As Nick Foles launched a catapult pass near the top of the second quarter Sunday, 39-year-old pool repairman Ben Dohre banged wildly on the metal cladding near the top of the Superdome.
The ball landed in the hands of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore — and Dohre erupted in joy.
For Dohre and countless other Saints ticket holders, home games are an opportunity to be so much more than a spectator. They are a chance for ordinary Joes to join a pro team's roster by exploding with noise every time the other team has the ball, thus contributing to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome’s fearsome reputation for sonic chaos.
Marshon Lattimore didn't mince words about what he thought of the crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.
“If I still have a voice at the end of a game, I feel like I’ve let myself down,” Dohre said.
The 73,027 people in the stands Sunday — minus a few Eagles fans — did their best to make the Dome a noise nightmare for Foles and Eagles coach Doug Pederson as the Saints powered their way to a comeback victory.
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On every Philadelphia third down, the fans banged on walls, clattered on railings and screamed their lungs out. Sound waves that would escape from open stadiums bounced down off the Dome’s curved roof.
Dohre, whose hand is covered in calluses after the regular season, said he is serious about his responsibility to cause a ruckus. So are other Saints fans, who he said have told him to keep it down exactly once in the 14 years he has been a season ticket holder.
“It’s part of the game. I’m trying to disrupt the (visitors') offense,” he said.
"It's kind of your obligation," said Shreveport resident Jordan Greer, who sat nearby in the cheap seats.
The Saints are a perfect 6-0 at home in the playoffs during the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era. The team considers the noise level to be so key to its home-field success that after a game, Coach Payton has been known to pick apart the fans’ work as much as his offensive line’s.
When the Saints downed the Rams in a November shootout, Payton said the stands’ performance was merely “good.”
In between visiting teams’ plays, the Dome's big screen blares orders: "Make noise. Louder."
Goaded Saints fans were beyond good Sunday with their playoff hopes on the line, even after the Saints got off to a disappointing start. Time and again, it seemed as if the Eagles slipped up or pressed pause because of the unholy bedlam.
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With 7:23 left in the second quarter, the Eagles struggled to get set in the middle of a cauldron of sound. They burned a timeout. On a raucous third-and-5 two minutes later, the Eagles had a false start. Their possession ended with a punt.
The Eagles' first timeout in the second half came in the midst of another sound storm. With 1:01 left in the third quarter, and the rafters practically shaking, they had another false start.
Afterward, Payton pronounced the crowd "fantastic." He said the sound level contributed to the Eagles' feeling of "attrition."
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When the Saints finally took the lead, the Who Dat Nation was rewarded for its labors with the tune it had been waiting for: Choppa’s “Choppa Style.”
This year, that song has joined the loudspeaker playlist of hype-em-up songs, which also includes rapper K. Gates’ spin on the Ying Yang Twins' "Halftime (Stand Up and Get Crunk)."
“A touchdown — that’s the only time I wanna hear it,” schoolteacher David Crier said of the latter song.
During the second quarter, Crier parked himself in the entryway to Section 635 to dance, sing and shout himself hoarse. His secret after a big game is honey. But he swears he’s mild-mannered in the classroom.
“I don’t holler like that at work,” he said.
Crier turned around and raised his arms to ask the stands to join him. At one point he contributed to a huge roar — and, arguably, to the squandered Eagles down that followed.
Chainsaws, lawn mowers and city streets can clock in between 80 and 100 decibels. On Sunday in the Superdome, thousands of Saints fans straining their vocal cords in unison routinely pushed above 105 decibels, according to readings on a sound meter.
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At that level, sustained sounds can cause vibrations inside the ear so strong that they damage sensory cells, the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic warns.
Saints fans kept roaring for four hours.
Rick Madura wore earplugs. The 55-year-old Carrollton resident said he learned his lesson after the 2010 NFC Championship game against the Vikings, which aggravated his tinnitus.
Madura doesn’t pop the plugs in for every game, but he knew he had to wear them against the Eagles, “now that we’re in the playoffs.”
He had two words of advice for Saints fans next Sunday: “Make noise.”
Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.
Dennis Allen knew this week was going to give his Saints defense a unique challenge.
On Sunday morning, the pastor wore a Saints hoodie and his flock was decked out in black and gold.