soon forced a Bucky Scribner punt. The game looked like it would turn into the rout the home crowd ex­pected. Mel Gray had been a potent weapon for the Saints all season. A good return would continue the momentum. He signaled a fair catch and ran up under the ball. But at the last moment, he tried to back away from the pigskin. It glanced off his chest toward the right sideline where Joey Brown­er recovered for Minnesota at the 27. It was the first of six Saints turnovers on the afternoon.
    Wade Wilson came in for Kramer, who reinjured his neck diving on the fum­bled snap - the 20th time in the last 21 games that Tommy didn't play a complete game. After three plays gained only 7, Chuck Nelson booted a 42y FG - the first time in eight games that the embattled kicker had made his first attempt. Saints 7 Vikings 3 (8:01)
    Playing a straight zone defense instead of mixing in the usual man-to-man, the Vikes seemed to confuse Hebert and his receivers. Doleman crashed into Bobby as he threw to force an INT by Isaac Holt.
    But nothing came of the turnover.
    Then it was DT Keith Millard's turn to hammer Hebert on a 3rd-down pass that fell incomplete. As the Saints prepared to kick, who should trot onto the field as the deep man but Anthony "AC" Carter, who had returned but three punts all season. He caught the ball on his 16, meandered through the cov­erage with the help of a crunching block by Holt until he saw an opening. By the time he reached the 40, was in the clear. "He's gone. Forget about it," declared Pat Summerall, announcing the game for CBS with former Oakland coach John Madden. Vikings 10 Saints 7 (3:03)
    The 84y return set an NFL playoff record, breaking the old mark of 31y set by Chicago's Hugh Gallarneau against the Packers in 1941.
    It was a "man block," Carter said afterwards, a right return. Everybody got a good block, and I saw some daylight. Once I was in the clear, I was gone, just coasting. ... The coaches told me on Thursday I'd be back there. Carter had given Coach Burns a Christmas present two weeks earlier, a picture of him­self returning a punt in college at Michigan, complete with career statistics. Michigan is also a graduate of Michigan and had seen the picture on a poster in Ann Arbor, Michigan Carter. I knew he admired it. So I arranged for him to get one. I suppose the picture helped him make the decision to put me back there on punts.
    G Brad Edelman committed the first of his three holding penalties on Millard on the next possession.
    Doleman yelled to Hebert, We're killing your offensive line. So Bobby started yelling at his protectors.
    Millard on dominating Edelman : Hey, I voted for Edelman to go to the Pro Bowl. I'd vote for him again, too. It's just that I wanted to prove I was that cal­iber of player too. I would have gotten there this year if I hadn't been hurt. I studied a lot of film this year and read his stance. You can tell if he's lining up for a heavy or a light block. Then, since I can line up against either guard, I went over to the other one (rookie Steve Trapilo). When I found out that could work, then we ended up doing whatever we wanted to.

L: Tommy Kramer pitches out; R: Dalton Hilliard runs.

Johnnie Poe

Darren Nelson

Frank Warren

Jim Wilks

  • Q2: Early in the period, Johnnie Poe appeared to intercept a Wade Wilson pass at the NO 15 when he leaped high, caught it, then lost the ball as he hit the turf. But the replay official ruled Poe never had possession.
    Poe: I felt I had the ball until I hit the ground, and the rules say the ground can't cause a fumble. That was a big play.
    On 3rd-10 from 38, Wilson threw a pass in the right flat to Darren Nelson who wiggled down the sideline in front of the Saints bench, then broke back toward the middle leaving six potential tacklers in his wake. Finally, Poe saved a TD by pulling Nelson down at the 1' line. NT Tony Elliott knocked D. J. Dozier back for a yard loss as he tried to score over LT. Then Frank War­ren jumped offside before the next snap to move the ball half the distance to the goal. Nelson then leaped into the EZ but LT Gary Zimmerman had moved prematurely. On 2nd-and-goal from the 6, Wilson tried a QB draw, but Jim Wilks stopped him after a 1y gain. Wade then fired a fastball down the middle to TE Steve Jordan in the midst of two crossing LBs, Sam Mills and Johnson. Vikings 17 Saints 7 (11:47)
    On their next possession, Minnesota moved smartly to a first and goal from the ten. For their 31st offensive play as opposed to just 12 for the Saints, offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker decided to pull out the HB pass that had been shelved for the Redskins game. Allen Rice took a pitch to the right, stopped, and threw a strike to Carter racing through the EZ just behind FS Brett Maxie. Anthony had lined up at RE with Dave Waymer just across the line of scrimmage from him. But right before the snap, Dave backed off toward the sideline. That left Carter free to run through the secondary unchecked. Vikings 24 Saints 7 (6:10)
    Rice: AC is supposed to run down and look like he's going to block the safety, and I just prayed to the Lord and threw the ball high toward the goal posts and hoped the defensive back wouldn't get in the way.
    Hebert led the Saints to the 23 before the drive stalled thanks to a third down incompletion on which the locals thought the visitors committed pass interference. So Morten Andersen booted a 40y FG. Vikings 24 Saints 10 (3:06)
    Late in the half,a sack sent Wilson to the sidelines with his head spinning. Kramer replaced him. As the final seconds mercifully ticked down to end the first half nightmare, the Vikings were content to run out the clock. The Saints smothered Darrin Nelson at the NO 49, and the clock read 0:00. But not so fast, my friend. The Saints were called for having 12 men on the field be­cause a late substitution didn't give the departing player enough time to get off the field. Since the half can't end on a defensive penalty, that gave Min­nesota a free play from the 44. The Saints stationed three defenders across the goal line. as the offense lined up three WRs to the left - Carter, Hassan Jones, and Leo Lewis. Since sore-armed Kramer couldn't throw the ball to the EZ, a groggy Wilson came back in and lofted a "Hail Mary" pass. Jones knocked the ball away from Reggie Sutton and pulled it into his right arm as he tumbled backward into the EZ. The nearest official had to unsort the pile like a basketball ref on a held ball before throwing up his hands to signal TD. The replay official reviewed the play and let the call stand. "That may be the play that kills the Saints," said Madden, probably to the chagrin of CBS exec­utives hoping to keep the audience for the second half. Vikings 31 Vikings 7 (0:00)
    Wilson on his sack before returning for the Hail Mary: I was so woozy, I started going to the wrong bench. Then I saw all the black shirts and decided to head to our bench. I got myself together a little bit; then people started telling me to go in the game.
    Jones on the Hail Mary: We call it "Squadron Left," and we all just run down and pray. I kind of bobbled the ball to myself and came down with it.
    After the game, Mora and D-coordinator Steve Sidwell both accepted blame for the Hail Mary. The players going in failed to communicate, but it's not their fault, said Mora. It's my fault. ... How critical was that? It was very critical. To have that happen then was a real downer.
    But Sidwell said he tried to call an alignment called "Saint" that utilized sev­en defensive backs. I screwed up the substitution. I called for a specific thing, and we did not get it communicated. We were supposed to get an extra DB on the field, and we ended up having too many linemen on the field.
    Poe assessed the performance of the WRs on the Hail Mary thusly: It looked like one of them was going for the ball, and the other two were running into the defensive backs. I saw one of our defensive backs get a hand on the ball. Then I pulled Hassan Jones down, and he had it.
    Despite the disaster, the Saints still felt they could come back in the second half. Trapillo: The Hail Mary hurt, but we had come back from things like that before. We were ready to do it again.

L: Darrin Nelson runs; R: Hassan Jones pulls in the Hail Mary.

Hoby Brenner

Reggie Rutland

  • Q3: With the Saints ground game taken out of the picture by the 21-point deficit, the Vikings front, worthy successors to the famous Purple People Eaters, pinned back their ears and pressured the QB. Edelman could not stop Millard, who also knocked Rueben Mayes out of the game late in the first half with sprained knee ligaments. The success of the Front Four allowed the Vikings to drop seven men in coverage, something that almost no Saints' opponent had been able to do all season. Carl Smith's offense would manage just 66y the second half.
    Hebert didn't survive the third period, going out with an eye injury after Hen­ry Thomas gouged his eye at the bottom of a pileup. Bobby hit just 9-of-19 passes for 84y.
    I tried to bite his fingers, recalled Hebert. I said, "Henry, you're a homeboy, you SOB. He said, "I'm just trying to get you out of the game."
    Bobby tried to run the next play, a pitchout to RB Dalton Hilliard. Hebert saw two Hilliards. I just hoped I pitched to the right one.
    Dave Wilson tried to steer the ship around the Viking shoals the rest of the way without success. He engineered a drive to the Minnesota 28. Then he threw a pass that was tipped by TE Hoby Brenner and caught by CB Reggie Rutland.
    With Wade Wilson out with a mild concussion, Kramer piloted Minnesota to the only score of the quarter. Carter ate up the Saints with down-and-out patterns, catching three passes for 12, 16, and 17y on a drive that led to Chuck Nelson's 32y FG. Vikings 34 Saints 10 (1:15)
    Two of Carter's receptions were reviewed by the playoff official in that era when the NFL system presaged the one that the NCAA would adopt 18 years later. All five reviews in the playoff game went the Vikings' way.
    After an INT, the Vikings started a long drive that carried into the final quar­ter.

L: Johnnie Poe intercepts; R: Dalton Hillard makes tough yardage.

Chuck Nelson

Rich Gannon

Tony Elliott

Ricky Jackson

Dave Wilson

Dave Waymer

Sam Mills

Steve Sidwell

Anthony Carter

David Huffman

  • Q4: The eight-minute-29 second drive ended with Nelson's 19y FG. Vikings 37 Saints 10
    During the timeout for the two-minute warnings, the fans that remained gave their boys a loud cheer to celebrate what was by far the best season in Saints history.
    Rookie QB Rich Gannon took over the Minnesota offense in the last minutes and led them 52y to a 1st-and-goal from the 8. On the next play, Dozier ran straight up the middle through multiple tacklers into the EZ. Vikings 44 Saints 10 (1:46)
    When the game ended, owner Tom Benson boogied across the field as if the team had won. He said he did it just to thank the fans for their support and acknowledge that, hey, we've had a great year.
  • Total yardage: Vikings 417, Saints 149
  • Time of possession: Vikings 41:18 minutes, Saints 18:42.
  • Carter had almost as many yards on punt returns (143) as New Orleans did in offense. The talented WR also had six catches for 79y.
  • The Saints ran the ball just 14 times, two of which came when Hebert was chased from the pocket.
  • The 45 offensive plays were the fewest in Mora's two years as head coach.

Postgame Comments

New Orleans

  • NT Tony Elliott assessed the shipwreck better than any media analyst could. Normally, our defense is great against the run, but today they ran all over us. Normally, our offense moves the ball and controls the clock. Today, the other team moved the ball and controlled the clock. Normally, our special teams are the best in the business. And right off the bat, that guy goes 84 yards on a punt. So to pinpoint where we broke down, there's offense, defense, and special teams. And that's all there is.
  • Mora: I want to start out by giving a lot of credit to the Minnesota Vikings. They played extremely well and manhandled us pretty good. They soundly beat us. ... We got hurt early with the punt that hit Mel and then the punt return for the touchdown. Those were two big plays for them. ... When there were three or four minutes left, I thought we still had a slight chance. I never give up on this team. ... The loss was disappointing, but I'm not at all disappointed in our team. We had the second-best record in the National Football League. We had a lot of good times, and we did some things for this organization and this city and this state that have never been done before. We just picked a bad day here to play poorly. ... We need to get better in some areas. If we continue to work in the off-season, we can be a good team again next year.
  • Asked if the lack of playoff experience - not one Saints player had ever been in a playoff game before - caused his club to be overwhelmed, Mora replied: That doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Reacting to the same question, LB Ricky Jackson said, I don't think it was that, but it was sure something. The 12 wins and the great regular season mean nothing. Not when it ends like this. We got our butts kicked. OT Stan Brock echoed those sentiments. No way. We were ready to play this game. This was our shot at it. They just beat us. They have a great football team, and they just stuck it to us. It's hard to talk about what a great year we had after getting beat that bad. We had a lot of dreams riding on this game, and they were shattered at one time. Shattered big. This was our shot. We didn't take advantage of it. Reflecting on his rookie season when the Saints went 1-15, Stan said, This hurts but not as bad as 1980.
  • Dave Wilson: Nobody took the Vikings lightly. You've got to give Minnesota credit. They have a heck of a team, and they played well. The main thing the Vikings did differently today was play a lot of zone. ... Their pass rush was ... the major factor. They put a lot of heat on us back there.
  • Waymer: You just have to give those guys credit. They played the type of ball that we played over the last nine weeks.
  • Edelman: You get in trouble when you're down by 10 or 20 points to a good pass rushing team. They knew we'd pass, and they just came after us.
  • Mills on the Vikings: They aren't very consistent. One week, they're the best team in the NFL. The next, they play like they're in the lower third of the league.
  • Sidwell: The big problem we had in the second half was we could not stop the run or the pass. You're always in trouble when that happens.
  • Jackson: This game was for the whole city. They supported us, and it was our turn to support them. But we didn't do it. Today, we went out and let the people down. ... We played like crap.
  • Poe: I'll remember the good times. This will always be in the back of my head. But I'll do my best to remember the good times.


  • Carter: Who dat goin' home for six months. ... We had a lot of negativism dis­played by the Minnesota fans in letters and remarks by the press. This game gave us the opportunity to prove the fans and the press wrong.
  • Burns on the 5'11" 174 lb Carter: This game was a one-game shootout, and AC is a big-play guy. He's handled punts before. He's got nerves of steel. There's nothing about football he doesn't know. I always said the good lord expected AC to do everything in football. He judt didn't give him the body. ... Anthony Carter is a big-game player. We'll use him on punt returns again next week. We didn't use him on them during the season because we didn't want to wear him out. He is a special person, on and off the field.
  • Jordan: We'd seen something in the papers where the Saints said they didn't think they'd have to double-cover AC. That's ridiculous. ... Everybody said ... we shouldn't even be in the playoffs ... Now we're rolling into Frisco like gangbus­ters. And you know what? They can be beat too.
  • OT Tim Irwin: I'm from the South. So I've heard "Who dat?" before. I think they know "who dat?" is now.
  • Nelson: This game was the best complete game of the season for us. ... This game shows that we deserve to be here. The (Minnesota) fans sent us letters saying that we didn't deserve to be here. But we showed them.
  • Millard: It got to the ponit where he (Edelman) had to hold me to block me. I don't want to take anything away from him. He's a good player and is in the Pro Bowl. But I hadn't played in three weeks, and nobody could have blocked me today. ... We had something to prove. They said we backed into the playoffs. We had to show that we were a playoff team and that we deserved to be here. ... The pressure was on us (the last games of the regular season), and we kept blowing it. ... Today all the pressure was on the Saints. Nobody thought we'd win, but we knew we had a better team. We knew they liked to play conservative - Jim Mora's teams were always that way in the USFL (where Millard also played, along with 11 of the 1987 Pro Bowlers). Once we got ahead, they couldn't do that anymore.
  • Doleman, who had a sack and a fumble recovery: Our defense really got going, and we didn't let the Saints settle down and do the things they normally do. We didn't let them think they were in control. We had to do three things: one, take the crowd out of the game; two, stop their running game; three, make them throw the long ball. Mission accomplished. Football is basically 11 fistfights. Win 10 of them, you can win the game. We won 11 of them today.
  • OG David Huffman adopted a different tone. I really don't know why we were able to come in here and do what we did today. What happened in the second half did enough to take the crowd out of the game. But, after what happened the last month of the season and what happened today, I'd give everyone on this team a drug test. ... I don't think they took us lightly. I mean, they didn't think we were a bunch of geeks. Things just happened right for us all day.
  • Burns laughed when informed of Huffman's comment. Maybe so, but that's not what happened. This was the best game we've played all season. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. We put everything together ... That's what happened, and it hadn't happened all season like that. We just picked the right time to do it.
  • D-coordinator Floyd Peters: The plan was to stop the run. It was kinda funny, but the offense really helped us do that. The further the game went along, the less likely the Saints would run. We had just too many points on the board for them to use the things they like to do - that's run the ball down your throat and take a lot of time doing it ... then dink and dunk passes down the field and beat your defense to death. Stopping the run is football's first rule, and we knew if we couldn't handle the Saints' run we'd be in trouble. The linebackers did that and allowed the linemen to take over and pressure the QB. That great line pressure is what forced the four interceptions.
  • Kramer: We came into the game with the attitude that we have nothing to lose. We made the big plays and, being so far ahead in the game, we came out in the second half doing pretty much what we wanted.
  • Jones on the Hail Mary: Those things are not going to work very often. But every now and then they do.
An Associated Press reporter gathered comments from Saints fans who straggled to Bourbon Street after the game to drown their sorrows.
A waiter at Pat O'Brien's moaned, It took us 21 years to get to the playoffs. It'll take us 21 more years to win a playoff. (He was wrong - it took 13, not 21.)
I'm sad for sure, said chef Austin Leslie. I even had a Super Bowl gumbo cooking up today. It's got blue crab, shrimp, smoked sausage, and creole hot sausage.
Dianne Evans from Monroe LA: The Saints played bad ball. They choked. That's what they did. But, hey, I gotta believe. I'm proud of my Saints.
Longshoreman Richard Berry nursed a beer. We'll be back next year. We can't worry about this. It's just a football game.
A buggy driver named Leonard: They're all right, even if I did lose by bettin' money for 20 years.
The manager of The Witchcraft Shop: We've done nothing as far as the Witchcraft Shop is concerned to help the Saints. They are doing fine without our help.
The Vikings rode the momentum of their victory in the Superdome to an even more startling upset over the 49ers the following week 36-24. That earned them a re­match in the NFC final against the Redskins, who prevailed 17-10 to earn a trip to Super Bowl XXII, where they clobbered the Denver Broncos 42-10.
Jim Mora would lead the Saints into the playoffs three more times: 1990, 1991, and 1992. But he would lose all three first round games.
He also went 0-and-2 in the post-season with the Indianapolis Colts in 1999 and 2000.
He will forever be known as a good coach who went 0-6 in the playoffs.