1. First win post-hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina ripped out the heart of New Orleans and attempted to run the fanbase out of town in 2005. The devastating hurricane forced the Saints to play the entirety of the 2005 season at Tiger Stadium, home of LSU. Without their rabid fanbase behind them, the Saints struggled mightily. They finished the year with a 3-13 record under head coach Jim Haslett.
With the Superdome reopening its door in 2006, fans made their way into the building on September 25th, against Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons for their first game back.
Saints showed up and showed out and Payton made sure he had his players ready. In 2006, Vick was at his very best. He finished the year with 2,474 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, a career-high of 1,039 rushing yards, and two additional scores. That said, he was completely helpless on this day.
Payton’s defense was humming. Vick completed just 12 of his 31 passes, failed to throw any touchdowns, and was sacked five times on the way to a 20 point loss. Several years later, Michael Vick reminisced and admitted that his team had no chance at winning that game.
There wasn’t a championship on the line, nor was it a playoff game. That said, it was the single most galvanizing win in the history of the franchise, one that both Payton and the Saints will never forget. And that’s why it ranks number one.