Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio is pretty familiar with the crowd noise at the Superdome in New Orleans. He was a third round pick of the Saints in 1985, playing his first NFL two seasons there.
He would later return as head coach of the Jaguars in 2007 – a game he lost 41-24.
This week will be just his second trip to New Orleans as head coach of the opposing team. He knows he’s in for it facing a raucous opening day crowd, but noted that how noisy the crowd is will depend on how his team plays.
“It gets rocking,” Del Rio said of the Superdome. “Really all home crowds are as loud as the visiting team lets them be. It’s a challenge to go in and play in crowd noise. The better we play, the less crowd noise we’ll have to face. It’s on us to go in and play good football and try to get them to not be as loud.”
It’s the opposing offensive players who have the hardest time in these environments. Derek Carr, who lost the first nine games of his NFL career away from Oakland, rebounded to win four of eight away games last season. He says he has come to appreciate these hostile environments.
“I love playing with the noise,” said Carr. “I really do, because then you don’t have to hear anything else. There’s not all these side conversations or this or that. You’re just in your own zone, you’re going through your own process. I really, I love it.
“I enjoy the heck out of playing in other people’s stadiums because there’s so much noise and so much going on, the only thing that hinders is obviously communication. But you have ways to get around that and ways you go about that. But, besides that, I honestly love playing, the louder the better, because I really like enjoying just having that ‘you’re there by yourself’ mentality when you have all of that noise.”
Despite Carr’s claims of loving the crowd noise, he and Del Rio recognize the goal is to play well enough to quiet them down. Though Carr acknowledges that’s a “tough task”.
The Saints would, of course, like to keep the noise going. To do that, they have to put points on the board. Drew Brees is the man who has been putting up points in massive amounts for the Saints over the past ten years. He has been witness to the crowd noise at the Super Dome and the affect it has on opposing teams. In his view, the Saints have the best homefield advantage in football.
“We pride ourselves on that,” Brees said. “I think our fan base prides themselves on that as well. The Who Dat Nation can get pretty loud and raucous in the Superdome, especially when we’re rolling, so, hopefully we give them a reason to celebrate.”
The past two seasons, the Saints had a combined record 14-18, going 8-8 at home during that time. Prior to that, the last time the Saints lost a meaningful home game with Sean Payton and Drew Brees in place was Oct. 24, 2010, when the 1-5 Cleveland Browns stunned them 30-17. That was a streak of 17 consecutive home games, including the postseason.
A bad or mediocre team can lose no matter how loud the crowd. But when the Saints are competitive, they get a big boost from their home crowd. That ‘12th man’ as they say.