Wednesday, June 13, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #10

#10: 1977 Rams 26, Saints 27 (ρ=1.3153)
Rams' season: finished 10-4, clinched the #2 seed in the NFC, and lost to the Vikings in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Saints' season: finished 3-11. Head coach Hank Stram was fired after the end of the season.
What happened: the Saints started out as a bad team, and stayed that way for a long time. They didn't win more than 5 games in a season until 1978, didn't have a winning season until 1987, and didn't win a playoff game until 2000. In the mid to late 70's, the Rams (along with the Cowboys and Vikings) were one of the big powerhouse teams of the NFC.
But this was an era where (even more than now) teams needed to play good defense to win games. This was a problem for the 1977 Rams. If you look at their season stats, and sort by defensive rushing yards allowed... it's not pretty. Every loss the Rams had that season, they gave up at least 133 yards rushing. The 253 yards rushing they gave up to the Saints was the record for the season, and one of the few times during this era they gave up more than 200 yards rushing.
Unless your opponent turns the ball over 6 times, giving up 200 yards rushing makes it really hard to win a game, no matter how weak your opponent is.
Also of note: Hank Stram is far better known as the long-time head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, leading them to their first (and so far only) Super Bowl victory.

Next week: Drew Brees has a bad day in the middle of a record-setting season.