Haven't we seen this score before somewhere in New Orleans Saints' history?
It was September 16, 1973. John North mades his head coaching debut with the Saints. The organization was in a free-fall, having run out NFL Hall of Famer Tom Fears during the 1970 season to hire an unproven, clearly overmatched semi-pro coach in J.D. Roberts, who had been a New Orleans assistant coach under Fears in 1967 and 1968.
The stories about Roberts are legendary. How bad were things? After making the Pro Bowl in 1969 and hitting an NFL record 63-yard field goal in 1970, Tom Dempsey was one of the few bright spots for the Saints heading into 1971, along with the drafting of Archie Manning in the first round. The Saints put Dempsey on the cover of the 1971 media guide. Roberts cut Dempsey prior to the start of the 1971 season as the two fought over training issues.
North inherited a terrible situation which included poor management as the primary issue. The Saints were 2-11-1, an awful team. North was a stand-up guy, a brutally honest fellow whom I grew to like as a member of the media years later.
Though I was too young to cover the team in 1973, I attended the games, including the season opener with the hated Falcons and Pro Football Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin, their fiery head coach. With a 48-7 lead in the fourth quarter, Van Brocklin had Bob Lee passing the ball. He connected with former LSU star Eddie Ray on an eight-yard touchdown pass to make it 55-7. Ray capped off the scoring with a one-yard touchdown run. Ironically, the game was scoreless through one quarter.
Given the chance to pour salt in the wound, Van Brocklin did so, humiliating New Orleans, 62-7.
How bad were the Saints? They turned the ball over eight times and amassed just 187 total yards of offense while the Falcons had 32 first-downs and 496 total yards. Manning was 5-of-13 for 62 yards with five interceptions in perhaps his worst effort as a professional quarterback. Of course, he had little help.
Fast forward 38 years to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday night. Though Molly Ringwald was not on hand, many Saints players and fans looked "pretty in pink," as a tribute to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Even the numbers on the scoreboard were pink. And for the home fans, the winning 62-7 score could not have looked much prettier.
Here are the impressive records established by the New Orleans Saints in their win over the Colts Sunday night:
**The 62 points were not only a Saints' franchise record but matched the largest number of points scored since the NFL-AFL merger following the 1966 season.
**The margin of victory (55 points) was the largest in New Orleans Saints history and tied for the third highest since the merger.
**The margin of defeat was the second longest in the history of the Colts' franchise, dating back to their days in Baltimore.
**The 36 first downs were a New Orleans Saints record.
**John Kasay's eight extra-points were obviously a franchise record.
**How efficient was Drew Brees? The Saints did not even reach third-down until their fifth offensive possession with the score 28-0.
**Brees threw more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (4). He had his most accurate day passing as a member of the New Orleans Saints, completing 31-of-35 passes (89 percent) for 325 yards with no interceptions for a passer rating of 144.9. Ironically, Brees' streak of four consecutive 350 yard passing games was stopped. Of course, Brees was lifted late in the third quarter for Chase Daniel. Brees extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 34.
**How good was the Saints' offense? The Saints scored on their first nine possessions and accumulated 557 yards, tying the second largest output in franchise history.
**The game was played in a crisp two hours and 48 minutes, a nice diversion from the norm of over three hour contests.
**Marques Colston is fully recovered from the broken collarbone suffered in the opener at Green Bay which caused him to miss two games and he is playing at a very high level. For the second straight week, Colston caught seven balls. He has 216 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games. Colston is playing like a true feature receiver, which the Saints need. He is catching the ball well, eliminating drops.
**Where was Dallas Clark? One of the top receiving tight ends in NFL history was invisible. He caught no balls and was not even thrown to by Curtis Painter or Dan Orlovsky.
**While Clark was not a factor, the NFL's top receiving tight end was a significant factor once again. Despite seeing his run of four consecutive games of 100 or more yards in receiving yardage end, Jimmy Graham caught six passes for 54 yards and two more scores, giving him five touchdowns on the season. The guy is unstoppable by any one player, an absolute beast. He is making Colston and the other receivers better.
**The same can be said for Darren Sproles. Whether coming out of the backfield or lining up in the slot, Sproles is a matchup nightmare. He caught six passes, including one for a touchdown and forces the defense to account for him, freeing up Graham and others for single coverage. Of course, Sproles was superb running the football, carrying 12 times for 88 yards and a score. He is truly one of the best pickups by any team in the NFL.
**Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas ran hard. Ingram got nicked and left the game. We will see how his health is. Of course, both had holes to run through. The Saints offensive line battered the smallish Colts' defensive front.
**Brian de la Puente did a nice job at center. Given the declining performance of Olin Kreutz, there was no real loss here. De la Puente was another good acquisition and he has stepped up. Kudos to Kreutz, who walked away from lots of money in assessing his situation honestly. As bad as Chicago's offensive line is, would they have let Kreutz leave if he still had enough gas in the tank?
**Where was Dwight Freeney? Like Clark, the mainstay of the Indianapolis defensive line was invisible. He did not record a tackle in the game.
**I wonder what Peyton Manning was thinking as he watched helplessly from the sideline? What we have discovered is that Manning was even more valuable than we thought he was. The guy is special. Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky are anything but special. At 35-years old, why would Manning ponder returning at some point this season?
Former Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC, suggested that the Colts should draft Andrew Luck if they have the top pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Dungy raised the possibility of trading Manning, a sacrilege to many. Keep in mind that Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre, all superstars, did not finish their careers with their "franchise" teams.
**With Sean Payton forced to coach from the press box, located at the very top of the cavernous Superdome, the Saints put on a show. I wonder how he liked the view? He must have loved it, based on his team's performance. By the second quarter, Jim Caldwell and the Colts had waved the white flag, perhaps mumbling the words to "You Had Me from Hello," an appropriate theme with Kenny Chesney in the house upstairs near his good friend Payton. Jerry Maguire was nowhere to be seen though Saints' receivers did their best Rod Tidwell impersonation.
While the result was expected, the margin of the result could not have been anticipated by anyone. It was welcome site and respite heading into another matchup with yet another winless team in St. Louis next Sunday.
Somewhere just above the press box, North is reminiscing, having seen this act before. Fortunately, the guys in black and gold were on the right end of this one.
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