Don’t mess with the New Orleans Saints on All Saints Day or All Souls’ Day.
The Saints were of course officially born on All Saints Day of 1966. It was also on November 1, this time in 1987, that the Saints (coming off the famous Jim Mora “woulda-coulda-shoulda” diatribe) blew out the Atlanta Falcons, 38-0, to start the nine-game winning streak that finally and forever erased the Saints’ awful distinction as the only NFL team without ever posting a single winning record.
The Saints also beat the Falcons, this time 35-27, during New Orleans’ 2009 Super Bowl Season, on Monday night, Nov. 2 (All Souls’ Day), tying the Saints’ best-ever season start at 7-0.
And of course today’s stunning, amazing, description-defying 52-49 victory over the New York Giants was another great All-Saints birthday celebration for our Saints, during the course of which the two teams set a new, all-time NFL record for most combined touchdown passes in a single game, 13.
I write now in order to walk down memory lane to the game that held the previous record. I actually remember it. It was a huge deal to me. It was, yes, another Saints game, and it was on All Souls’ Day. It was the game that made me a hopeless Saints addict — at the ripe old age of 5.
I actually remember some Saints games, vaguely, before the 1969 season, including one (I’m pretty sure it was in 1968) in which the Steelers’ Roy Jefferson, in a fight, poked Danny Abramowicz in the eye and made me furious, just listening on the radio. So it wasn’t like I wasn’t already a Saints fan. But this — this Nov. 2, 1969 game against the St. Louis Cardinals — was the game in which I became addicted, and the game where I also became such a fan of Billy Kilmer that I would root for the Washington Redskins for all the years he played for them, once he was traded from the Saints, just because Kilmer was their quarterback.
This was the game in which both Kilmer and the Cardinals’ Charlie Johnson threw for six touchdowns each, as the Saints beat the Cards 51-42. For an otherwise terrible franchise, it was a mind-bogglingly good, fun performance, especially in the eyes of a five-year-old.
I remember watching the game on a black-and-white TV in our dining room on Camp Street in New Orleans. My dad cooked hamburgers for lunch, and I remember them being medium-rare and juicy — and remember him showing me, there in front of the Saints-Cards game, how to squeeze the thick burger through the bun in order to make the juices run clear onto the bun, which gave taste to the bread as well as the meat. It was a revelation to me. (The things that make an impression on a five-year-old!)
We didn’t usually have a TV in the dining room — but had set a small one up there just to watch the Saints game while we ate our burgers. And, with the Saints suddenly scoring touchdown after touchdown, I wouldn’t leave the table to go watch in the tiny den where we usually watched TV.
I remember Abramowicz catching touchdown passes from Kilmer. I remember a big Saints lead. And I remember getting a little nervous as the Cards came roaring back. This was, I think, also the game where I learned forever how to count by sevens (for touchdowns), because after the last touchdown by the Cards I was able to determine that the Saints still had a lead of more than a touchdown — and that there just wasn’t time enough for the Cardinals, even after three straight touchdowns, to score another two times to complete the comeback.
So the Saints, with all those TD passes by Kilmer, were safe souls as the game wound down.
And for 46 years, that game held the record for most touchdown throws in a game — one of the most obscure, but also one of the longest-ever-lasting records, in NFL history.
Of course, it had to be the Saints, on another All Saints/All Souls weekend, who would finally break the record they themselves had set. That’s what the Saints do to celebrate their birthdays (if they do actually play a game on Nov. 1 or 2): They win in memorable fashion.
So, earlier today (I write this on Sunday night), as the Saints pulled off the win, I immediately recited this earlier memory to my wife, before anybody on TV had made the reference to the earlier record. A memory 46-years-old is a helluva fun memory to bring back to life.
So there was Drew Brees throwing a touchdown to Willie Snead. And to Brandin Cooks. And to Snead. And to Cooks. And to Ben Watson. And to Marques Colston. And, finally, with the game on the line, to C.J. Spiller. And to me it brought back visions of Kilmer, Abramowicz, and tight end Dave Parks.
But this game — this was even better. This was closer. This involved a game blown by the Saints, and then suddenly redeemed by them. And this involved a last-second, 50-yard field goal. Remarkable. Fantastic. And super, super fun.
So Happy Birthday, Saints. This will always be your day — and, just as All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day are specifically meant for remembrances, so too is this your day to make great memories.