NFL at 100: Saints top Falcons in post-Katrina ‘Domecoming’

Published 2:18 am Thursday, November 7, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — The half-century-old rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints produced a moment so poignant that a statue was placed outside the Superdome to commemorate it.

The 9-foot bronze, entitled “Rebirth,” depicts the moment New Orleans special teams standout Steve Gleason dove to block Michael Koenen’s punt in the opening minutes of the Saints’ first game in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina had torn open the stadium’s roof — with thousands sheltered inside — about 13 months earlier.

Saints reserve defensive back Curtis Deloatch recovered the bounding ball in the end zone as the sellout crowd erupted into a cathartic, deafening, drink-spilling frenzy, and New Orleans was on its way to a 23-3 victory that became symbolic of a community’s resilience as it recovered from one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

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“I don’t ever remember a game where it was that loud anywhere,” said Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen, who had spent much of his 25-year NFL career with the Saints but was kicking for the Falcons in 2006. “There was too much energy for the Saints and the city of New Orleans and we weren’t going to be able to fight that. I don’t say that in a defeatist way, just as a matter of fact.”

Both teams entered the game 2-0.