I coached the New Orleans Saints in this replay of the 1987 NFL season, playing the part of Jim Mora. The real-life Saints finished 12-3, coming in 2nd place in the NFC West and earning the franchise's first ever playoff berth - unfortunately the were blown out at home by the Minnesota Vikings. The 1987 season featured a strike that led to Week 3 being missed entirely and Weeks 4-6 being played by replacement players. In this replay I'm using only the primary players, who get to play out the full season. New Orleans' offense was solid but not spectacular. Young QB Bobby Hebert was an upgrade at the position, and he had a pair of excellent backs in Rueben Mayes and Dalton Hilliard, as well as an excellent receiver in Eric Martin. Kicker Morten Andersen was probably the best in the league at this time, and kick/punt returner Mel Gray was also among the best in this era. The strength of the team however was it's defense, particularly the linebackers - outside backers Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling provided a great pass rush, while inside 'backers Sam Mills and Vaughan Johnson were great run stuffers and pass defenders. Defensive end Bruce Clark and cornerback Dave Waymer were the other top players on this unit.
The season got off to a rough start when I got pummeled at home opening week 24-0 to Cleveland, but I won the next five including a road win at Chicago before dropping a key game at rival San Francisco to fall to 5-2. After two more wins I hosted the 49ers, but again lost all but giving the division title to San Francisco. A tough loss at home to the Giants followed before three straight wins put me at 10-4 in a battle with Minnesota for what was an obvious Wildcard match. I lost a bad game in Week 15 at Cincinnati then finished with a road win at Green Bay for an 11-5 record, but the 11-5 Vikings had the tie-break and would get the Wildcard game in Minnesota. QB Bobby Hebert finished with 2,611 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, while rushers Rueben Mayes (1,318 yards rushing, 24 receptions) and Dalton Hilliard (669 yards rushing, 33 receptions) as well as WR Eric Martin (54 catches for 672 yards, nine touchdowns) led the offense. The defense recorded 60 sacks, 16 from Pat Swilling and 13 from Rickey Jackson. Vaughan Johnson led the defense with 102 tackles, while four players tied for the team lead in interceptions with four each, as the defense finished #5 in the league. Morten Anderson had a good year, but not quite as good as his real-life, and Mel Gray did well, but was unable to break any TD returns.
I faced the Vikings in the NFC Wildcard, and just as in real-life, the Saints lost - albeit this time not in a blow-out. Unlike real life, the Vikings were then pummeled in San Francisco in the divisional round. The Bears blew a large lead in the other NFC divisional to Washington in Walter Payton's final game. In the AFC, Seattle topped Buffalo in the Wildcard, then lost to Cleveland in the divisional. The other AFC divisional was a good battle that saw Denver hang on for a 27-20 win over Indianapolis. In the championship games, Cleveland got revenge on Denver with a close 24-20 victory, while the 49ers beat Washington in a windy defensive battle, 7-3. In the Super Bowl in San Diego, Cleveland got a huge game from Clay Matthews and hung on as penalties doomed the 49ers last chance, giving the Browns a 13-10 victory.
PLAYOFF RESULTS AFC Wildcard - Buffalo 6; Seattle 17 NFC Wildcard - New Orleans 19; Minnesota 27 AFC Divisional - Seattle 7; Cleveland 17 NFC Divisional - Minnesota 3; San Francisco 29 NFC Divisional - Washington 22; Chicago 17 AFC Divisional - Indianapolis 20; Denver 27 NFC Championship - Washington 3; San Francisco 7 AFC Championship - Denver 20; Cleveland 24 Super Bowl - Cleveland 13; San Francisco 10
Super Bowl XXII: Browns 13; 49ers 10
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