Forty-nine years ago Sunday, New Orleans was awarded an NFL franchise.
In all those years, from that All Saints Day to this, there was never a win for the Saints like this one.
Offensive records galore, with more than 1,000 yards and 13 touchdown passes combined by both teams.
Three lead changes and five ties.
A startling lack of defense save for one huge fumble return by the New York Giants and one, last, critical stop by the Saints.
A huge penalty on a former LSU punter, allowing the Saints to get into range for kicker Kai Forbath – still so new he’s under warranty – to kick a game-winning 50-yarder at time expired in an incredulous 52-49 New Orleans victory.
As the game ended, P.A. announcer Mark Romig reminded fans not to text and drive after leaving the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Don’t text and drive? Saints fans were flying home after this one, hugging and high-fiving total strangers along the way.
“(Drew) Brees had seven touchdown passes,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, “but we told him the game ball was going to the kicker.”
After something like this, who cares? Brees will settle for the win. He also etched his name a little deeper into the Saints’ and NFL record books – 40 of 50 passing for a career high 511 yards and seven TDs – but the biggest thing to the top Saint will be what this meant to his team.
This was the latest chapter in the Saints’ improbable resurrection. After an 0-3 start they’ve won four of their last five to claw back to 4-4 at midseason, still digging themselves out of adversity but much closer to respectability – and, yes, playoff contention – than seemed possible just a few weeks ago.
Now a more manageable second-half schedule lies ahead with potential tomato cans like Tennessee, Houston, Detroit and Jacksonville dotting the schedule. Nothing is ever easy in the NFL, but the Saints have at least given themselves a fighting chance.
There won’t be another game like this, though.
There wasn’t anything like this in the last 49 years, so what chance to the next eight games have to produce a rival?