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John DeShazier: Blocked punts vs. Falcons top favorite moments for Saints players

Gleason's block and Mauti's block two defining plays in series

Photos of Michael Mauti vs the Atlanta Falcons. Photos by Michael C. Hebert.

No current Saint was a member of the franchise on Nov. 22, 2000, when a 21-19 victory in the Georgia Dome ended New Orleans' five-year, 10-game losing streak to Atlanta, the franchise that is the Saints' most intense rival.

Nor were they around when the Saints dropped 45 points on the Falcons in a 28-point victory in Atlanta, which then was the most points New Orleans ever had scored against the Falcons.

But each seems to have a favorite Saints-Falcons moment, and two plays appear to top the list as the Saints (6-9) prepare to close out the season on Sunday against the Falcons (8-7) in the Georgia Dome.

Not surprisingly, the two plays are blocked punts, and here is a sampling of what a few Saints had to say:

Right guard Senio Kelemete

"Gleason, man," Evans said, referring to safety Steve Gleason's blocked punt against the Falcons on Sept. 25, 2006. The block was recovered for a touchdown, and the Saints won 23-3 on "Monday Night Football" in the game that marked the re-opening of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, following its partial destruction and reparation following Hurricane Katrina. Evans was a rookie on that team.

"That's the one that stands out to me the most," he said. "I remember that week of preparation just on that play, and Steve making that play. He was the right guy. I remember sitting in the meetings and watching the week before the punt was blocked, them drawing it up and saying, 'We're going to get it just like it happened last week.' And they put Gleason in that position and he was the right guy to do it.

"Going through the week and knowing that that block was going to happen, was pretty awesome."

Right tackle Zach Strief, another member of the 2006 draft class

"Gleason's punt block. That might be my best Saints memory (period).

"The punt block was designed for him, but we've had that punt block in 140 times since then. I don't know how many blocked kicks that has produced. It was just the moment that made that special."

The other punt block against the Falcons, and the other most memorable play against Atlanta for this crop of Saints, occurred more recently.

In the teams' first meeting this season, in a Thursday night game on Oct. 15, linebacker Michael Mauti broke through the protection, blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, giving the Saints a 14-0 lead in what became a 31-21 victory over Atlanta, which entered the game undefeated in five games.

Mauti

"Thursday night, in the Dome, blocked punt and touchdown. Most important, we won. Before that, it was Monday night, the Steve Gleason (block).

"I was surprisingly calm in that situation. I had visualized that happening so many times, because I run through the plays in my mind all week and I sit up at night. So when I saw it, I felt totally aware and I was totally calm.

"But as soon as I got up and saw the crowd, then I went numb. And that's the best feeling. I've been hooked on it; every week, I've been trying to get another one. That's all I've been thinking about."

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