Flowery Branch, Ga. --If it seems louder this season inside the Georgia Dome it might not be just because the home team is winning.
In March, the NFL quietly abolished a 21-year-old rule that allowed teams to encourage their home crowds to get as loud as possible.
With that small change by the competition committee, a rule the committee long felt gave the home team an unfair advantage, Roddy White, the Falcons' Director of Event Marketing and Client Services, got a little breathing room to assist the team in its mission to Rise Up, the franchise's 2010 marketing campaign slogan.
Under the old rules, the franchise was not allowed to display any signage or video messaging that specifically encouraged fans to make noise. Additionally, any club-controlled audio, PA announcements, music, etc, could not occur while the visiting team had the ball with the play clock running.
With the new rules in place the Falcons can now use any available means to encourage fans to get as loud as humanly possible, with the only stipulation being that the in-game messaging must cease when the play clock hits 15 seconds.
To say White just got a little more excited about his job is like saying quarterback Matt Ryan simply reviews some game film before Sunday.
"From my standpoint, I look at that and say wow that really gives us a chance to create an environment where the fans have a bigger impact on the outcome of the game," said White recently.
White said some trial and error will be in play during the season, with up to 11 different new elements expected to be introduced during the season.
One that won't be completely foreign to Falcons fans is the decibel meter. AtlantaFalcons.com tracked the peak and average dBs during each home game of the 2008 season, with the thrilling last-second victory over the Chicago Bears as the highpoint of the dBs at just under 120, the sound of operating a jackhammer against concrete.
The in-game decibel meter will be used at critical moments in the game with the hope that with fans seeing how loud they are they will be motivated to get even louder.
The team will also introduce a false start tally board in tandem with the dB meter that shows the dome crowd their impact on the game. False start totals will be tracked through the season and with the decibel meter, fans will be encouraged and expected to out-loud themselves each week. It's also another way to keep fans engaged in a live game that features many television stoppages, often muting the crowd out of a game-changing play.
The tally board and the decibel meter are just two of the tricks White and his team plan to employ to keep fans captivated, the Georgia Dome booming, and the Falcons winning.
"We're going to use everything within the rules that we can to try and create an even more raucous and overwhelming home field advantage for us," said White.
The Falcons have already shown that the Georgia Dome is a home for winners in the two years under Head Coach Mike Smith. White believes the raising of restrictions by the NFL around crowd noise will only help continue that trend and perhaps raise the roof on the dome just a little higher.
"A large part of the reason that the Falcons have been 13-3 at home over the last two seasons has been the fans and how engaged they've been in the game and how they've rallied behind the team," he said. "In 2010 everybody needs to get ready because we're going to take it a whole new level. We're going to turn the Georgia Dome into a place that nobody wants to come to play. These new rules combined with the already incredible fans that we have are going to make it unbelievable inside the Georgia Dome on Sundays."