Who Dat History: The 1987 Season - Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda...DID!

When he was a younger man, the 1987 Saints gave him much to boogie about. - Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE

By Ralph Malbrough and Hans Petersen After Jim Mora melted down following a heartbreaking loss to the 49ers, the Saints wouldn't lose again in 1987. Let's relive the beginning of the excitement and enjoy the run to clinching the team's first winning season. How's that for a Father's Day gift to remember?

Who Dat History: The 1987 Season

Chapter 2

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda...DID!

Following the 24-22 loss at home to San Francisco, the Saints went to Atlanta and pile drove the Falcons 38-0 (piled drove? pile drived? damn it, Ralph, we'll be vilified by the peanut gallery if we don't get this right - did you see what happened to those test writers???), which at the time was a huge deal. Even though the Saints hadn't ever won anything they still would bring like 10,000 fans to Atlanta with them every time. In 1987, watching game footage makes it feel like 20,000.

The Saints beating anyone 38-0 would be news any year. Reuben Mayes and Dalton Hilliard combined for 175 yards rushing and the Saints defense held Atlanta to 183 yards.

Ralph, you forgot to mention that the Saints secondary recorded five, count 'em, FIVE interceptions off Falcons quarterback Scott Campbell, while Rickey Jackson and Frank Warren each sacked that bum twice. OUCH. BOX SCORE

New Orleans was starting to notice, but it wasn't until the following two weeks when everyone realized, "It's real. The Saints are actually really good and 1987 is the year."

Next up for the Saints was a rematch with the Rams in Los Angeles, and the real Saints clubbed the real Rams, 31-14 (and no one called PETA). Dalton Hilliard caught a touchdown and threw for another. Hilliard was always really good in Anaheim. Why? I have no idea he just was.

I hear you, Ralph. Know what else Dalton was always good at throughout his career? The halfback pass. His lifetime passing stats: 4 of 7 for 114 yards and 4 TDs. How fun is that?

Hans, you sure say that a LOT. The Saints were 5-3, and headed out to San Francisco looking for revenge. This game sticks with me more than any other from 1987. It didn't clinch a winning season or playoff spot like future games would but it proved the Saints could win a big game.

If you are under 30 you probably think, "How can a late October game be so important?" The Saints never had won big games because they hadn't really played in many. The 1983 season finale against the Rams was the biggest. Now they were heading to play the 7-1 49ers in a 3 p.m. kickoff, and it was a huge deal.

Almost as important as winning was how the Saints won. The Saints had been awful for 19 years and what do bad teams do? They lose in new horrible ways every week. You know that old saying, "Every happy family is the same but unhappy families are each unhappy in their own special way."

Football teams are like that. Winning teams are usually very similar but losing teams are unique in their awfulness. The Saints had tortured their fans in every way possible, but their patented specialty was blowing big leads and the fourth quarter collapse.

In 1987's second game against the 49ers, it sure felt like it was going to happen again. The Saints had scored on a Reggie Sutton blocked field goal that Johnnie Poe scooped up and ran 61 yards to the house to give New Orleans a 23-14 lead in the third quarter.

So, Saints fans began preparing themselves for the inevitable, and the 49ers came in right on cue in the fourth quarter, mounting a 10-point run to take the lead back, 24-23, on a Ray Wersching field goal and a Joe Montana to Ron Heller 29-yard touchdown pass. Same old Saints.

Except it wasn't. Bobby Hebert somehow mustered up a drive (on a day when he was 10 of 27 for 181 yards) and Morten Andersen hit the ugliest 40-yard kick you will ever see with a minute left to give the Saints a 26-24 win.

HERE's your box score, and HERE'S THE WHOLE GAME TO WATCH and get no work done (well, it's Father's Day, so treat yourself, even if you're not a father)...you're welcome.

New Orleans was now fully enthralled with Who Dat Fever. The Saints had won three straight, which at the time was tied for the longest win streak ever.

Ralph, I know I'm a bit premature with this musical interlude because the song didn't really come out until after they had clinched a winning season, but I simply cannot hold back any longer. Check out this cover of the Monkees' "I'm A Believer" remade for the Saints that year by some locals - it captures the excitement we all felt, and I have great memories of hearing this song in my car while driving, rolling down the windows and singing as loud as I could. Good times.


...and then I saw the Saints!! Now I'm a believer, got the Who Dat Fever in the Superdome.

Another song I really got into that season was the Benson Boogie song that covered the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B by the Andrews Sisters. Here's an HBO Sports piece on the Benson Boogie from 1988 (which really doesn't belong in a 1987 history piece, but at least you can hear the song in it).


I'll admit right here and now that I am an absolute maniac who loved and loves everything that I even remotely associated with the Saints in the Fall of 1987. Just listen to these cheesy songs that I know EVERY WORD OF...and when coupled with those highlights, I absolutely swoon.

OK, Hans. Good to know. (smiling nervously while backing away slowly while maintaining shaky eye contact...)

UPDATE: Sunday, June 16, 9:35 am eastern time - While in the shower this morning, it hit me that there is one more sweet, sweet song that came out as a Saints tribute song in 1987 (and I'm just realizing that this echoed hard in the 2009 season with tribute songs, too. There's just something about associating music with success like you've never seen and then it enhances the sensory/emotional memory...) Saints Go, All The Way by Harrison Avenue. I was just quoting it in another thread...the Prologue, perhaps, but then forgot it when finishing this post last night. Anyway, this song also gets my heart racing, and I can remember seeing this song along with highlights from 1987 in the pre-youtube days, and it was a big part of that glorious season, too.

My search did not turn up any vids with 1987 highlights, but I did get this one with 2009 highlights...


and then one with the 2009 Unknown Who Dat...


Wow, Hans. Just wow.

Meanwhile, back in New Orleans after a two-game West Coast swing, 67,639 showed up to watch the Saints beat the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Eric Martin caught a fourth quarter touchdown, and the Saints won 23-14. And again, Ralph, the defense picked off an opposing quarterback FIVE TIMES. Jeff Rutledge has never seen CMFers like that again in his life. And with the exception of the 2009 Saints, neither have we, Ralph. BOX SCORE

With that victory, the Saints had gotten to 7 wins in 10 games, and since the 1987 strike season would have only 15 games, it meant a winning season was within their grasp (and with six games left to play in the regular season, to boot!!).

Next up were the Steelers. Pittsburgh was a lot better in 1987 than I remembered, Hans. They went 8-7 that year, which was decent, but since they were in the post-Terry Bradshaw Era and near the end of Chuck Noll's reign, this paled in comparison to the dominant Steeler Super Bowl teams of the 1970's.

The Saints used a goal line stand and a late Dave Waymer interception to seal a 20-16 victory and the winning season. It was only fitting that Waymer, a member of the 1-15 1980 team, would be the one to lock it up. BOX SCORE

Hans, and everyone else who reads this story, please at least watch the beginning of the video of THAT WHOLE GAME that is posted over at Saints Report, and then you all will certainly agree with me that the 1980's had the best game intro music ever. Better than Monday Night Football and better than Faith #$^& Hill. It's awesome and I want it as the ring tone on my phone.

At this point the city was insanity. In 1987 there was no Internet so there were only two ways to get your Saints fix; local news and the Times Picayune.

I'm not going to tell you 1987 was better than today. It wasn't. The Red Zone channel, fantasy football, Twitter, CSC comment threads, all these things make being a fan much easier and more fun but there was something really cool about devouring the sports section on Monday after a Saints win. Again I was 11 years old, and I love nostalgia...sue me.

Ralph, you are as right as rain about that. And that year was a great year to read the T-P sports on Mondays. Here's what greeted us in those pages for the NFC West standings on that Monday morning.

NFC Western Division

PF

PA

Hm

Aw

Div

San Francisco

9-2

.818

312

234

3-1

6-1

3-1

New Orleans

8-3

.727

280

191

3-1

5-2

4-1

LA Rams

4-7

.364

226

268

2-3

2-4

0-4

Atlanta

2-9

.182

164

328

2-5

0-4

1-2

And you can check out the rest of the Week 11 league standings HERE.

After that game, Ralph, the Saints were 8-3 and rolling as the NFC's top Wild Card team (and mush to fans' chagrin, 8-3 would have tied them for the best record in the whole of the AFC), with the first winning season in team history already sewn up, and three of their final four games at the Dome.

While they had picked up a game on the damn 49ers since losing to them in Week 6, those a**holes still led the NFC West, so the Saints had plenty of work to do, but things were looking up!

We will get to all that and more in Chapter 3 of Who Dat History: The 1987 Season - The Promised Land.

Hans, sing us out, ok? And no googling the lyrics.

No problem, Ralph! I thought you'd never ask...

He was an auto dealer from New Orleans way.

Who made it big in Texas selling Chevrolets.

And then he bought a football team, so he could realize one of his biggest dreams.

He's a dancer now, in the NFL, and he does the Benson Boogie on the football field.

He doesn't hold a candle to Fred Astaire.

But if the Saints are winning he'll jump in the air.

And then he'll boogie all around,

And hug a player or two before he falls on the ground.

He's a dancer now, in the NFL, and he does the Benson Boogie down on Bourbon Street.

* * *

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