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Barry Hirstius

If Saints Win 5th In a Row Today, It’s Gonna Be a “Special Year” — and Here’s Why

The (4-2) New Orleans Saints, current leaders of the NFC South division, will be seeking their 5th consecutive victory this afternoon when they host the (3-4) Chicago Bears at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kickoff starts at 12:00 p.m. noon and the game will be seen by a majority of the nation on FOX.

However, not only will the team be seeking to win their 5th game in a row, but they'll also be seeking to do what only 7 other Saints teams in the franchise's entire 51-year history — have a winning streak of at least 5 games or more in a single season — have ever done.

The only other Saints teams to have 5-game winning streaks during their seasons were the ones from 1987, 1991, 1992, 2000, 2009, 2011, and 2013.

The first 3 (1987, 1991, and 1992) were during the legendary "Dome Patrol Era" under head coach Jim Mora. The 2000 season was the 1st season under then-Saints head coach Jim Haslett, and the last 3 of them (2009, 2011, and 2013) have obviously occurred during the current era of Saints football that we're still in: the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Era.

So should the Saints beat the Bears today, then team history would also suggest that the current 2017 season that we're only 6 games into at the moment, is going to be pretty special.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

Want to know why it's likely gonna be a "special year" for the 2017 Saints if they can pull it off?

ALL 7 of those Saints teams in the franchise's entire 51-year history that have ever had 5-game winning streaks during the season, made the NFL Playoffs later that year.

Now of course, with 10 whole games still left to play including today's game, anything can happen (and usually does), so we don't want to get ahead of ourselves and declare the Saints a "Playoff team" just yet.

But given where those other 7 Saints teams who have ever had 5-game winning streaks ended up, there's a pretty good chance that a trip to the NFL post-season isn't a far-fetched possibility for this current Saints team.

Here's a very quick look back at where the other 7 Saints teams that ever had 5-game (or more) winning streaks eventually finished, and what their final achievement for that particular year was.

 

1987

SEASON RECORD: 12-3   DIVISION: 2nd overall, NFC West  (Wild Card Playoff berth)

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

This was the franchise's first EVER winning season, which took them a total of 20 years to accomplish. The 1987 season was actually shortened by one game that year, thanks to a Player's strike that ended up cancelling 1 game off of every team's season schedule (Week #3) while the owners tried to figure out what to do.

For three weeks, the NFL staged games with hastily assembled replacement teams, made up principally of players who famously became known (thanks to the nickname given to them by the striking players) as "scabs". These replacement players had either been ones who were cut during training camp, along with players left out of work from the closure of the USFL (United States Football League) two years prior.

The (1-1) Saints went 2-1 during the strike, and came back to work once the strike ended with a (3-2) record overall. The very next week, the Saints were beaten by a score of 24-22 by the San Francisco 49ers — prompting then-Saints head coach Jim Mora to go off on a profanity-laced tirade in front of the media at his post-game press conference, that was actually a way of his sending a message to his young football team.

And it worked. The whole incident became known as the "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" speech; and it FIRED UP his young Saints team, led by the legendary "Dome Patrol" linebacker corps of Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills, and Vaughn Johnson.

The Saints didn't lose a SINGLE GAME after Mora's speech, and not only had a 5-game winning streak, but ended up winning 9 games in a row.

The Saints also qualified for the NFL Playoffs for the first time ever in team history, but were blown out the very next week at home in the Wild Card round by the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 44-10.

 

1991

SEASON RECORD: 11-5   DIVISION: 1st overall, NFC West Champions (Wild Card Playoff berth)

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

This year was another team during the "Dome Patrol" era, but this team started off better than any of those other teams from that time period ever had. First, the Saints beat the Seattle Seahawks in the season-opener at the Superdome. Then came a road win against the Kansas City Chiefs, followed by another home victory against the Los Angeles Rams.

The next week, they took care of the Minnesota Vikings, also in the Dome, then the hated arch-rival Falcons in Atlanta. After a Week #6 bye week, the winning continued: at the Philadelphia Eagles and at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Suddenly just 7 games into the team's 25th season, they were sitting at an unprecedented (and undefeated) 7-0, the team's best start ever at that time. They even ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated, with the words "Saints Alive!" emblazoned over an image of then starting QB Bobby Hebert, a.k.a. "The Cajun Cannon".

However, the winning streak was snapped the following week in a loss to the Chicago Bears and they even went on a 4-game losing streak; though the Saints did end up rebounding and eventually won their first ever division title in the team's (then) 25-year history; while clinching a Wild Card playoff spot along the way.

Unfortunately, the team had to face the hated arch-rival Falcons in the Playoff game, and were beaten in one of the most memorable losses ever to be played inside the Superdome.

 

1992

SEASON RECORD: 12-4   DIVISION: 2nd overall, NFC West  (Wild Card Playoff berth)

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The 1992 New Orleans Saints team have the honor of being the FINAL great year of the "Dome Patrol" Era, as they posted a franchise-record 12 wins —  tying their own record from the 1987 season five years prior.

As former NOLA.com / New Orleans Times-Picayune contributing staff writer David Gladow recollects: it's easy to see why that happened, given the absurdly talented defense the Saints fielded that year. Leading the league in sacks (57) and pass defense (154.4 yards per game), the Saints sent three linebackers to the Pro Bowl in Vaughan Johnson, Pat Swilling and Sam Mills (the fourth, Rickey Jackson, tallied a mere 14 sacks).

Additionally: New Orleans set a franchise record by allowing only 202 points during the season. To put it bluntly Gladow says: that 1992 Saints defense (like many of the Saints defenses of the era), verged on the edge of total dominance.

But because the Saints were still "stuck" in the same division with the San Francisco 49ers, they still only ended up with 2nd-place NFC West finish. The Saints actually started off at (2-2), but then put together a 5-game winning streak that saw them go to (7-2) before they were knocked off by — you guessed it — the 49ers.

Still, the Saints were looking good headed into the Wild Card round of the NFL Playoffs, but a jaw-dropping 4th-quarter collapse against the visiting Philadelphia Eagles (26 points given up in that one quarter alone) ended things prematurely.

It was the end of an incredible era of Saints football, as Mora and his teams after that 1992 season; sunk into a dark period that was caused by old age and the onset of NFL Free Agency, which was in its infancy stages still at that time.

 

2000

SEASON RECORD: 10-6   DIVISION: 1st overall, NFC West Champions (Wild Card Playoff berth)

Photo courtesy of The New Orleans Times-Picayune

In early January of 2000 after a horrendous 3-13 season that saw then-Saints head coach Mike Ditka yelling at reporters by season's end, owner Tom Benson was forced to listen to the outcry of demands of Saints fans who were openly and loudly calling for the proverbial head of Ditka on a silver platter — although he didn’t have much choice, or else there would have been a lynch mob that would have gone down to the team headquarters on Airline Drive and physically removed Ditka in person, themselves.

Benson responded with the 3rd regime change of his ownership tenure in February of 2000 by hiring former Seattle Seahawks executive Randy Mueller to be his new general manager.

Mueller then hired the team's former defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to become the new head coach, and together the new Saints front office regime in that year attacked both NFL Free Agency and the 2000 NFL Draft with a sense of urgency.

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

At one point after a horrible (1-3) start, the Saints reeled off 6 straight wins in a row — ultimately resulting in a “worst to first” turnaround for New Orleans from 3-13 the year before, to a 10-6 record and a division championship, along with the team’s first ever Playoff victory after 33 years of existence.

As a direct result of their success, Haslett was even named the 2000 NFL Coach of the Year by the Associated Press for leading the team to its very impressive turnaround. Additionally, Mueller was named NFL Executive of the Year by the Sporting News.

However, the relationship between Benson and Mueller soured, and Benson named Mickey Loomis the team's new General Manager in time for the 2002 season.

However, the team was never able to get back to the NFL Playoffs under Haslett as head coach after that Division Championship and Playoff appearance in 2000; going 45-51 overall in the 5 seasons afterwards and failing to make the playoffs again before the bottom completely fell out --- made even worse when the team was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and forced to play their "home" games at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas and at LSU Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

Benson waited until the end of the Saints' subsequent 3-13 finish to the nomadic 2005 season, before firing Haslett and ultimately flirting with the idea of moving the team permanently to San Antonio, before returning home to New Orleans for the rebuilding process of both the team and its city that it represented.

Ultimately, that led to the 4th (although perhaps not the final one, at least up to this point) regime change of Benson's ownership tenure, when he decided to retain Loomis as General Manager for the 2006 season.

After receiving the reassurance of his status along with the new vote of confidence from Benson, Loomis went out and hired the brash young offensive coordinator from the Dallas Cowboys named Sean Payton to be the new head coach for the Saints in January of 2006, and as they say: "the rest is history".

 

2009

SEASON RECORD: 13-3   DIVISION: 1st overall, NFC South Champions (eventual World Champions, won Super Bowl XLIV)

As the story of the greatest season ever in the entire 51-year Saints history is told by NOLA.com / The New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan: the 2009 Saints were very, very good, and maybe even great. They aren't mentioned with the 1985 Bears or the 1972 Dolphins, but their accomplishments rank with the best teams in NFL history.

The 2009 Saints were one of seven teams in NFL history to start a season 13-0. That covers a span of 95 years. What's more Duncan notes:  they were one of three teams to start a season 13-0 and then go on to win the Super Bowl.

Only the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 1998 Denver Broncos managed to accomplish the same. The Saints won nine of their first 11 games by double-digit margins, including five by 20 or more points. 

Duncan makes the observation that the 2009 Saints probably were not even the most talented team in NFL history, not by a long shot. In fact, they might not have been the most talented team in Saints history, and Duncan says that the record-breaking 2011 squad was the best Saints team he's ever covered because by the end of that season, they were simply dominant (more on that team, in a minute).

But Duncan adds that no Saints team was more complete than the 2009 Super Bowl champions. They had it all: talent; coaching; experience; intelligence; chemistry; hunger; and hubris.

They were dominant on offense, opportunistic on defense and aggressive in all phases. And to this day: it's STILL the standard that all other Saints teams must live by and be compared to.

 

2011

SEASON RECORD: 13-3   DIVISION: 1st overall, NFC South Champions (Wild Card Playoff berth)

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The 2011 New Orleans Saints season was an NFL record-breaking one under head coach Sean Payton. During Week #16, Saints QB Drew Brees broke the single season passing record set by former Miami Dolphins and Pro Football Hall of Fame legend Dan Marino. Brees ended the season with 5,476 passing yards, an NFL record. 

The team also broke the record for offensive yards from scrimmage with 7,474 and RB / KR Darren Sproles broke the record for all purpose yards, with 2,696. The Saints also finished second in scoring for total points with 547, and finished second for points per game with 34.2 points.

After losing the season opener at Green Bay, the Saints still struggled record-wise and were (5-3) at the halfway point of the season. But then the Saints reeled off 8 straight wins in a row and won the NFC South Division with a 13–3 record, and went undefeated at home. 

They were THE BEST TEAM in Pro Football when the regular season ended, so there was much talk of the Saints potentially winning a second Super Bowl title in three seasons. But despite their impressive record, however, New Orleans failed to receive a first-round bye due to losing tiebreakers with the San Francisco 49ers for the #2 seed in the NFC behind the 15–1 Green Bay Packers.

The Saints won their first playoff game against the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card round at the Superdome; but fell to the 49ers on a last-minute touchdown in the Divisional Playoffs at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. It was a heart-breaking way to end the League year, for a team that everyone was certain was the best team in the entire NFL that season.

 

2013

SEASON RECORD: 11-5   DIVISION: 2nd overall, NFC South (Wild Card Playoff berth)

Last but not least: the 2013 Saints team, which is the last Saints team up until today to have made the NFL Playoffs or even have a winning season.

That season also marked the "return" of Sean Payton, who had come back to the team after serving a one-year suspension for his involvement in the team's 2012 bounty scandal, known by Saints fans and the rest of fans across the NFL as "Bounty Gate".

The Saints win their first 5 straight games in a row for a (5-0) start, before eventually going 11–5 and making the NFL Playoffs as the six-seed. They earned the franchise's first-ever road postseason victory, with a 26–24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round, ending the franchise drought at 0–5.

However, the Saints were eliminated by the eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional round, by a score of 23–15 at Qwest Field in Seattle on a rainy and cold January afternoon.

And it's been a long-time coming for the Saints to get back to the point where they find themselves at, this afternoon against the Chicago Bears at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

If the Saints win their 5th game in a row today, then it could be a very special year for Saints fans.

Given where those other 7 Saints teams that had 5-game winning streaks in those years ended up (the NFL Playoffs, a destiny that the Saints are trying to finally get back to), it's easy to understand why.......

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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