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Decibel Points

As they'll tell you in Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis and Chicago, crowd noise often shows up on the scoreboard, where it counts most

January 14, 2006|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

The place has great curb appeal. It has high ceilings, wide hallways and an enormous kitchen. It can comfortably accommodate a family of maybe ... 68,000.

So what's the home of the Seattle Seahawks worth?

According to one formula, about seven points a game.

Protrade, a sports entertainment company that attaches point values to factors such as crowd noise and penalties, credited the Seahawks with 6.93 points in their home game this season against the New York Giants.

That, the company determined, was the difference in the Giants' inability to cope with the thundering crowd at Qwest Field, getting flagged for 11 false starts. Seattle wound up winning with a field goal in overtime.

Whether such a points system is valid or not, there's no denying that the Seahawks have an advantage at their home field, where today they will play host to Washington in a divisional playoff game. So do the other NFL teams playing host to games today and Sunday: Indianapolis, Chicago and Denver.

The Broncos, who like Seattle were undefeated on their own field, have lost their last three playoff games on the road, yet are 5-0 in home or neutral-site playoff games under Coach Mike Shanahan. John Elway had something to do with that, but it's worth noting that, in the history of their franchise, the Broncos are 11-2 as the home team in the postseason, 3-8 when they're visitors.

Home isn't just where the heart is, it's where the lungs are.

"The fans can be a big factor for us," Denver cornerback Champ Bailey told reporters this week. "To have a home playoff game can be a real advantage. We need them to be loud, and I think they will be."

Whereas Seattle, Denver and Chicago have open-air stadiums, Indianapolis plays in a dome, so it gets even louder when the Colt crowd cranks up. After the Colts beat visiting Pittsburgh earlier this year, an ESPN reporter caused a stir in Indianapolis when he off-handedly mentioned on a radio show that he thought Indianapolis might have been bumping up the decibel count by piping some fake crowd noise through the stadium speakers. That would be a violation of NFL rules.

At the time, Coach Tony Dungy called the accusation "an insult to our crowd."

"Our fans have been great," Dungy said. "We don't need to pipe in noise."

The theory gathered such steam that the Colts used it to their benefit. Later in the season, before the San Diego game, the RCA Dome's public-address announcer stirred the crowd by screaming, "Do we need fake noise? Or can we make our own?"

The noise problems Pittsburgh encountered at Indianapolis earlier this season were as authentic as they come. The Steelers couldn't hear the snap count, had a difficult time changing plays at the line of scrimmage, and the offensive line was penalized for five false starts.

"It's a rumble and your heart is pounding and you feel the vibrations," Indianapolis defensive tackle Montae Reagor told reporters. "Our crowd is the best in the league. I hope they'll be even louder [Sunday]. I hope it makes my ears hurt. Bring it on. Bring the noise."

To compensate for the dome-rocking din, the Steelers plan to use a silent snap count in Sunday's rematch, something they didn't do much in their first meeting with the Colts. The way it works is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gives the snap count in the huddle, then the players line up and start counting when center Jeff Hartings gives a signal such as a slight nod. The Steelers reportedly stopped using the system in their first game against the Colts because the Indianapolis defenders had cracked the code and were getting an early jump.

Visiting offenses might struggle at Indianapolis, but the Colt offense does just fine. Since 2000, the Colts have scored three times more points in playoff games at home than on the road. They averaged 45 points in going 2-0 at home, and 14.4 points in going 1-4 on the road.

In Chicago, it's the Bear defense that tends to dominate home games. The Bears gave up only 61 points in eight home games this season, an NFL record for a 16-game season. The next-closest teams were the 2003 Patriots, who gave up 68, and the 1978 Dallas Cowboys, who gave up 70.

Cold weather, too, is often a factor at this time of year in Chicago. But the forecast calls for a relatively mild day. That should suit the visiting Carolina Panthers.

But if they close their eyes, the Panthers will hear the thunder.



Bronco territory

A look at the Denver Broncos at home and away (or neutral site) in the playoffs from 1997 to 2004:

*--* Home Away Points 168 (33.6/gm) 73 (14.6/gm) Total Yds/Gm 405.0 309.2 Rush Yds/Gm 207.6 60.8 Passer Rating 84.7 66.8



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