Here we go again. It’s time to get cranked up for the season opener and also crank up the Time Machine for 2013.
When the NFL schedule was released in April, Falcons fans may have thought it was a bit different that the schedule-makers at 345 Park Avenue in New York would have their team open the season with a division matchup against its most archrival in New Orleans.
It’s different in one aspect because it’s an occurrence that hasn’t happened much in this long-time series.
The Falcons have only opened up against the Saints on six occasions in their 47-year history. But the results have been impressive. The Birds are a perfect 6-0 when facing their division foe on opening day, including 5-0 in games played at New Orleans.
One contest in particular that stands out was the first game of the 1973 season at old Tulane Stadium. Atlanta smashed or tied 35 individual or team records on their way to a 62-7 rout.
Needless to say, the Falcons haven’t scored that many points in any game since.
Atlanta burst out to a 24-0 advantage in the first half as two offensive touchdowns by RB Art Malone (two-yard rush) and WR Ken Burrow (34-yard reception) were sandwiched around a big 65-yard interception return for a score by CB Tom Hayes off of the hands of Saints QB Archie Manning and a 21-yard field goal by K Nick Mike-Mayer.
After halftime, Burrow continued the scoring barrage with a nice 23-yard touchdown catch on the opening drive. WR Wes Chesson (16-yard catch), RB Joe Profit (three-yard jaunt) and RB Eddie Ray (8-yard catch & 1-yard run) all got into the scoring act also to put the finishing touches on a team record 38 point second half to claim the notable opening day victory.
For the afternoon, the Falcons racked up 32 first downs on 76 offensive plays, 496 yards of total offense (compared to the Saints’ 184), including 218 yards on the ground, and only punted twice. Underlining their good fortune for the day, the Birds actually fumbled six times, but only lost two of them. Manning was held to just five completions on 11 attempts for a mere 62 yards and was picked off five times. Hayes stole two of his errant tosses to lead the Falcons solid pass defense.
The Birds travel to New Orleans this weekend looking to continue their successful ways on opening day games in the Bayou and gain a foothold in the division after one week. The last time these two Southern antagonists squared off on opening day was 27 years ago on Sept. 7, 1986 in New Orleans. The final score that day — Falcons 31, Saints 10.