The New Orleans Saints unquestionably have a storied history—it just took a little longer to build that story than it does for most franchises.
Nonetheless, lifelong Saints fans (and younger ones especially) have been blessed with a number of fantastic Saints games they’ll remember forever.
November 29, 1987: Saints 20, Steelers 16
For the first time in their 21-year history, the Saints finally made it to the playoffs in 1987. But another first was also accomplished that season: New Orleans’s first ever winning record. This mark was made official in a dramatic November game against Pittsburgh.
With a little over three minutes left, New Orleans held a 20-16 lead but had Pittsburgh knocking at their goal line. But after two stuffed rushes up the middle, an incomplete pass, and a pitch to Frank Pollard that was stopped cold at about the half-inch line, the Saints had secured the historical victory.
December 30, 2000: Saints 31, Rams 28
New Orleans would make the playoffs three years in a row from 1990-1992, but would fall in the wild card playoffs each time. Fast forward past seven mediocre seasons into 2000, and the Saints would finally return to the playoffs. However, in the wild card game, they were tasked with playing the reigning Super Bowl Champions and Greatest Show on Turf, the St. Louis Rams.
The attack-minded Rams did just that on their first possession, marching 68 yards downfield to open the game’s scoring. But New Orleans saw something they liked in Kurt Warner’s offense that drive, and responded clinically with 31 unanswered points. Despite being up 31-7 with 12 minutes to go, the Rams rallied back and cut the lead to three with 2:31 remaining. The Saints then went three-and-out, which turned into the happiest of accidents: St. Louis’ Az-Zahir Hakim muffed the punt, which was then recovered by Brian Milne and ultimately allowed N’awlins to run out the clock for their first playoff victory ever.
September 25, 2006: Saints 23, Falcons 3
After spending the previous year playing their home games in other teams’ cities due to Hurricane Katrina, the Saints finally returned home to the Superdome in Week 3 of the 2006 season. In their long-awaited homecoming, they brought along free agent QB Drew Brees, a new coach in Sean Payton, #2 overall pick Reggie Bush, and most importantly, hope.
The stingy Saints defense forced Atlanta to go three-and-out on the first series of the game, resulting in a blocked punt that Curtis Deloatch fell on in the end zone for the first Saints touchdown scored at the Superdome since December 26, 2004. New Orleans went marching from there, winning 23-3 after months of rumors that the franchise would never return to the city.
January 24, 2010: Saints 31, Vikings 28
After cruising to a franchise- and NFC-best 13-0, the Saints stumbled to the finish, losing their final three regular season games. The campaign was still good enough to earn a first-round bye, allowing them to work out the kinks in a 45-14 win against Arizona in the Divisional Playoffs. The only thing now in the way of the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance was Brett Favre’s Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.
The game was a back-and-forth battle, eventually needing overtime to be settled. There, the Saints won the toss, and a long kick return from Pierre Thomas gave New Orleans a great field position. They then chipped down the field until about Minnesota’s 23-yard line, where they sent out kicker Garrett Hartley to try a 40-yarder. He made it, and just five years after the city experienced utter devastation, the Saints were headed to their first Super Bowl.
February 7, 2010: Saints 31, Colts 17
As feel-good a story as the Saints were, Peyton Manning’s Colts were still five-point favorites at most major online sportsbooks before Super Bowl XLIV. By the end of the first quarter, the Colts looked like the smart money as they held a 10-0 lead. But at halftime, the score was 10-7, and when the Saints returned to the field for the second half kick-off, coach Sean Payton made possibly the boldest coaching call in Super Bowl history.
To the shock of the world, kicker Thomas Morstead executed a perfect onside kick which was eventually recovered by New Orleans. The Saints scored on the ensuing drive to take their first lead of the game, 13-10. Indy responded immediately with a TD drive of their own, but a Jeremy Shockey TD reception and a successful two-point conversion made it 24-17 Saints with 4:57 to play. As the clock ticked down, Manning led the Colts down the field to try and tie the game, but ended up throwing an interception that Tracy Porter would take to the house to give New Orleans a 31-17 win and their first Super Bowl title ever.
Photo from Unsportsmanlike-conduct.com.