Saints All-Time Wild Card Games

A  look back at the New Orleans Saints wild card playoff games in the team's history - a few are too painful to remember.
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The New Orleans Saints have qualified for the playoffs 14 times in their franchise history. Nine of those postseason appearances have been during the 15-Yr regime of Head Coach Sean Payton, who has also overseen six of the franchise's eight division titles. New Orleans has a 9-12 record in the playoffs and an 8-7 playoff record under Payton. The 12-4 Saints will host the 8-8 Chicago Bears this Sunday in the wild-card round. They are 7-5 in home playoff games all-time and 5-2 at home with Payton as head coach.

Sunday's NFC Wild Card game is the 11th time out of their 14 postseason trips that the Saints have played in the wild card round, and the sixth time they've done it as division champs. They have a 4-6 record in wild-card games, going 3-4 at home in those contests.

Here is the list of all the Saints wild-card games and their results.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, 1988 (HOME - MINNESOTA VIKINGS)

CREDIT: nola.com

CREDIT: nola.com

The first-ever playoff game in New Orleans history had the Superdome rocking after a historic 12-3 regular season. They would host the Vikings, who backed into the playoffs with an 8-7 record. After a 10-Yd touchdown pass from QB Bobby Hebert to WR Eric Martin early in the first quarter, it looked like the Saints' dream season would continue into the next round. Unfortunately, that was the last thing to go right for the Saints this day.

New Orleans turned the ball over a mind-numbing six times in the game, as an offense that scored the second-most points in the league managed only 10 points. Their defense, led by the legendary ‘‘Dome Patrol’’ linebacking corps of Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills, and Vaughan Johnson, collapsed over the last three quarters. They forced 2 turnovers and recorded six sacks but allowed 417 total yards and over 200 on the ground. The Saints lost 44-10 and watched a dream season come to a nightmare end by being blown out at home.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 1991 (AWAY - CHICAGO BEARS)

CREDIT: Sports Illustrated 

CREDIT: Sports Illustrated 

After a two-year absence, New Orleans returned to the playoffs, but this time with an 8-8 record and all kinds of offensive deficiencies thanks to a year-long holdout by QB Bobby Hebert. The Saints still had their formidable Dome Patrol defense but would face the 11-5 NFC Central champ Chicago on the road.

New Orleans managed a paltry 193 yards of offense. The quarterback combination of John Fourcade and Steve Walsh completed just 11 of 34 attempts and threw 3 interceptions. The Bears did just enough offensively, pounding out 189 yards on the ground. In an ugly game to watch, Chicago sent the Saints home with a 16-6 victory.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 28, 1991 (HOME - ATLANTA FALCONS)

CREDIT: nola.com

CREDIT: nola.com

After winning their first-ever division championship, the Saints entered these playoffs, taking the NFC West with an 11-5 record. Hebert was back at quarterback. They possessed some terrific offensive weapons like wideouts Quinn Early, Eric Martin, and versatile RB Dalton Hilliard. New Orleans owned the league's best defense, a dominating unit ranked first or second in every category. They’d host their most bitter rival, the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons, who defeated them at home in the regular season.

The Saints jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but the Falcons tied the game in the second quarter. A Morten Andersen field goal gave New Orleans a 13-10 halftime lead. Still, a big-play Atlanta passing attack took over the second half. The Saints had five sacks in the game but could not contain Falcon WR and New Orleans native Michael Haynes when it mattered most. Haynes caught 6 passes for 144 yards and 2 second-half touchdowns. The second, a 61-Yd score late in the 4th quarter gave the Falcons a 27-20 victory and ended another New Orleans season with bitter disappointment.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, 1993 (HOME - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES)

CREDIT: nosaintshistory.com

CREDIT: nosaintshistory.com

New Orleans entered the postseason for the third consecutive year, a franchise record until Payton's 4th straight playoff trip this year. In 1992, the Saints had a 12-4 record and finished second in the NFC West. They again had the NFL's top defense, where all four Dome Patrol linebackers Jackson, Swilling, Mills, and Johnson made the Pro Bowl. New Orleans would host an equally hard-nosed 11-5 Philadelphia team they lost to in the season opener.

The Saints roared out to a 20-7 halftime lead led by WR Quinn Early, who had 7 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Inexplicably, New Orleans got conservative on offense over the final two quarters as the Eagles came storming back behind QB Randall Cunningham and WR Fred Barnett. Three second-half interceptions of Bobby Hebert, the last of which was returned for a score by future Saint CB Eric Allen, doomed New Orleans to a 36-20 defeat. The loss was the beginning of the end for the Dome Patrol era, and it would be eight years before New Orleans returned to the postseason.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2000 (HOME - ST. LOUIS RAMS)

CREDIT: neworleanssaints.com

CREDIT: neworleanssaints.com

An unlikely "worst-to-first season" was orchestrated by first-year head coach Jim Haslett, a rugged defense, and a backup quarterback named Aaron Brooks for the Saints. They won the NFC West with a 10-6 record. They’d host division rival St. Louis, who came into the game with a 10-6 record and had beaten the Saints in New Orleans one week earlier. The Rams had a record-breaking offense nicknamed ‘‘The Greatest Show on Turf'' and had won the Super Bowl just one year earlier.

CREDIT: nosaintshistory.com

CREDIT: nosaintshistory.com

The Saints, who were already without 1,000-yard rusher Ricky Williams, would lose their All-Pro wideout Joe Horn early in the game with an injury. Wide receiver Willie Jackson stepped up and had a magnificent game, catching 6 passes for 142 yards and three 2nd half touchdowns that gave the Saints a 31-7 lead with twelve minutes remaining. What looked like an insurmountable lead melted away in the face of a St. Louis offensive explosion.

The Rams closed the deficit to 31-28 with less than three minutes to play. New Orleans would punt the ball back to the Rams for one last possession, but St. Louis returner Az-Zahir Hakim bobbled the ball. The fumble was recovered by New Orleans’ running back Brian Milne to preserve the win. The play was one of the most iconic in franchise history and marked the first postseason win ever for the Saints.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 8, 2011 (AWAY - SEATTLE SEAHAWKS)

CREDIT: USA TODAY 

CREDIT: USA TODAY 

New Orleans came into this postseason as defending Super Bowl champions but finished second in the NFC South in 2010 with an 11-5 record. They faced the 7-9 NFC West Champions Seattle Seahawks on the road in Seattle.

The Saints could not move the ball on the ground that afternoon and were reliant on QB Drew Brees, who threw for 404 yards and 2 touchdowns on an eye-popping 60 attempts. New Orleans grabbed a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter but fell behind 24-20 by halftime and trailed 34-20 after three quarters.

The Saints climbed to within four points midway through the 4th quarter, but their defense could not stop Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck (272 yards, 4 touchdowns) or RB Marshawn Lynch all day. Lynch, who had 131 yards rushing, broke an incredible 10 tackles on a 67-Yd touchdown run late in the 4th quarter to seal a 41-36 upset victory by Seattle. 

The play, known as ‘‘Beast Quake, '' will haunt Saints fans and players' nightmares forever.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 4, 2014 (AWAY - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES)

CREDIT: NOLA.COM

CREDIT: NOLA.COM

After a one-year absence, coach Sean Payton brought his squad back to the postseason with an 11-5 record and 2nd place finish in the NFC South. They’d travel north to face the Eagles, who won the NFC East with a 10-6 mark. Despite their prolific passing attack, the Saints were viewed as a team that could not win outdoors in a cold-weather environment.

New Orleans jumped out to a 20-7 2nd quarter lead not only because of the accuracy of Drew Brees but also a punishing running game that picked up 185 yards on the day. The Eagles would fight back, taking a 24-23 lead with less than five minutes to play. New Orleans responded by going on a nine-play, 38-Yd drive into field goal range. 

Running back Khiry Robinson rushed for 22 of those yards, setting his team up for a 32-Yd attempt from kicker Shayne Graham on the game's last play. Graham nailed the kick, giving the Saints a 26-24 win and the first road playoff victory in franchise history.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 7, 2018 (HOME - CAROLINA PANTHERS)

Jan 7, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) makes a throw during the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY

Jan 7, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) makes a throw during the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY

After three straight 7-9 seasons, New Orleans roared back into the playoffs with an 11-5 finish and an NFC South title in 2017. They’d host division rival Carolina, who also finished 11-5 but had been routed twice by the Saints during the regular season.

Brees was brilliant, completing 23 passes for 376 yards and 2 scores. Wideouts Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. combined for 12 receptions and 246 of those yards. The New Orleans defense held the Panthers out of the end zone until the 4th quarter and recorded 4 sacks, as the Saints built a big early lead and held on for a 31-26 postseason win.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 5, 2020 (HOME - MINNESOTA VIKINGS)

Jan 5, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) catches a pass for the winning touchdown over New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (26) during overtime of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook -USA TODAY 

Jan 5, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) catches a pass for the winning touchdown over New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (26) during overtime of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook -USA TODAY 

Despite a 13-3 record and NFC South title, the Saints hosted the 2020 NFC Wild Card round in New Orleans. Still considered among the Super Bowl favorites, they were heavily favored to beat the NFC North runner-up Minnesota Vikings (10-6).

Surprisingly, the Saints' offensive and defensive lines were pushed around and were outplayed by an inferior Vikings team. The Vikings took a 20-10 after three-quarters of play. New Orleans would claw back in the fourth quarter behind a herculean effort from Taysom Hill, who had 125 offensive yards and a touchdown in the game. Wil Lutz booted a 49-yard field goal with just two seconds remaining to tie the game at 20 and send it to an extra period.

On the opening drive of overtime, New Orleans had a coverage breakdown in its secondary. The busted coverage led to a 43-yard completion from Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins to WR Adam Thielen to the Saints' two-yard line. Three plays later, the officials ignored an obvious offensive pass interference penalty from Vikings tight end, Kyle Rudolph against Saints defensive back P.J. Williams. Instead, Rudolph hauled the game-winning 4-Yd touchdown pass from Cousins to give the Vikings the 26-20 overtime victory.

New Orleans (12-4) and Chicago (8-8) will play in the 2021 NFC Wild Card round with a 3:40 PM CST kickoff on Sunday afternoon. Vegas bookies have the Saints as a 9.5 point favorite over the Bears.