Re-Establishing Home Dominanace Key to New Orleans Saints' Bounce-Back
In 2011, the newly christened Mercedes-Benz Superdome was, without question, the scariest place to play in the entire NFL.
The New Orleans Saints finished last season with a 9-0 record and averaged 41.5 points per game in home games, which included six different games over 40 points.
It was one of the most intimidating places for any opposing quarterback to enter in the past decade. That was up until a quarterback named Robert Griffin III walked in and handed the Saints their first regular season loss in the newly-named dome with a 40-32 victory in the first game of his NFL career.
Then that whole "unbeatable in the dome" thing kind of went out the window.
Some may say that it is only natural that a team lose a game at home once in a while. No one has ever maintained an unbeaten-at-home record for more than a few seasons in the NFL.
While this is true, one of the most important aspects of the Saints' incredible 2011 season was their virtual invincibility on their home turf. In fact, the Saints were such a powerful team at home that it seemed as if they were an entirely different team on the road.
While the Saints were able to average 41.5 points per game at home last season (including playoffs), they only averaged 27.8 on the road.
Will the Saints make the playoffs this season?
That is a major difference, especially considering the Saints weren't exactly taking a defense on the road that was capable of holding people to less than 28 points on a consistent basis.
Saying all that, the Saints still finished with a record of 13-3 and won the NFC South. So it wasn't necessarily a major hindrance to what the Saints were trying to get done last season.
This led to the Saints being one of the few teams in NFL history to go 13-3 and have to play a road playoff game in the divisional round.
While it is true that the circumstances the Saints had to endure last year were rare, the reality of it isn't exactly going anywhere. San Francisco and Green Bay are still powerful teams and there are several other teams in the NFC (Philadelphia, New York Giants, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago) that are more than capable of having big seasons this year.
Not to mention, the Bounty-Gate scandal that will not only provide a distraction throughout the season but also deprive the Saints of their head coach Sean Payton for the entire season.
So, if last season was merely a circumstance of bad luck for the Saints, there has never been a team in more desperate need of a rabbit's foot, because things are even worse this season.
But the key to overcome playing in an extremely difficult conference and dealing with the feeling that the whole world is against you is the same way they prospered last season: by becoming the most dominant home team in football.
The road to re-establishing that status starts Sunday when the 0-2 Kansas City Chiefs come to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
A win would not only put a halt to a very disappointing start of the season for the Saints, but it would also restart—to some degree—the perception of how difficult it is to come into New Orleans and get a win against the Saints.
This perception was a vital aspect of how New Orleans was able to turn last year into one of the most historic and record-breaking seasons for any team in NFL history.
With all the drama the Saints endured heading into this season, this season was certainly a historic one for the franchise before the team even took the first snap.
But if the Saints aren't able to pick up where they left off last season with their home dominance, the only unbeatable aspect of their story this season will seem to be the odds that were against them.
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