The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has a reputation for being one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. The coronavirus pandemic may force the NFL 2020 season to conduct games without fans. Saints head coach Sean Payton pondered the impact of possibly playing without fans in the Superdome. But, how would this affect the Saints without the Who Dat Nation in 2020?
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton came to New Orleans in 2006 to revitalize the team. In his first season, the Saints reached the NFC Championship game and lost to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Payton's teams have been successful in home playoff contests with a 6-2 record. The two losses were from the NOLA No Call and 2020 Wild Card game defeat to the Minnesota Vikings. The team has performed differently away from the Superdome with a road record of 1-5 in playoff games. Without question, the Saints have built a reputation of having one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL because of loud and noisy fans. One question remains, will the NFL have fans in the stands for the 2020 season? Payton expects it will impact the stadiums that are the loudest, like the Superdome.
On Sunday, January 19, 2019, Sports Illustrated reported the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was so loud at the NFC Championship between the Rams and Saints that the press box was shaking. The arena has a lengthy history with providing the Saints crowd noise in home games. Sean Payton wonders how much TV viewers and fans would hear from the team, such as audibles, team cadences, and trash-talking, if the fans will not be in attendance. Whether they play the games with or without fans, Coach Payton believes the determining factor for the games will be the execution of the team's game plan.
As the Saints prepare to kick off the season on time, the coach admitted it’s difficult to envision playing in an empty Dome, but told CBS Sports that he is not expecting the season to start with fans in the seats,
Dome teams have a significant advantage over outdoor arena teams because the domes' noise levels are more pronounced than outdoor arenas. More research and statistics are required to prove if the home-field advantage is a myth or fact. I believe there are three factors that allow the Saints to capitalize on having a home-field advantage in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
- First, the Who Dat Nation and crowd noise bring exuberant energy. Opposing teams complain about the noise from the Superdome's fans, and the Saints players feed off the home crowd's energy and passion.
- Second, the crowd noise makes it very difficult hear for the visiting teams. The decibel levels are measured in the Dome and are so loud opposing teams find it challenging to hear plays or audibles. The ear-piercing noise makes changing plays at the line of scrimmage almost impossible.
- Third, noise interference causes snap count errors, and false starts. Saints LT Terron Armstead described the experience as wild, energetic, and beautiful. “From my point of view, I love it. I love to look back at the crowd from behind the benches and see people screaming and going crazy, jumping. I love it, man.”
The 2009 Saints are the only team in franchise history to win a Lombardi Trophy. They accomplished the feat with the road to the Super Bowl going through the Superdome. The Saints defeated the Cardinals 45-14 and the Vikings 31-28 in OT. Former Saints TE Benjamin Watson was on the opposing team against the Saints and recalled barely being able to hear his teammates next to him when the Saints defeated the Patriots 38-17. Watson said:
The Saints and Who Dat Nation need and adore their unique relationship in the NFL. This 2020 version of the New Orleans Saints may be one of the most talented teams Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis has assembled. The unquestioned team leader Drew Brees will be in his 20th NFL year and is focused on finishing as a Super Bowl Champion. Will COVID-19 derail the Saints and Who Dat Nation's plans to hoist another Lombardi Trophy? Difficult to say. But, it will be more difficult for the Saints if the fans will not be along for the ride to Super Bowl 55 in Tampa on February 7, 2021.