Richard Todd celebrated his 31st birthday tonight by throwing two touchdown passes that helped New Orleans beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-24, and end a jinx that had plagued the Saints since their founding in 1967.
They had been 0-7 on prime-time national telecasts, had never won on a Monday night and once endured a five-year absence from the prime-time telecasts because of a miserable performance, against Pittsburgh, in 1974.
Todd's touchdown passes went for 28 yards to tight end Larry Hardy with 17 seconds left in the first half and 21 yards to tight end Junior Miller midway in the final quarter.
The Saints got superlative defensive performances from three players with Pennsylvania connections: linebacker Dennis Winston, who once played for the Steelers; linebacker Rickey Jackson, who played his college ball at Pitt, and defensive end Bruce Clark of Penn State.
Winston had a 47-yard touchdown return of an interception in the fourth quarter, his second interception of the season. Clark had an interception and two fumble recoveries and Jackson had two key sacks.
Pittsburgh scored first on Louis Lipps' 76-yard punt return in the second quarter, the first of his two touchdowns, then a 14-yard pass from Mark Malone to John Stallworth in the second quarter. Gary Anderson kicked a 21-yard field goal as the fourth quarter began, then Lipps scored again on a 25-yard pass from third-string quarterback Scott Campbell with 1:17 left in the game.
Campbell had entered the game after Malone incurred a concussion while scrambling in the fourth quarter.
Lipps' punt return was the Steelers' first for a touchdown since 1974, when Lynn Swann returned one all the way, against the Saints, in the Monday night game that touched off their five-year absence.