For the New Orleans Saints, 1987 was the season so many fans had hoped for. 12 wins and a trip to the playoffs.
With the relative success of the previous 1986 season there was much optimism surrounding 1987 for the Saints. A new Head Coach in Jim Mora and proven General Manager in Jim Finks the Saints along with a group of young talented players the Saint were ready to make their move.
The first game of the season would be a stout test for the young Saints. The Cleveland Browns had just been crowned the AFC Central Champs the year before with a 12-4 record and missed a trip to the Super Bowl by 3 points in the Conference Championship to the Denver Broncos. They would be no push-overs.
The Saints responded with heroic defensive effort catching Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar in the endzone not just once, but twice for 2 safeties in the 3rd quarter. Kosar had a good day – 28 of 39 passes for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns – he also rushed for another score – but with the 2 safeties provided the difference as New Orleans topped Cleveland 28-21. Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert and the offense stayed solid as Hebert had 2 touchdown passes to tight end Hoby Brenner and Dalton Hilliard added another score. But in the end, it was the Dome Patrol and the rest of the Saints defense big plays that gave the Saints the edge.
Pictured above is Saints Pro Bowl halfback Reuben Mayes. Mayes had a big day himself. 147 yards on 24 carries he averaged over 6.1 yards-per-carry on th afternoon. Saints signal caller Bobby Hebert (#3) is in the background. The opening day victory provided the momentum for a 12-win season that year and unprecedented trip into the post season for New Orleans. Reuben Mayes would finish the year with 917 yards on the ground and a second trip the Pro Bowl.