It’s Atlanta Falcons Hate Week, folks. New Orleans Saints faithful are gathering around and reminiscing on some of the most embarrassing moments in the history of their rivalry, like that time Falcons owner Arthur Blank spent an entire offseason wringing his hands in disappointment after Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro speared Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan into the ground and nobody came to Ryan’s defense.
They’re also laughing at the time former Saints offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod was working out with some friends on Atlanta’s roster during the 2011 lockout and mentioned that Drew Brees was organizing an unofficial group training camp. Those anonymous Falcons, identities lost to time, got on the phone and told their teammates they needed to get group practices together, too.
These days, Saints fans are getting a kick out of the Falcons literally begging fans to show up for games: star defensive tackle Grady Jarrett made a plea to the media earlier this week, and today head coach Dan Quinn produced a work excuse so people can get to the game on a weekday:
We love the energy and juice you all bring on game day! Here’s your note for Friday. We cannot wait to be in front of you as the battle for the Division is at hand! #InBrotherhood pic.twitter.com/G6vD9a4CV0— Dan Quinn (@FalconsDQ) December 6, 2017
But few things are as easy to laugh at as things simply going off the script for Atlanta. The procedures and protocols for executing a clean punt can be intense in the NFL, but it’s usually a routine play. The team with the ball admits defeat and opts to kick it to the other side of the field. That sounds easy enough, but the Falcons found a way to mess it up.
2. Michael Mauti on the block, scoop, and score
The second-greatest punt-block-touchdown in Saints-Falcons history happened just a few years ago, ironically also on Thursday Night Football. The Falcons were 5-0 and talked about like title contenders, until the Saints upset them in what was probably nightmarish fashion.
The wheels fell off Atlanta’s hype train when recently-signed rookie linebacker Michael Mauti made a great special teams play, racing through the line unblocked to interrupt the punt. He even snatched the ball, and by extension Atlanta’s souls, off the turf and fell four yards into the end zone for a score.
You can relive this moment in Saints-Falcons history thanks to a clip from CSC’s own John Hendrix, or experience it in glorious high-definition by following this link to the NFL’s official YouTube page. Some goofy copyright rules somewhere prevented it from being embedded.
Michael. Freakin. Mauti. This play looks eerily familiar #Saints! https://t.co/wNyHJPNvW1— John Hendrix (@JohnJHendrix) October 16, 2015
1. Gleason makes history with the world watching
Man, what more needs to be said? Gleason was a fan-favorite even before this historic play, known for riding his bike around the French Quarter and Garden District. Since then he’s become an icon of resilience in the face of his battle with ALS. Whether it’s leading the Who Dat Chant in pregame ceremonies, announcing draft picks thanks to text-to-speech software, keeping vigil at the wake for Will Smith, or making jokes about the fight of his life on social media, Gleason’s reputation as an all-around great dude has just grown with time.
Throwback to Steve Gleason's blocked punt that up lifted the city of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina #WhoDat pic.twitter.com/xBu34RBd0S— Brenden Ertle (@BrendenE_Saints) August 11, 2015
But it all started with that blocked punt. If you’re reading this, there’s not much new I can tell you about the play made by Gleason and Curtis DeLoatch, who was the man on the spot to recover the ball and dive into the end zone for the score. He even dunked over the goalpost years before Jimmy Graham would make the celebration iconic. That said, this oral history told by the players and coached involved and assembled by the Times-Picayune’s Christopher Dabe is an excellent morning read. Instead I’ll ask you this: where were you when Gleason made it clear for all to see that the Saints were back in New Orleans?