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The 1988 New Orleans Saints Season

The 1988 New Orleans Saints NFL Season Schedule

Regular Season
Sept 4 49ers L 33-34
Sep 11 Falcons W 29-21
Sep 18 Lions W 22-14
Sep 25 Buccaneers W 13-9
Oct 3 Cowboys W 20-17
Oct 9 Chargers W 23-17
Oct 16 Seahawks W 20-19
Oct 23 Raiders W 20-6
Oct 30 Rams L 10-12
Nov 6 Redskins L 24-27
Nov 13 Rams W 14-10
Nov 20 Broncos W 42-0
Nov 27 Giants L 12-13
Dec 4 Vikings L 3-45
Dec 11 49ers L 17-30
Dec 18 Falcons W 10-9

After the upset of the Los Angeles Ram, the Saints made the Cover of Sports Illustrated

With the 14-10 win over L.A, the Saints made the cover of Sports Illustrated

10 Wins 6 Loses
Coach: Jim Mora
First Round Draft Pick: Craig Heyward Running Back, Pittsburgh

For New Orleans Saints fans, the 1988 season is unforgettable for reasons both good and bad. Coming off the greatest season in New Orleans Saints History to date everyone waited to see if the success of 1987 was a fluke.

The collage draft was one of the less memorable in Saints History. First round pick Craig “Ironhead” Heyward played 5 seasons in New Orleans, but his best days were with Atlanta in the mid-90s. Likewise, second round pick Brett Perriman of Miami didn’t crack the starting line-up until 1990 as a Saint. He then spent 6 [very productive] seasons with Detroit. The only other names that come to remembrance are fifth-round pick Greg Scales of Wake Forrest and seventh round pick Brian Forde of Washington St. Both served effective spot duty as back-ups until 1991.
The season opened against wily Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers and by half-time it was the Saints on top with a 17-10 lead. That lead was short lived as Montana passed for 3 tds in the first 6 minutes of the third quarter and San Francisco wound up on top 34-33 by the games end. Bobby Hebert had a season high 4 td passes.
New Orleans got back on track with 2 come-from-behind wins against Atlanta and Detroit. Against the Falcons, Hebert was 20 of 27 for 222 yards and against Detroit the defense wracked up 5 sacks — Rickey Jackson had 4 of them and a safety. Win number 3 was a 13-9 outcome against Tampa Bay. Described by detractors as “ugly”, Jim Mora responded, “every win is beautiful”.
The following contest was to be a Monday Night Game in the Dome. The Cowboys were coming to town. This was only the Saints eighth ever Monday Night game. They had actually beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers 4 years before, but it was their only Monday Night victory in the team’s history. The Saints had not beaten Dallas since Archie Manning’s rookie season and that had been 17 years earlier.
Still, the Saints had jumped out to a 14-0 lead but by the third quarter, Dallas managed to tie things up at 14. The Saints added another field goal in the fourth to take a 17-14 lead. Dallas responded by tying things up again with another field goal. 24 seconds remained. Mel Gray brought the following kickoff out to the Saints 42 and after a third down, 26 yard Hebert to Brett Perriman pass, Morten Andersen connected on a 49 yarder as time expired. The Saints were 4-1.

Two more victories were chalked up with another come-from-behind win over San Diego and a 20-19 win over Seattle in the Kingdom. The big play against Seattle came in the third quarter with the Saints up 10-9. A Seahawk field goal try was blocked by Gene Atkins and returned 58 yards by Dave Waymer for a touchdown.

The victory over the Los Angeles Raiders was the third straight over an AFC team and brought New Orleans to a 7-1 record. With the Raiders up 6-3, the game’s turn around took place as a routine hand-off turned into a 73 yard score as rookie Craig Heyward blasted up the middle of the Raider defense and steamrolled defenders en-route to the score. Heyward finished with 109 yards on 11 carries.
It was the Mike Lansford and Los Angeles Rams that brought the winning streak to an end. Lansford hit four field goals as the Saints went down 10-14. It was the same Mike Lansford that kicked the game winning field goal in the 1983 contest that denied the Saints a playoff berth. It was only the Saint’s second loss in 16 regular season games.
Loss number 3 came against the Super Bowl Champs. With a 27-17 lead in the fourth quarter, offensive lineman Jim Dombrowski was called for a personal foul while taking a swing at Redskin defender Dexter Manley. Manley had allegedly spit in Dombrowski’s face. The penalty set up a 53 yard fieldgoal attempt by Morten Andersen. The kick was blocked and Washington’s offense responded with a touchdown to tie the game at 24. Rookie kicker Chip Lohmiller added a 23 yard field goal as Washington took the lead. The game ended as Morten Andersen’s field goal attempt with 9 seconds left went wide.

Vaughn Johnson returns an interception against the Rams in 1988

Vaughn Johnson

At 7-3, the Saints were tied with the Rams for first place in the NFC West division as the Saints traveled to Anaheim Stadium for a division showdown. At the half, it was the New Orleans Saints with a 7-3 lead. The defense had held up all day long to keep the powerful Rams at bay. So, it was the defense that provided the big play. In the third quarter, Everett and the Rams had taken over and had the ball. At their own 34, Everett dropped back to pass and hurried a pass as he was pressured by a blitzing Brett Maxie. The overthrown pass was picked off by linebacker Vaughn Johnson and returned to the Rams 7 yard line. Two plays later an end-run by Reuben Mayes put the Saints up 14-3.
But it wasn’t over yet.
The Rams responded with a 1 yard run by Greg Bell. Saints 14 Rams 10.
So with 55 seconds left on the clock, the Rams were now driving. First and 20, from the Saints 26, Everett went deep for Flipper Anderson in the end zone. But once again, the defense stepped up. This time, it was Gene Atkins that snatched the ball away from Anderson as the Saints could claim sole possession of NFC West lead.

It was a showdown of Western Division leaders as Denver traveled to the Super Dome. John Elway and the Broncos had represented the AFC in the previous two Super Bowls and were playing very well. The Saints had never beaten a Bronco team.
The game turned into biggest victory of the Mora years if not in New Orleans Saint history. The 42-0 blowout of the Broncos was largest margin of victory ever for a Saints team. Mel Gray provided a team record 66 yard punt return for a score were he broke 9 tackles. It was the New Orleans Saints first punt return TD in 20 years (the last had been a 58 yard score by Charlie Brown against the Steelers in 1968). The crowning moment was a 97 yard, 12 minute, 18 play drive that ended with a 6 yard Hebert to Eric Martin score. The drive came immediately following a goal-line stand that stopped Denver at the 3 yard line. Hebert ended the game 20 of 23 for 194 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions. Subsequently, Bobby Hebert was named NFC player of the week.

Things then began to unravel. A back-and-forth game against the Giants ended with Giant kicker hitting a last second field goal to give the Giants a 13-12 wins.
Things then started to go from bad to worse as it was New Orleans’ turn to be blown out. Nothing went right against the Minnesota Vikings as the Saints went down hard 45-3.
Tied with the 49ers for first place in the division the Saints prepared for another critical division game. And once again Joe Montana picked the Saints apart as he passed for 1 td and ran for another to a 30-17 loss. As the 1988 season ticked away, Morten Andersen nailed the game winning 30-yarder with 5 seconds left to give the Saints win number 10. The 10 victories gave the Saints their never before second consecutive winning season and a seemingly 3 way tie for first place in the West with San Francisco and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, when all the tie breaker rules were applied, San Francisco had the title, Los Angeles had the wildcard and New Orleans stayed home. San Francisco went on to beat Cincinnati in the Super Bowl.
Dalton Hillard led in rushing with 823 yards on 204 carries and 5 TDs. He also had 34 catches for 335 yards. The “other” LSU product, Eric Martin, set a new team record with 85 catches breaking the previous record set by Tony Galbreath in 1978. He added 1083 yards.
The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert had a fine year. 478 attempts, 280 completions, 58.6 % completion average, 3156 yards, and 20 TDs.
Morten Andersen, Sam Mills and Eric Martin are all named to play in the Pro Bowl.