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WEAPON OF SOUND: Crowd Noise of Saints Fans Could Directly Impact NFC Championship vs. Rams

One thing that became very evident in the Saints’ 20-14 Divisional Round Playoff win the other day over the visiting Philadelphia Eagles was how much of a direct impact that Saints fans themselves were able to make by yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs; and thereby making it difficult for Eagles QB Nick Foles to successfully operate his team’s offense.

The Eagles drew several false start or delay of game penalties as a result; and it clearly was because the Eagles O-Linemen and receivers couldn’t hear the snap-count that Foles was attempting to yell out over the crowd. However, now that the Saints are set to face the Los Angeles Rams in this upcoming Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, the Saints might even have an even greater chance at using the crowd noise of the Superdome to their full advantage.

Why is that, you ask?

Simply because Los Angeles operates their offense by utilizing a series of pre-snap check downs / audibles which often times are directly relayed by Rams head coach Sean McVay  to QB Jared Goff, right up until the 15 second cut-off that’s imposed by NFL rules.

And if McVay and Goff can’t communicate with each other as successfully as they normally can do, it certainly could create some issues for the them on this particular Sunday; with passionate Who Dats cheering on their team that is now just one more win away from going to Super Bowl LIII (53) in Atlanta.

As noted by USA TODAY National NFL writer Steven Ruiz: Los Angeles often times will line up quickly at the line of scrimmage, leaving McVay just enough time to assess the defense and call an audible (if necessary) before the play clock hits the 15-second mark. That’s when the headset communication between the coach and quarterback cuts off.

The Rams have been operating that way since McVay took over as head coach before the 2017 season, and it certainly will be the way they’ll be operating again this upcoming Sunday.

However, the Rams reportedly have said that the noise of the Superdome didn’t bother them all that much when the two teams met previously at the Superdome two months ago; although it would be fair to say that Who Dats will be making even LOUDER noise this time around in what is obviously a much bigger game with a Super Bowl at stake.

Several published reports after the win over Philadelphia suggested that the noise from the Superdome crowd was so intense that it might have even BROKEN the Superdome’s sound barrier.

A meter that was in the press box at the Superdome reached 130 (the highest level possible) during the game.

It was a report that seemed to gain validity after this comment by Eagles center Jason Kelce:

“I think that any time you are in an environment like this, communication is a point of emphasis,” Kelce said. “There were a couple of times where we got up to the ball and tried to make a change late, and getting that communicated is tough, especially when you are trying to get the best play possible. We could’ve done better. That is where home field advantage makes a big difference, obviously.”

In his post-game press conference, Saints head coach Sean Payton verified the impact of the Superdome home crowd even further.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

“Any time you get a delay of game and then a timeout there, there’s an attrition to that noise,” Payton pointed out. “I’d like to think that was the case. Look, I saw 12 men in a huddle before an important down. It’s all of the communication that strains you — not just on one play, but through the course of the game.”

“It’s one of the reasons you fight so hard, so you have a chance to play with the crowd in your favor,” Payton said. “So our focus is taking advantage of playing another game at home, taking advantage of the crowd noise and trying to put our best foot forward and trying to play better than we did yesterday.”

The Saints have opened up as a 3 and half point favorite for Sunday’s big game, and McVay told reporters that he and the Rams intend to be ready for whatever obstacles might come their way ― and that includes 70,000 plus screaming Who Dats.

“I think what you can really take away is you get a chance to play that opponent but you also get a chance to feel what a tough atmosphere that is to play in,” McVay said.

Photo courtesy of therams.com

“I think there’s, a lot of times, fear of the unknown and now that we kind of know what to expect with a great crowd and how that’s going to have to alter some of the things that we’ll do specific to offense and our communication — I think we can use that as a positive.”

McVay and the Rams won’t have much of a choice other than having a positive attitude, because it certainly will be an issue that they’ll be forced to deal with this Sunday.

The New Orleans Saints — perhaps more so than ANY other NFL team — has mastered the art of utilizing crowd noise as an extra-added advantage. And you had better believe that the “weapon of sound” will be at their disposal once again, in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game….

 

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Saints News Network columnist (and Big Easy Magazine contributing writer) Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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