METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - Following two road wins to kick off the 2006 season, the Saints finally returned home to face the rival Falcons. It was already a special day that turned into a magical Monday night.
"The amount of energy in that building was a big change for me, from what I had seen in my career up to that point," offensive tackle Zach Strief said.
The Saints defense forced a three-and-out to start the game, and that's when special teams ace Steve Gleason became a household name, blocking the Falcons punt, while teammate Curtis Deloatch scooped and scored for a touchdown.
"I still think that was the loudest the Dome ever was, when that punt was blocked," Strief said. "You could feel the noise, and obviously an emotional deal, it was about so much more than football, and you could feel that. It was a very special night that anyone who was a part of it will never forget."
"We knew that punt was going to be blocked. In preparation, I lie to you not. I visually remember it, special teams coach going over and saying Gleason is gonna block this punt, something they had seen in weeks prior with their center," offensive guard Jahri Evans added. "And Gleason was that guy that was gonna execute when he had a chance, and he did execute, and that's what sticks out in my mind, Curtis Deloatch picking it up and scoring and dunking. I think he actually was the first person to dunk the goalpost before Jimmy, and just the energy in that building. It was up in arms and just very exciting."
Only five current Saints were a part of that 2006 roster. Zach Strief and Jahri Evans were both rookies, along with wide receiver Marques Colston. Drew Brees had just come over as a prized free agent, and Jonathan Goodwin was a backup. 2006 was also the debut season for head coach Sean Payton, who was quick to recall the significance of that Monday night.
"Obviously it was a special night, an important one," Payton said. "I've said this before, that 2006 season was arguably just as important as any other season we've had in light of everything that had gone on in 2005. A lot of things came together and we played on the road those first two weeks and of course the preseason games were on the road, so I think our big concern was half the team hadn't played a home game there and just working through the logistics of traffic and all the other things with the events that were going on that were unusually different.
"I think it is documented, Drew (Brees) had an issue with traffic. There were just a lot of little things and that (Steve Gleason's blocked punt) came up on I think their first punt. And the play prior (to the blocked punt) was a fumble that went out of bounds where I think (Scott) Fujita was close to making a play on the ball and we weren't able to recover so of course the punt thing came. But the timing was perfect for him (Gleason). He executed it just right."