!The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has long been considered one of the toughest places to play for visiting teams because of the noise generated by the passionate fans of the New Orleans Saints. That reputation has only been enhanced since Sean Payton took over as coach and has led the team to its longest sustained run of excellence in franchise history.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan acknowledged as much during a conference call with New Orleans area media on Wednesday.
"It's definitely one of the most intense and one of the loudest venues in the NFL and we know that," Ryan said. "I've been down there five times now and played down there five times and I know every time it's loud and it's hostile. With the veteran guys that we have, we understand what it takes to go down there and execute at a high level and we need to be at our best. ...
"We know it's going to be loud. We know it's going to be tough. And we know it's going to be a 60 minute football game. That's really where our mindset is at."
Left tackle Sam Baker agreed in comments he made to Atlanta media.
"You know what the environment is going to be like," he said. "You know it's going to be crazy
Here is a sampling of what other players, coaches and broadcasters have said about playing in the Superdome:
Tackle Eric Winston:
"I've played in the Superdome many times and you can't hear anybody in there. That's the way it's going to be. The Superdome is probably one of the hardest places to get a win on the road because of that, because of the noise, because of the craziness, the songs, the dancing that's going on. Everything that's great about New Orleans also makes it tough for us to play in there."
New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton:
"The Dome advantage for a home team, and specifically the New Orleans Saints and what we get from our fans, is significant. You can just go back to the Giants game. There was a communication issue that Eli (Manning) had with the protection, and all of a sudden, he's hurried and there's an incomplete pass. To think that the combined effort of 70,000 people can have an effect on a third-and-8 and can have an effect on every third down, so they don't know when their play is coming. It's special, and we appreciate that."
Former Saints linebacker Vaughn Johnson:
"It's tough to hear anything except noise. It got so loud down on the floor that (former Saints inside linebacker) Sam Mills and me were constantly screaming our lungs out. You didn't realize how loud you're screaming. But after the game, your throat felt it. The next day I could tell there had been a whole lot of hollering going on."
Troy Aikman, former Cowboys quarterback and Fox lead analyst:
"Part of playing on the road is mental. The Saints definitely have an advantage. Every single play becomes magnified, and it can make you feel as though things are worse than they are. If you are playing at home and you don't convert on a third down, you think 'well, we'll get the ball back.' When you're playing on the road in a big game and you get stopped on third down, the crowd goes bananas and it just feels like it's worse than it really is. At some point, it doesn't matter how loud it gets -- if you can't hear, you can't hear. People assume the defense will have an advantage because the other team has to use a silent count, but I think it is an equally big advantage for New Orleans offensively."
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten:
"(The Superdome) was probably as loud a place as any of us have played in. That atmosphere was like a playoff atmosphere."
New Orleans native and former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson:
"I was there on the field for that first game (in the 2006 season) against the Falcons, and the electricity . . . I have never heard anything like that at any event in any arena."
Saints safety Steve Gleason on his punt block in the Superdome reopening game Sept. 26, 2006: "For a single moment, I would say that that punt block may never be defeated for crowd noise. People in this city had so much frustration and emotion and angst and passion. They all let it out in one single moment. You could feel the energy in the city for an entire week."
Former Saints coach Jim Mora:
"The Saints should have a distinct advantage in the Superdome. I know this: I've never been in a domed stadium louder."
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson after his team's 30-27 victory Oct. 6, 2008:
"Playing there, it was definitely the loudest stadium I've played in."
Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"The communication aspect of it is what kind of gets lost. You try to make calls. If someone is making a call on the right side of the line and you try to hear it on the left side, it gets pretty tough and the center can't pass that down because he usually has his head between his legs waiting for the quarterback."
Quarterback Brett Favre before the 2009 NFC championship game:
"These games, they're tough anyway, but they're really tough on the road because of the noise. Not only are you playing the Saints, but you're playing the fans, and all of those things work against you."