Interview: Former Saints receiver Torrance Small recalls career-best game at Denver, talks what it takes to win at altitude

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It doesn’t seem that long ago.

With a 4-year-old daughter, a 1-year-old son and their mother waiting patiently for dad/husband to return home to spend Christmas together, we were all hoping for a rather quick game and safe, on-time charter flight back to Kenner.

On Dec. 24, 1994, the New Orleans Saints went to Mile High Stadium and downed the Broncos 30-28.

That was the last victory for the Saints at Denver.

Of course, the two teams seldom play each other, having met just 11 times over the course of the previous 53 years of New Orleans Saints football. Denver has dominated, winning nine of those 11 games.

The Saints won in 1994, despite going 0-for-12 on third down conversions that afternoon, which I remember well in covering the game in Denver and getting back late Christmas Eve to be with family.

The New Orleans defense came up with three interceptions of Hugh Millen and sacked him four times. Carl Lee had a pair of interceptions while Saints Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Martin had a pair of sacks.

Jim Everett had perhaps his best game as a Saint, completing 23-of-27 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 155.8.

In New Orleans Saints history, there have been just three receivers to record 200 or more yards receiving in a single game.

Michael Thomas had 211 yards on 12 catches in a win over the Rams on Nov. 4, 2018.

Wes Chandler had 205 yards on six catches in an overtime loss to Atlanta on Sept. 2, 1979.

And on Dec. 24, 1994 in the game at Denver, Torrance Small caught six passes from Everett for 200 yards and two touchdowns, including one covering 75 yards.

Small had a solid 10-year NFL career, catching 346 passes for 4,602 yards and 31 touchdowns.

With the Saints over four seasons (1992-95), Small had 176 catches for 2,180 yards and 16 touchdowns. He went on to play for the Rams, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and New England, earning a Super Bowl championship ring with the latter. He’s on the short list of receivers to catch NFL passes from both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

As a guest on All Access on 106.1 FM Wednesday night, Small recalled the big game he had in Denver with the Saints.

“I didn’t know I was that fast,” Small laughed. “I always said I was fast enough. I was never run down. They could not catch me that day. We caught them blitzing a lot, putting me on the safety a couple of times on hot routes. I remember being tired with that thin air when you run a lot, run long yards. It does take a little longer to catch your breath. You have to take some oxygen.”

Was there a difference in preparation for the game being at altitude?

“You cannot prepare for it unless you work out in it,” Small said. “You play the game like you normally play it. You have oxygen tanks on the sideline. You need to recover between plays, between series. You take deep breaths in through the mouth and out through the nose. You get a little winded. You should take advantage of the machines. I had never taken oxygen until that game. That is the only time I ever did so.”

Small praised the 2020 Saints.

“The Saints are the perfect example of the next man up,” Small said. “They have a deep roster built for success and built to endure injuries and to still win, just like they did last week and just like they did last year without Drew Brees.”

Small feels strongly that Taysom Hill can succeed playing the way he plays but only if he is allowed to play his game.

“Let him be himself,” Small said. “Let him play the way he plays. Do not change him. Let him  run. If he wants to run, let him run. He threw it well.

“Lamar Jackson did it very well with the Ravens a year ago. Let him be himself. He is showing that he can throw it well enough and that should improve as he plays more.”

Does Small feel the current Saints can win a second Super Bowl title?

“Yes, I do,” Small said. “They have all the ingredients. They’re solid on offense, despite the injury to Drew. If they can ride this out, win more than half the games without him, they’ll be in good shape.

“The defense is playing lights out. The last couple of weeks, they have to be the top defense in the league. That alone will carry you to a Super Bowl. The special teams are good. They’re hitting on all cylinders right now.”

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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