The Saints finished the 2011 regular season 8-0 at home, the best mark in franchise history.
New Orleans defeated the Detroit Lions 48-25 in the Wildcard Playoff round last Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, their fifth consecutive home postseason win, dating back to the franchise’s first-ever playoff win in 2000.
The Saints finished the regular season outscoring their opponents 329-143 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, for a 23.25 avg. margin of victory (third highest average in NFL history.)
The strong home run this season includes some historical moments such as QB
The Saints scored a franchise-best 62 points against the Colts on Sunday Night Football on Oct. 23. The Saints broke the NFL record for most net yards in a season in the regular season finale against the Panthers by posting a franchise-record 617 total yards at the Superdome to finish the year with 7,474.
New Orleans compiled a NFL playoff record 626 total net yards in their playoff victory against the Lions last Saturday.
Brees, who has a combined 123.9 quarterback rating through eight regular season games and one playoff game at home compared to a 100.7 rating on the road, said the Saints have taken their play at the Superdome to the “next level” this season.
“I don’t know the stats off hand, but if you look at it we have to be averaging 40-something a game at home and obviously the homefield advantage that our defense gets to have with the noise level, those are all huge advantages,” said Brees. “I think the mindset we have playing at home, there’s a pride level playing in front of our home fans and a feeling. I would say we’ve taken it to the next level. I felt we always had a homefield advantage, but maybe now more so than ever.”
Five of the eight teams the Saints faced at home in the regular season finished the year with a .500 or better record, including four playoff teams.
At Ohio State, Jenkins faced some of the toughest venues in football while playing in the Big Ten. Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan‘s stadiums can all sit more than 100,000 people. However, Jenkins says the Superdome is the loudest venue he has ever played in.
Jenkins’ final college game was actually in the Superdome for the 2007 BCS National Championship game.
“It’s mainly due to the enthusiasm and love fans have for us,” said Jenkins. “I can’t think of a city or fan base that is more passionate than Saints fans. I can put (the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) next to any stadium I played at in college as far as how loud they are. Their passion is the best.”
While playing on defense, Jenkins is the recipient of the Saints’ faithful high-pitched exuberance. He says the defense embraces the noise.
“We love our fans’ noise because we are used to it,” said Jenkins. “We are very familiar with our hand signals and dealing with the noise. Watching the offense try to call an audible can be entertaining at times.”
Fellow Ohio State alum
“Our guys approach has been different this year at home,” said Smith. “We have embraced the home games more and used it to our advantage as much as possible. Crowd noise has been as a big factor this year defensively and on offense. The offense is able to do a lot of things that they can’t do on the road and they are able to open up the playbook more.”
Another key ingredient to the Saints successful home stand this season has been the new offensive playmakers.
Sproles signed with the Saints as a free agent during training camp and finished the regular season with a league-best 2,696 all-purpose yards. He scored eight touchdowns at home in the regular season and notched 143 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against the Lions last Saturday.
Sproles’ incredible speed and electrifying plays have quickly made him a fan favorite and regularly causes fans to erupt at the Superdome.
“Our fans here are always good to us,” said Sproles.
“The atmosphere in New Orleans is always great, especially on Sundays. If the end zone wall wasn’t so high, I would jump up there with them.”
Another fan favorite this season has been second-year TE
Graham finished the regular season third in the NFL in receptions (99), seventh in receiving yards (1,310) and tied for 11th in touchdowns (11) – all three are team records by a tight end. He caught seven balls for 55 yards and a touchdown in the Wildcard game.
Graham is arguably the most energetic player on the roster. He almost always finishes a play with a fist-pump, an arm flex or a high-five to a teammate.
Fans feed off Graham’s enthusiasm and physicality especially when he does his high-flying dunking of the football through the goalpost after a touchdown.
“I don’t think any other NFL team has the relationship with the fans that we do,” said Graham. “It’s a big town with a lot going on, but it seems like everybody knows everybody, and everybody recognizes you and what you do.
“Every time I play in front of our fans, I try not to disappoint people. They have such a passion for this team and winning that it just makes me play that much harder.”
Falcons RB Michael Turner has played in New Orleans four times during his career. The running back said the Superdome intense noise never lets up every time he travels to the crescent city.
“The Superdome is always rocking,” said Turner. “The crowd gets into it. No matter what time we play them it seem like it’s going to sound the same to us – loud and noisy. You aren’t able to hear or communicate well.”