It’s the offseason and we’re thick in the middle of that dreaded lull in between free agency and the playoffs. So let’s just crank out some more top 10 lists! We’re gearing up for the home stretch with the draft only 10 days away, so i’ll dive in more substantially in the coming days but in the meantime enjoy this taste of Saints history. Here are my top 10 plays in team history:
1. Tracy Porter’s Super Bowl pick six
I could probably pick at least five plays from the Super Bowl win that were memorable moments in team history. I settled for two. This is clearly the biggest moment in franchise history. This play made the idea of the Saints winning the Super Bowl a reality. Enough said.
2. Garrett Hartley sends the Saints to the Super Bowl
I was in the stadium for this one and it is the most memorable sporting moment of my life time. People that didn’t know each other in the seats around me were hugging each other. People were crying. You could just feel how much it meant to every single person in the building. As soon as the kick went through the uprights the reality that the “Saints are going to the Super Bowl” sunk in.
3. Hakim Drops the Ball
The Saints waited 33 years to finally win a playoff game. Despite an early lead, this game in 2000 was in very serious jeopardy thanks to a late Rams run that left the entire stadium bracing for the inevitable final collapse. There was almost zero doubt that the Saints would give up a scoring drive on the final possession to “the greatest show on turf”. But that scenario never played out as punt returner Az Hakim handed the Saints their first ever playoff win in team history with this fumble. I was in the stadium for this one too and the reaction of the fans was priceless because literally no one in that stadium believed they would win the game. There was just too much baggage and history, but the Saints proved everyone wrong. That play was so huge, there’s a blog named after it (props Kevin!).
4. Steve Gleason’s punt block
As amazing and awesome of a guy as Steve Gleason is, this play has nothing to do with ALS or him as an individual off the field. If Gleason was a criminal this would still be a top 5 play in team history. The fact that he was pretty much the easiest guy in the world to root for on and off the field during football and after football makes it more special, though. After Katrina and the flood of personal issues that came with it for many of us, we were just glad to be back in the Superdome. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Saints were 1-15 that year, football was back in New Orleans and that was something to celebrate. But they were GOOD. A truly inspiring season. I was there for this one too, and this punt block in my opinion was the loudest the Superdome has ever been. And check out Curtis Deloatch teaching Jimmy Graham the touchdown celebration ropes.
This was about as gutsy of a decision as I’ve ever seen in football. And it was absolutely a difference making one. While most will remember Tracy Porter’s pick six as “the play” in the Super Bowl, Chris Reis recovering Thomas Morstead’s “ambush” to start the second half is a very close second.
6. Tom Dempsey’s game winning 63 yard field goal
This would stand as an NFL record for 43 years until it was broken by a yard in 2013. Dempsey had a club foot that apparently gave him more distance on his kicks. In the 70s this was the one special moment in team history.
7. Tracy Porter intercepting Brett Favre
As great as the pick six, the ambush and the Garrett Hartley field goal before them were, none of those things happen if Tracy Porter doesn’t come up with this huge play:
8. John Gilliam’s opening kickoff return
As bad as the Saints were from the late 60s all the way through to the late 80s, the first play in team history was pretty special. Only two teams in NFL history can ever say their first play was a touchdown (the other is the Dolphins).
9. River City Relay
On the final play of a game against the Jaguars with a chance to go to the playoffs hanging in the balance, the Saints pulled off this miracle TD with the “River City Relay”. This play would probably be higher if it wasn’t for the play that would immediately follow it. More on that later.
10. The Meacharound
You just had a feeling the Saints’ 2009 season was destined for a title when they started pulling off plays like this one.
And of course, you know me, you can’t have greatness without misery. Here are the 10 worst plays:
1. The “Brooksie”
A “Brooksie” was known as a horrible mistake of any kind where the ball slips out of your hand inexplicably. The backwards pass to Wayne Gandy takes the cake, though. Poor Deuce McAllister, why did he have to share the field with him?
The Saints pretty much birthed “Beastmode” with their atrocious tackling. Seriously, how could they not get him down on this play? This sent the Saints packing in the playoffs, too.
3. John Carney ruining the River City Relay
That improbable yet miraculous touchdown made the score 19-20 as time expired. So a chip shot PAT from Carney, one of the most reliable kickers ever, would tie it. Nope. Wait till the end for maximum torture.
4. The 1978 Falcons debacle.
This is really two plays. The Saints managed to lose to the Falcons 20-17 twice in the same season in the last second. The first was on a Hail Mary. The second time the Saints would get flagged for pass interference on the Hail Mary, and the Falcons would score on the next play. Awesome. There’s no footage of this on youtube that I can find, but you can re-live it in all it’s misery by reading the recount here.
5. Vernon Davis
If we didn’t sour on Malcom Jenkins and Roman Harper before this game, what Vernon Davis did to them in the playoffs in San Francisco solidified things. But I blame Gregg Williams and his zero coverage. The Saints had it in the bag and they kissed goodbye their chance at a second Super Bowl thanks to this. While this play was the heart breaker, the long pass before this to Davis was possibly even more enraging.
6. Tim Couch Hail Mary
The Saints were beaten by a buzzer beater in the Mike Ditka era in 1999 on a Hail Mary pass by Tim Couch of the Browns. The Browns were 0-7 at the time as a brand new franchise, so this would be their first ever win. I was in the stadium for this game and this was the most depressing game I have ever attended. I couldn’t find footage of this play but this was Mike Ditka’s reaction to it:
7. Steve Walsh’s spike turnover
No footage of this one either, sadly, but Saints quarterback Steve Walsh tried to spike a football to kill the clock and somehow botched that attempt, fumbled, and had it returned for a touchdown by the 49ers. Most embarrassing perhaps is that Walsh used the word “flabbergasted” to express his disagreement with the referee’s call.
8. Mike Lansford’s kick
The Saints were this close under Bum Phillips in 1983 to making the playoffs for the first time in team history. In came down to the final game in the final week against the Rams. Mike Lansford would sneak this field goal jsut inside the upright and the Rams would go to the playoffs instead.
9. Kyle Turley costs the Saints the game
The Saints were about to tie the Jets at 16 late in the game until they didn’t, because Turley went nuts. In his defense he was protecting his quarterback, at the expense of his team making the playoffs of course.
10. Vikings fumble their way to a win
The Saints failed to make the playoffs in 2002 despite being 9-4 by losing three straight games to end the season. All they had to win was one. The Vikings in the first of those three games came to the Superdome and scored on the final play to go down 1. Naturally they went for two and the win because they were 3-10 and Daunte Culpepper fumbled the snap. No matter, he bobbled the ball into the end zone untouched going up the middle anyway. One of the more inept defensive plays I’ve ever seen. I was there for that one, too, and at the time we were all thinking “they just need to win one of the next two to get in, they’ll be ok”. They didn’t. No footage, but here’s a recap.