10 Years Later Saints Falcons To Commemorate The First Game Back After Katrina
It was September 25, 2006. Grown men wept openly, an international audience watched from the far reaches of the Earth, Bono sang at midfield, then it happened. The New Orleans Saints took the field. Their field, their home field, the field that many thought would never be their field again after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
The Saints opponent on that September night ten years ago will be the same opponent they will face tonight, the Atlanta Falcons. Back then, the Saints had a new coach in Sean Payton. They had a new quarterback that was considered to be damaged goods by the rest of the league in Drew Brees. They had an entire city on their back and their knees would not buckle like the levees did during Katrina.
Most of us remember the moment the Saints were "reborn" that night ten years and a day ago. The Falcons had gone into punt formation after an energized Saints defense had forced them to go three and out. The Saints special teams had studied the Falcons punt team on film. They knew their tendencies. The ball was snapped and a moment that will forever be etched in time happened.
Streaking from his position Steve Gleason broke through the Falcon line. In fact he wasn't even touched by a Falcon's lineman. Gleason laid out and extended his body toward the football and there was an audible smack of the ball leaving the foot of Michael Koenen. Then there was a second smack of Gleason's outstretched hands diverting the flight of the ball back over Koenen's head toward the goal line.
For a moment it seemed as if the newly renovated roof on the Superdome would be be blown off by the roar of the crowd. The ball bounded toward the goal line and into the end zone. Curtis Deloatch fell on the ball and the Saints were up by a touchdown. It was the first touchdown in the Saints' first home game in nearly 21 months, since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. A city had been reborn.
Tonight the Saints and Falcons will renew one of the most heated rivalries in the National Football League. A lot of water, if you'll pardon the reference, has passed under the bridge in the ten years since that night. The Saints went on to win a Superbowl in 2009. The Falcons, not so much.
Both teams are currently struggling in the season of 2016. Will we see magic again tonight? Chances are we won't but those of us who were their and who were watching or listening will still feel a tingle when we see the two team take the field for tonight's game.