Posted on July 16, 2011 at 12:38 PM
Wednesday, Aug 10 at 9:36 AM
Everyone loves lists. Everyone (at least in this city) also loves the Saints. So, why not combine the two?
This project began when a reader asked us about ranking the best players in Saints history. Since WWLTV.com had done that list prior to the 2009 season, we began to think about something that can always be discussed.
Immediately it turned to the most clutch plays in Saints history. This isn’t the definitive list; you may, in fact, disagree with some of the placements or some of the plays.
But what can’t be disputed is that the plays on this list were all memorable in their own right.
Our definition of clutch goes a little something like this: A big play, and in one case, series of plays, in a big game at a crucial moment in time. It’s a play that if it doesn’t happen, the outcome is likely changed in the game.
Several on the list came from the Super Bowl-winning season but that’s expected. Several did not.
And anyway, what better way to get people geared up for the season should a new Collective Bargaining Agreement come to fruition soon.
No. 7 The Original Kick
The stories have been told through the generations, the ones about the rabble-rousing Saints in the early days of the franchise.
The teams were filled with characters, from the man who allegedly kept a parrot in his locker to the ones who drank morning, noon and night.
And then there was Tom Dempsey, the kicker who was born without toes on his right foot and kicked with a squared off boot.
Dempsey gets the spot on this list for his NFL record-setting 63-yard field goal in 1970. For much of the early part of the Saints’ history, it was the highlight that kept on giving.
“The Saints winning a game back then didn't happen too often - once or twice a year,” said Tom Planchet, former WWL-TV sports producer and current operations manager for WWLTV.com.
“The fact that they'd made history by signing a kicker who was missing part of an arm and part of a foot only fit in with the team's rag tag image to that point. It was the first game as head coach for J.D. Roberts and Dempsey kicked it from his own 37 (goal posts were on the goal line then). Let's see, game winning kick with no time left, longest in league history by a young man without part of his foot.
“I'd say that's clutch."
As opposed to the side-approach style that kickers use now, Dempsey was a straight-on kicker who played in the NFL for 10 seasons.
The Saints weren’t good in 1970 and in their fourth year as a franchise, still weren’t close to a winning record.
But for one moment, one day in NFL history, the Saints would stride atop the NFL world thanks to Dempsey’s foot.
The Lions had led most of the game until Tom Barrington’s fourth-quarter touchdown and Dempsey extra point gave the Saints a 16-14 lead.
Detroit, though, re-took the lead on an 18-yard Errol Mann field goal with less than 20 seconds to play.
That only set up the scenario for the best-ending anyone in New Orleans could never have dreamed up.
New Orleans received the ball late in the fourth quarter with 11 seconds left, enough time, apparently, to do some damage. And it did some damage.
The ball resting at the 45 with 2 seconds to play, Dempsey stood at the Saints’ 34, readying himself to make the kick from the 37. Upon the snap, Dempsey took a stutter step, then two more steps before sending the ball on its flight path.
Detroit’s Alex Karras was in position to block the kick, but he didn’t.
And Dempsey became a folk hero in New Orleans.
Tulane Stadium erupted. At least, that’s what Planchet remembers.
“Yes, I was at the game,” said Planchet, who was 10 at the time.” I really was. My friend's father took me and my buddy. He always liked to beat the traffic. We were on the down ramp when the place exploded - it was a sound I'd never heard before or since. The building shook. My friend's dad, perhaps worried that he had just had us miss history said, ‘No, no, there's no way.’ To which I replied, ‘You think this is the reaction for a close miss?’ ”
Our panel: Tom Planchet, former WWL-TV sports producer and current operations manager for WWLTV.com; Scott Cody, WWL-TV Sports Reporter/Anchor; Adam Ney, WWL-TV Sports Producer; Danny Rockwell, WWL-TV Sports Producer; Garland Gillen, WWL-TV Sports Photographer and Reporter; Mike Hoss, former WWL-TV Sports Reporter and current WWL-TV anchor; Larry Holder, CBSSports.com writer and The Sports Hangover radio show co-host; Gus Kattengell, The Sports Hangover radio show co-host; Kristian Garic, WWL Radio host and Saints radio sideline reporter; Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com NFC South writer; WWLTV.com contributor Ralph Malbrough; Bradley Handwerger, WWLTV.com Sports Writer.