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Sports Then and Now



NFL Classic Rewind: Falcons Get Not One, But Two Last-Seconds Wins over Saints 13

Posted on November 11, 2011 by A.J. Foss

In 1978, the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints were unlikely contenders for a playoff spot in the NFC as both teams had never made the playoffs in their collective 23 seasons between the two teams.

The two divisional rivals meet twice over a span of 14 days in November 1978 in a pair of last-second finishes that determined both teams’ fates for the 1978 season.

The Falcons entered the first game with the Saints on a four-game winning streak to up their record to 6-4 to put themselves in the hunt for their first playoff berth in franchise history.

Atlanta was led by head coach Leeman Bennett, who was in his second season as the Falcons head coach, and featured a defense that called “The Grits Blitz” which had allowed a NFL-record 129 points in 14 games in Bennett’s first season, only to have the team finish 7-7 because of an offense that only scored 179 points.

While their stats were not that much better in the 1978 season, the Falcons offense with quarterback Steve Bartkowski at the helm was doing enough for the Falcons to win games. Read the rest of this entry →

Classic Rewind: Montana and the 49ers’ First Comeback 3

Posted on September 14, 2010 by A.J. Foss

Of all the games that were played during Week 14 of the 1980 NFL season, the matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers seemed to be one of the least compelling games.

The 49ers were 5-8 entering this game and appeared headed toward their fourth straight losing season and seventh in the last eight seasons.  San Francisco had started the season 3-0 before losing eight games in a row.

Second-year head coach Bill Walsh was trying to move ahead with second-year quarterback Joe Montana as his quarterback of the future, who had traded starts throughout the season with Steve DeBerg.  Montana would get the start against the Saints.

While the 49ers’ recent history had been rather bad, the history of the New Orleans Saints had been all bad.

Ever since their inception in 1967, the Saints had never recorded a winning season.  However, the Saints had high hopes for the 1980 season as they were coming off an 8-8 season the year before and were favorites to win the NFC Western Division, thanks to Pro Bowlers Archie Manning and Chuck Muncie.

But things went bad from the start as the Saints as they lost their first 13 games of the season, and during the stretch they traded Muncie to the San Diego Chargers after the fourth game of the season.

The losing continued and after a 27-7 Monday night loss to the Los Angeles Rams, head coach Dick Nolan was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Dick Stanfel.

The Saints were so bad that New Orleans sportscaster Bernard “Big D” Diliberto encouraged all Saints fans to wear paper bags over their heads at the Saints’ home games at the Louisiana Superdome.  One of the fans that wore a bag on his head wrote “Aints” on his bag on the nickname stuck to the franchise.

But the Week 14 game against the 49ers in San Francisco appeared to be the Saints’ day as they jumped out to a 35-7 halftime lead, thanks to an impressive first half by Manning as he completed 14 of 22 passes for 248 yards and threw three touchdowns, two in the first quarter, Ike Harris for 33 yards and Henry Childs for 21 yards, and one more right before the end of the half to Harris again, this time for 41 yards. Read the rest of this entry →

Losers No More: The Rise of the New Orleans Saints 12

Posted on February 03, 2010 by Dean Hybl
Hall of Fame running back and quarterback Gary Cuozzo were members of the originals Saints.

Hall of Fame running back Jim Taylor and quarterback Gary Cuozzo were members of the originals Saints.

On the first play in New Orleans Saints history, rookie John Gilliam returned a kickoff 94 yards against the Los Angeles Rams for the first touchdown in franchise history. Little did anyone watching that game on September 17, 1967 know that it would take 43 years before the promise of that opening day would culminate with an appearance in football’s grandest game.

The road from opening kickoff to Super Bowl XLIV has been long and full of disappointment, but much like the city it represents, the Saints have withstood  every trial and now are just one victory from being crowned Super Bowl Champions.

Despite the opening fireworks, that opening game did provide a glimpse into what was in store for Saints fans. The Rams recovered to hold the Saints to just two field goals the rest of the way while coming back for a 27-13 victory.

The Saints won three games during their opening season with their first win coming in the eighth week of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles.

During the early years, the Saints were a haven for “has beens” and “never weres”.

The opening roster included a pair of future Hall of Famers in Jim Taylor and Doug Atkins, but both players were at the end of their careers and only shells of their former selves. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Tony Oliva: Hall of Fame Worthy
      April 21, 2019 | 5:18 pm
      Tony Oliva

      Cuba is known for producing great baseball talent and there has arguably been no one from the island better than the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

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