Smackdad did a great job yesterday looking at the homefield advantage the Chiefs have at Arrowhead Stadium. There is, however, one particular challenge unique to this venue.
Arrowhead is a really loud stadium for a visiting team.
The crowd tends to make noise when the opposing team is on offense. This can mess with communication. Remember the other day when we talked about protections? Sometimes those get changed at the line after the offense gets a look at the front the defense is showing.
Quarterback must communicate with offensive line, and offensive linemen must communicate among themselves. At home when the crowd knows this and is quiet with the offense on the field, it is not an issue.
You can imagine why this type of communication would be more difficult on the road with tens of thousands of people making noise.
Just getting the ball snapped is trickier in louder venues. Sometimes during games, the TV microphones will pick up the quarterback calling out the snap count and then saying the magic words to get the ball snapped. With so much noise, it becomes difficult and in some stadiums impossible to hear so teams go to what is known as a silent count.
You can see here that Ryan Fitzpatrick is calling for the snap by lifting his leg. These snap counts aren't this simple, though. Otherwise the defense would know when the snap was coming and could fire off the ball once they saw the other quarterback lifting his leg. There is some variety and complexity built into these silent counts.
Here you will see Fitzpatrick tap his leg. Then Nick Mangold looks once right and once left. Mangold then looks through his legs at Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick taps his leg again. The snap comes, and Mangold's head fires up.
There are all kinds of different versions of this. Sometimes the center will look right and left a different number of times. Sometimes he will nod. Sometimes the first leg tap will bring the snap. Sometimes the guard will tap the center to signal the snap.
Typically, though, the rest of the linemen are reading the center's routine to time the snap. Mangold's head firing up at the end is the signal it is go time. This is tricky. It is for Mangold because he has to look back to Fitzpatrick to see the leg tap and then turn it back quickly to see the guy he is blocking. It is also difficult for the other linemen, particularly those further down the line who must keep one eye on Mangold and the other on their blocking assignment. You can understand why crowd noise can bring false starts if a lineman cheats, focuses on his blocking assignment, and mistimes the snap.
Given the noise, verbal communication can become impossible in certain venues to the ability to keep things in sync with silent counts is important.