One of the best rivalries in sports. Take a look at the history between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
It's once again that time of the year to dust off the Time Machine and hit the rewind button on Falcons history. And there's no better way to begin the year than rekindling an old-fashioned, long-standing feud.
The Falcons-Saints rivalry needs no introduction. Throw on top of this bitter rivalry the fact that this hotly-contested affair falls this year on the season opening weekend and you have just cranked up the intensity level 10-fold.
Both teams have faced off against each other in only seven openers in the history of this long series with the Falcons capturing six games. All but one of the seven contests have been on the road in New Orleans with the lone home tilt at Fulton County Stadium to begin the 1981 season.
Optimism was rampant as Atlanta began that 1981 campaign. The Falcons were fresh off their first Division title (NFC West) in team history the season before, posting a franchise best record of 12-4 and shattering all kinds of team marks in the process in 1980. New Orleans was coming off a disastrous 1-15 campaign that resulted in new head coach Bum Phillips being hired and put in charge of the extreme makeover.
The confident Falcons started out the game strong with a long 15-play, 67-yard first quarter drive that culminated in a touchdown toss from 10 –yards out from QB Steve Bartkowski to WR Wallace Francis. The Bartkowski-to-Francis connection struck again in the second quarter this time on a 19-yard scoring pass for an early 14-0 lead.
The Saints were pinning their hopes for a rebound season on the legs of Heisman Trophy winning running back and the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick, George Rogers. The former Duluth, GA product's homecoming never got untracked though as the Birds defense keyed on Rogers the entire game and limited the former South Carolina runner to 61 yards rushing and kept him out of the end zone.
In the third quarter, Saints TE Richard Caster was crushed on a catch over the middle by Falcons LB Fulton Kuykendall and S Tom Pridemore, forcing a fumble. S Kenny Johnson scooped up the loose ball and went untouched 35-yards into the end zone for a defensive touchdown which highlighted a solid overall defensive outing.
Atlanta's D stepped up again in the fourth quarter after S Scott Woerner recovered a Saints fumble on the New Orleans 25-yard line. WR Alfred Jenkins finished out the day with a nice 25-yard touchdown grab from Bart on the first play after the fumble recovery to round out the scoring on the afternoon.
Atlanta scored in every quarter to register a 27-0 blanking of their nemesis from New Orleans to start the '81 season. The win marked the first opening day shutout in team history and only the second overall blanking by a Falcons opponent in Fulton County Stadium annals.