We should’ve known we were in for a ride when Kenny Vaccaro lost a tooth on his first play of the game. But going into this November 2015 matchup between the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants, no one really expected it to be a barnburner. Instead, it ended up being one of the strangest and most action-packed NFL games we’ve seen in recent years.
By the time the Saints pulled out the 52-49 win, we saw the third-highest scoring game in NFL history. Drew Brees and Eli Manning combined for an NFL-record 13 passing touchdowns in a single game. Brees himself tied an NFL record with seven touchdown throws. Manning became the first quarterback to pass for six touchdowns and no interceptions in a losing effort — dropping his record to 0-3 at the Superdome, his father Archie’s one-time home stadium.
Despite all that, the game has been lost to history a bit. When the clock hit zero, both teams were sitting at 4-4. Neither was destined for the playoffs. Just three years later, the two teams look considerably different, other than the constant fixtures still lining up under center. Of the nine players who scored a touchdown in the game, only Odell Beckham Jr. remains with the same team. The Giants have parted with two head coaches in the meantime. Each has been to the postseason. Both have played some semblance of defense since.
On that day in New Orleans, though, it’d be kind to even call defense an afterthought. There was hardly any pass rush to speak of, and an epidemic of blown coverage led to so many glorious touchdowns.
Let’s revisit each one of them and remember all the reasons why this random Week 8 game three years ago was such a blast.
The “There’s no place like home” touchdown
It was clear from the Giants’ first possession that Beckham Jr. was in his element in this game. Here’s his first touchdown at the Superdome (the same site at which his LSU Tigers were blanked by Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game):
In his return to his hometown, OBJ put on a three-touchdown show for his fellow New Orleanians, tying a carer high. That’s a number he hasn’t matched since.
The “She’s All That” touchdown
Everyone knows this trope, perhaps made most famous by the least high-brow, but still inimitably watchable version of Pygmalion. The weird girl takes off her glasses and — twiiiist — she’s a babe.
At first you think Mark Ingram is going to run it up the middle, but run? In this game? Pssshaw. Instead, he stops, turns around, whoopsies, still tosses it back to Brees, and what? Hidden under there all along was the Prom Queen play itself: a flea flicker.
Willie Snead’s 34-yard catch ties it up at 7-7. It’s the prettiest score in a game that has a few knockouts.
The “Do we appreciate Drew Brees enough?” touchdown
After Brees’ record-setting game, one headline read that he and the Saints found a way to “hush critics.”
“It’s not like I came out today with the intent to break a few records just to shut people up,” he said after the game, which is a bit unbelievable. This is Drew Brees we’re talking about: a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl MVP, a quarterback who has led the league in passing yards and/or completion percentage in more than half of the seasons he’s played (which is a lot!). He has or will have a few NFL passing records. He’s a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
But at the time, it might have made a tad more sense. The Saints were two years removed from the playoffs, and two years away from making them again. His contract was a big part of why the team was stuck in a salary cap hellscape.
Then you see a play like this and it’s a reminder of how a great quarterback can think quickly, make a smart adjustment, and pull it off effortlessly.
Whatever the play call is supposed to be, Brees kills it once he sees how the Giants’ defense is lined up. The result is this beauty of a slant to Brandin Cooks, who tops it off with his signature bow-and-arrow celebration.
The “Billie Jean” touchdown
There’s nothing extraordinary about the 1-yard slant from Manning to Beckham, so instead, let’s check out OBJ seamlessly transitioning from super 2015 (“The Whip”) to super 1983 (Michael Jackson):
The “What contagious disease does Marques Colston have?” touchdown
Leprosy? Ebola? The plague? Colston must have had some form of cooties — that’s really the only explanation I can think of for the Giants choosing not to cover Colston AT ALL on this play:
Sure, he was 32 and in his final season in the NFL at the time. He also was and still is the franchise’s leader in receptions and receiving yards. And the Giants just decided, “nah, we’ll leave him open like a Waffle House.”
The “Well, at least the Giants covered SOMEONE” touchdown
Brees’ first option is Josh Hill, who’s ... covered?! So Brees checks in the other direction and quickly finds Snead, who gets open long enough for his second touchdown catch of the day:
The “Gotta throw the running backs a bone” touchdown, Giants version
At that point, the Giants hadn’t had 1,000-yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012. That’s still the case today.
That year, Rashad Jennings came the closest anyone has since, with 863 rushing yards. But it was Shane Vereen who gets on the board in this game, and right before halftime:
Vereen ended the 2015 season with more receiving yards than rushing yards, which wasn’t unusual for the reliable pass-catching back. It was also the best receiving season of his career. He hauled in 59 catches for 495 yards.
Intermission break: Eli Face
Time to hit pause on the touchdowns for a minute so we can all enjoy this vintage Eli face — or at least we can assume that’s happening under his helmet while he does the Hokey Pokey here:
OK, back to the show.
The “Reunion of sorts” touchdown
Beckham Jr. is a New Orleans native who starred at LSU. That was supposed to be the case for Delvin Breaux too, until he broke his neck in his senior year of high school. LSU still honored his scholarship, but Breaux was never cleared to play by the school’s doctors. He left LSU and miraculously, he played football again, first in semi-pro, then the Arena League, then the CFL, and then finally for his hometown Saints.
His time at LSU never overlapped with Beckham Jr.’s, but they did share the stage in this game — something Breaux would probably prefer to forget:
Breaux is back in the CFL these days, but at least he has something that OBJ and Manning (another NO native) don’t: a win at the Superdome.
The “Why didn’t we work out again?” touchdown
Looking back at this now is like finding a photo of an ex from happier times, before jealousy and insecurity eventually led to your relationship’s demise.
The chemistry between Brees and Cooks was so good. Just check out this teardrop pass from Brees, who places it perfectly so only Cooks can snatch it up.
A year later, Michael Thomas came along and the rest — including, soon enough, the Brees-Cooks connection — was history.
The “Dorian Gray” touchdown
Brees and Benjamin Watson are a combined 70 years old on this score:
That was part of Watson’s career-high 147-yard game. By the time the season was over, the tight end had turned 35 and put up personal bests in receptions (74), receiving yards (825 yards), and touchdowns (six). And like the ageless Brees, he’s still hanging around, even though he’s with the Ravens now.
The ”OMG, what are you doing, no no, don’t throw that, that’s a terrible decision — welp, never mind!” touchdown
There’s no way this Manning touchdown to Dwayne Harris should have worked:
Manning breaks a few quarterback rules on that play, throwing across his body and around a bunch of defenders — though it was fourth down, so that’s better than just throwing it away (Andy Dalton, that passive-aggressive remark was for you).
The “ow ow ow ow ow” touchdown
Harris gets in the end zone again, but the price he paid for tying the game up again was Kyle Wilson yanking him by the hair at the end of the catch:
Even pre-hair transplant Brian Urlacher would cringe at that.
The “By God, someone made a play on defense” touchdown
It looked like the Saints were ready to march down the field and retake the lead, but then it really and truly happened: a defensive play!
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knocks the ball out of Snead’s hands, and Trumaine McBride is in the right place at the right time to take it 63 yards to the house:
I don’t even know what to call that. A fumble pick-six?
The “Gotta throw the running backs a bone” touchdown, Saints version
At that point, the Saints hadn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Deuce McAllister in 2006. Ingram ended that streak a year later, when he reached 1,043 yards in 2016 (he then topped himself in 2017). Alvin Kamara finished his 2017 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign with more receiving yards than rushing yards for New Orleans.
So it’s not really a surprise that their only running back score of the game is this 9-yard pass from Brees to C.J. Spiller:
That tied the game with less than a minute remaining.
It’s a little ironic the Saints won this game not with a touchdown, but with a field goal as time expired. Fittingly, though, the ending was still ridiculous.
The Giants went three-and-out and had to punt it away. Marcus Murphy’s productive return was nearly negated by a fumble, but luckily Snead was right there to pick it up the loose ball — and make up for his earlier fumble. Even more importantly for the Saints, Snead’s face mask was also right there for punter Brad Wing to grab. The ensuing penalty gave Kai Forbath, who had been signed less than two weeks earlier, an extra 15 yards for the 50-yard game winner.
That put the final touches on a game that lives on in the NFL record books and arguably hasn’t been matched in sheer entertainment value since — whether you remember it or not.