Last year was a pretty fantastic regular season in the Georgia Dome for the Falcons, as they wrapped up the season with a 7-1 record at home. As the season progressed, and the Falcons’ record got better and better, Falcons fans started to get some national attention as a formidable Twelfth Man. Join me after the jump as we look at some reasons for fans to be sure they are hoarse from screaming when they exit the Georgia Dome tomorrow evening.There are two basic theories that support the idea of home team fans making certain that nobody in the general vicinity of the Georgia Dome can hear correctly for at least two days following a game, the first being simply that supporting your team wholeheartedly, and vocally, is generally a good thing to do. The second is that fans actually can have some positive influence in their team’s favor by establishing a noise level that impedes the opponent, forcing them to use time outs and creating procedural penalties.
I really am not interested in making excuses for the Falcons’ performance last week against the Bears, but I said it prior to the game, and I’ll say it again today: Soldier Field is a notoriously difficult environment for visiting teams due in large part to fan involvement. Our offensive line, the least penalized in the entire NFL last season, had two false starts during last week’s fiasco of a game. This article from late last season, entitled ‘Stats Show Soldier Field Tough on Visitors,’ is pretty self-explanatory. Maybe noisy fans make a difference, maybe they don’t, but the number of delay of game and false start penalties imposed on visiting teams in Soldier Field last season is a strong argument for crowd noise being a factor.
We all know that the Eagles are a solid team, and they have had the Falcons’ number for years. Our birds need to exploit any and every advantage they might have, and that includes their Dome Field Advantage. With a quarterback as agile as Vick, a star-studded secondary, and the pressure of national exposure on Sunday Night Football, if the fans can create an environment of noise that forces the Eagles to use time outs, and causes some penalty trouble for their less-than-stellar offensive line, it can only benefit the Falcons. The players count on fans being involved, actually. Daniel Cox of the Falcons covered this thoroughly in his September 15, 2011 Notebook, which you should definitely read. From that article:
"The crowd is huge for any home game," cornerback Brent Grimes said Thursday. "It disrupts their offense and it gives us energy. Our crowd does a good job of that."
Last year’s noise levels in the Georgia Dome are well known throughout the league, and according to this article by former Eagles linebacker Gary Cobb, Andy Reid is preparing the Eagles by having them practice with a tape of fan noise in the background. This is due in part to the fact that the Eagles offensive line struggled last week with the noise in the Edward Jones Dome when they faced the Rams in St. Louis. In this article by David Weinberg for the Press of Atlantic City website, the Eagles’ rookie center Jason Keice was quoted as saying:
"I kind of expected it to be loud, but it was really loud. Most of the mistakes we made were because some of the guys couldn't hear the protection calls."
The bottom line? Fan noise during tomorrow night's game may or may not have a positive impact, but showing the Falcons that the fans wholeheartedly support them is never a bad thing. Atlanta has a reputation for having fans that are lukewarm, and for a nationally televised game that is getting a lot of attention for the whole "epic return of Michael Vick to Atlanta" thing, Falcons fans at the Georgia Dome have the opportunity to leave a national audience with an accurate perspective of our passion and support for this team. If there is even a remote chance that the fans might be able to influence the game in the Falcons' favor, fans need to pursue it loudly and enthusiastically. In the words of the ever-prescient Dave Choate, from yesterday’s article on this same topic, "If you're in the Dome, yell. A lot. It may only affect one play, but you never know when that will make a difference." I agree with Dave. What do you think?