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Who Dat History: The 1987 Season - The Promised Land

By Ralph Malbrough and Hans Petersen In this final installment of Who Dat History: The 1987 Season, we take the Saints to The Promised Land - from the last leg of the nine-game winning streak and playoff fever to the Vikings absolute dismantling of the Saints in the Wild Card game.

The Saints got run over by the 1987 Vikings to end their first playoff season.
The Saints got run over by the 1987 Vikings to end their first playoff season.

Who Dat History: The 1987 Season

Chapter Three

The Promised Land

When we left you at the end of Chapter Two of Who Dat History: The 1987 Season, our boys were 8-3, had clinched the team's first winning season, and had won five games in a row. Oh, and New Orleans was bats*** insane with Saints Fever.

That's right, Ralph. As the final quarter of the regular season arrived, the Saints were now on the cusp of the playoffs, and I'm not just talking about that mathematical bulls*** fans experienced in the past, I'm talking real scenarios that involved hosting a playoff game in the Dome as well as a legitimate fight for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Saints fans had never seen anything like this before.

Agreed, Hans. It's really hard to put into perspective if you are under 30 but I'll give it a try.

I think 1987 is more 2006 than 2009.

Was the Super Bowl Season in 2009 awesome, spectacular, and everything we ever dreamed it would be? Absolutely. Hans, cue up Tracy Porter taking it to the House...

As you wish, Buttercup. (now stop picturing Ralph's head on Robin Wright Penn's body, I dare ya!)

How ya like it now? In HD, bitches!!!

Sorry, Hans, I got off track, let's get back to 1987.

The reason 1987 is more like 2006 is because there wasn't the weight of great expectations like 2009.

By 2009 we knew a Super Bowl was possible. The Saints had come really close in 2006 and had an elite QB and coach. Heading into 2009, it wasn't ‘Super Bowl or Bust' but things like playoffs and winning seasons were almost expected and not just some crazy fantasy.

Heading into 2006, I wrote a column saying that I thought the Saints would go 8-8 and "back door" themselves into a playoff spot. I got emails saying people loved my optimism but I was insane. We were just happy the Saints were still in New Orleans, Reggie Bush and Drew Brees seemed like big fun, but serious thoughts of a title were a pipe dream.

That's what made 2006 so great. It was like this fantastic unexpected joy given to us that no one saw coming. 1987 was like that. If you can imagine the Saints winning as a recreational drug, 1987 was New Orleans' first toke, as it were.

As for the actual games, in Week 12 the Saints would host Tampa Bay and defeat them 44-34 to clinch a playoff spot - BOX SCORE. This game is most famous for the debut of the Benson Boogie because Tom Benson went down to the field and danced after the game. I was there in person but something else is burned in my memory. I can still remember an old man next to me, probably around 70, hugging his probably 45-year-old son as Jerry Romig announced the Saints were going to the playoffs.

The old man said, "You remember the Raiders game (1979) when they blew it and you swore you were never coming back?"

"You did the same in 1983 after the Rams loss."

"Totally worth it for this, Dad."


They laughed and headed out.

Why the hell I remember that more than any actual play from the game? It sort of sums up Saints fans perfectly and maybe that's why. It would make one hell of an NFL commercial.

Looking back at the 1987 Saints, one thing starts to stick out, which would come back to bite them in the playoffs. The secondary could be lit up by even a middling QB.

Vinny Testaverde dropped 369 yards on them. It was mostly catch-up empty stats, but Bernie Kosar, Joe Montana, and Randall Cunningham had all pretty much lit the Saints up as well. Of course, in 1987 there weren't blogs, advanced stats and the Internet to point this out to insane fans who would then just ignore the data anyway while chugging the purple drank. Besides, the Saints were 9-3, going to the playoffs, and New Orleans was high on their first deep inhale of real winning Saints football.

I will argue that in the following week, the 1987 Saints hit their peak in defeating the Houston Oilers 24-10.

They would hold Warren Moon to 16-36 passing and lead Houston 21-3 at the half. The Oilers went 9-6 in 1987 and finished second in the AFC Central that year. Following this dominant win, the Saints would struggle against the bottom-feeding Bengals and Packers.

This game also set a Saints record for consecutive sellouts in the Superdome at three. Do you want to not do any housework/chores and watch the 24-10 Saints win? Why not! LINK

Notice Morten Andersen getting lit up on the opening kickoff on a bounty hit via Jerry Glanville. Hey Glanville, Roger Goodell wants to speak to you. The Rog has no statute of limitations and you sir, ARE SUSPENDED!

And I'll point out here, Ralph, that these were the days in which the Saints would win the toss and always seemed to elect to kick first, putting the defense on the field. Remember that?

If the Saints peaked as a team against the Oilers, then the fun meter for the fans definitely red lined when the Saints went to Cincinnati the following week, as the Same Old Saints tried to show up again.

The Saints fell behind 24-3 in the second quarter, and Bobby Hebert got hurt. Not only did the seven-game winning streak seem doomed, but the whole season looked in peril without our starting QB.

Following Hebert's injury, in stepped Saints 1981 #1 overall supplemental draft pick and backup QB Dave Wilson (who????), and the Saints promptly dropped 38 straight points on the Bengals, including 31 in the second half, for a highly improbable 41-24 win. And Dave Wilson's improbable play boosted more improbable play from most improbable players as Mike Jones caught a third quarter score and Buford Jordan added two 4th quarter TDs to keep the party known as the 1987 Saints going strong.

What the hell just happened? Did the Saints actually make an unbelievable comeback? The team who made coming from ahead to lose seem routine? YOU ARE GOD DAMN RIGHT. Check the BOX SCORE if you don't believe us.

And right here, you can watch Brent Musburger, Irv Cross, and Harry Carson break down the Saints-Bengals situation at halftime on The NFL Today...

Ralph, this is the first 1987 Saints clip I was able to pull up on YouTube and it's GOLDEN. 7.5 minutes of CBS halftime show in Week 14 - The Saints are down to the Bengals 24-10 and they talk about the Saints right off the bat! Hebert's hurt, Dave Wilson is going to come in and have to play in the 2nd half. It's a quaint little highlight show with a young Brent Smutburger, Irv Cross and Harry Carson, and minimal highlights. Juxtapose this with the current crap of over-stuffed stats/graphics/quick cuts and too many oversized personalities at one desk competing for airtime...NICE.

The Saints wrapped up the regular season beating the Packers 33-24 but they fell behind early again and let some guy named Walter Stanley rampage through the secondary for two 1st quarter TD catches. BOX SCORE

No matter, though, because the Saints were 12-3! They would host the 8-7 Minnesota Vikings in their first ever playoff game.

NFC Western Division






San Francisco








New Orleans








LA Rams

















Ralph, just dig those final NFC West standings for the regular season. Bittersweet, because in the BEST SAINTS SEASON EVER to date back then, they were still a game behind the 49ers.

And here's some more classic NFL tele-journalism from the NFL Today. This time, Irv and Brent make Week 16 Saints playoff talk at 4:35ish to 5:21ish - they needed the Rams to win over 49ers that night to send Minnesota to San Francisco in the Wild Card game to get the Saints home field advantage. And to close the segment, Smutberger calls for a "perfect end to the season" with a Saints-Colts Super Bowl - he was just 22 years too early - holy f****** crap!!

...and later that night, on NFL Primetime, the show leads off with the Saints-Packers recap after updating the late games. It runs from 1:07 to 4:58, and just look at the end zone - they've got one of them painted for the Sugar Bowl already!!! The Benson Boogie is shown, along with a Mora sound bite. Ax (Pete Axthelm) compares Mora to Jerry Burns and says they can spot the Vikes some points early b/c Mora's Coach of the Year and Burns is not. Ha!

Damn, Hans that is some s***. Now show them the Wild Card Game opening on CBS, featuring Jimmy the Greek's atmosphere walk around the French Quarter, him talking to regular folks and then interviewing trumpeting co-founder of the Saints Al Hirt, before The Greek picks the Saints to win 24-21. It also shows some player intros and great Dome-cheering crowd shots, then Brent says some s*** and kicks it over to Summerall and Madden via the cheesy synth intro music. I said it before, but I will say it again...The 1980's CBS NFL Theme is just the best.

Oh man, we're getting ahead of ourselves again. Before we get to the playoff game itself, and trust me, really, it can wait, let's enjoy the New Orleans local media recapping the fun and bathe in some insanity of Saints fans.

If you want Jim Henderson and Archie Manning walking among Saints fans lined up for playoff tickets, watch the first part of WWL's That Heavenly Season.

You can feel the pain in Archie Manning's voice as he recaps the 1970's in Part Two.

Part Three features Frank Davis' recipe for a Saints winner - FOR REAL!

Part Four focuses on the fans:

Johnnie Poe's Christmas Day feature leads off Part Five...

Do you want Ed Daniels, before he migrated to the interwebs and Oh My God!!! Is that Ro Brown? Roh, yes! You simply MUST tune in to A Long Time Coming, from WDSU-TV, in three parts...

...and a-two...

...and a-three...

Good Times.

Ok, let's get to the playoff game against the Vikings. Minnesota was a deceptive 8-7 because they went 0-3 in replacement games. They also had QB issues because Tommy Kramer was banged up and Wade Wilson was well, Wade Wilson (and six years later, he'd be a starter for the 1993 Saints, natch). In my memory this game was awful. Just an avalanche of disaster after a quick 7-0 Saints start.

My memory had it was worse.

If the box score from pro football reference were a video, it would be classified as a snuff film and be made illegal.

Total yards: Vikings 417 Saints 149
Rushing yards: Vikings 210 Saints 53
Passing Yards: Vikings 249 Saints 104
Turnovers: Vikings 2 Saints 6

Bobby Hebert went 11 for 31 with four interceptions.

Ralph, I'll never forget the crushing disappointment that came from the pre-game anticipation/excitement buildup, to the 7-0 lead, then the 24-point implosion followed by the sequence when I just felt in my heart that the game was OVER, as the Vikes answered Morten's late first-half field goal with an even later first half Hail Mary TD to go up 31-10 at the break. GUH.

The Saints were lucky to only lose 44-10. And now you can watch it with no sound.

Here's the first half:

..and the second:

Hans, I wanted to do specific breakdown of the game but Dave has rules about language, decency, and not posting pictures of crime scenes. So that's all you get.

Yeah, so the ending to 1987 sucked, but it was a great overall movie. Mora's 0-4 playoff record is hung around his neck by fans but he was to me the biggest reason the Saints started winning.

The Mora years were better than anything other than Sean Payton's time in charge. Is Mora a Hall of Fame coach? No, but ask a fan base like Cleveland, Oakland, or Buffalo if they would like their current teams to be as good as the 1987-1992 Saints. They'd sign up for it in, like 10 seconds.

So that was the 1987 Saints. Now you know them a little better and can love them like all of us old timers.

Until next time, Saints fans....but let's start by filling the comment section with your memories and stories from the final five games of the Saints 1987 season.

* * *

Special thanks to Hans...the man who makes me look like I can write semi-competently.

And let's tip our caps to Ralph, who mixes emotion, analysis, humor, history, and profanity into some pretty darn entertaining sports writing.

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