Saints hoping to feed off of home crowd in NFC title game

For the New Orleans Saints, there is no place like the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

With last week’s 20-14 victory over Philadelphia in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, New Orleans improved its home playoff record to 6-0 overall under head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees.

New Orleans (14-3) hosts the Los Angeles (14-3) in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 2:05 p.m.

“We think it’s a tremendous advantage to play here,” said Payton after Sunday’s playoff victory. “Our fans were fantastic tonight. Communication becomes difficult. We’ve been on both sides of it. 

“We’ve played in some tough road venues where it’s real loud,” Payton added. “Minnesota, Seattle, and we play at home here. That’s one of the reasons why you fight so hard for the best seed you can. So that you have the chance to play with the noise in your favor.”

The 70,000-plus raucous fans inside the Superdome on Sunday were especially rowdy. After linebacker Demario Davis began dancing on the sidelines to “Choppa Style,” the fans cheered so loudly that the press box began to shake.
“It was loud,” second-year running back Alvin Kamara. “Mark (Ingram II) turned to me and said that it was the loudest he ever heard it. You hear it and then you look up at the screen and the decibels are high.”

“It was huge,” Ingram added. “I saw the meter get to 128, 130. I have never seen it get that high. They brought it and we are going to need it all of the way through the playoffs. We appreciate it Who Dat nation.”

That appreciation is especially shared by members of the Saints’ defense who seem to feed off that energy provided by the crowd inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“I feel like we’ve got the best stadium in football, best fan base in football,” Davis said. “We definitely love having our crowd behind us. It kind of energizes us and can demoralize the other team a little bit or at least it feels that way and for us we know when it’s loud like that we have to communicate well, whether that’s verbal communication or nonverbal communication and I bet a lot of it is my job getting the call out. But at the same time it takes the entire unit being locked in.”

After a sluggish start to the game, in which Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles completed his first seven passes and led the Eagles on two touchdown drives, the Saints defense shut out the competition the remaining three quarters.

It all started when second-year cornerback Marshon Lattimore made the first of his two interceptions early in the second quarter which pumped up the crowd.

“It was probably the loudest I’ve heard the dome,” Lattimore said after Sunday’s game. “When we played Carolina (Panthers) last year it was pretty loud, but this time it was loud. And we love that. We love the crowd being in the game with us. And that helps give that extra push to get the job done.”

That home crowd advantage is something Payton is hoping the Saints fans can deliver on Sunday but with a specific request. During a press conference on Friday, the New Orleans coach asked fans to continue to be as loud as on Sunday but to be more efficient at it to help disrupt Rams’ high-powered offense.

“I think what’s important for our fan base is understanding when that the crowd noise needs to begin differently this week than normal weeks,” Payton said. “That crowd noise needs begin just as that last play finished. You get 65, 70 snaps of that crowd noise earlier than normal and louder than normal it’s difficult.”