Every football fan attending a game understands the importance of being loud. Part of the excitement of a live game at the NFL level is the ability to use your voice to impact the game or fuel the players of your team to reach deep and do what they need to pull out a win.
The Falcons put this theory to the test in Sunday's win over the Seahawks and the Falcons fans passed with flying colors.
In the week leading up to Sunday's game, head coach Mike Smith led a Falcons charge to the media encouraging every fan in attendance to be ready to roll at kickoff and be as loud as possible (at the right times) from there on out. The result left many fans with ringing ears when one of the most exciting conclusions in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs ever came to fruition. Smith himself said it took him about a day and a half before his ears fully returned to normal and he felt the crowd noise was a big factor in the win.
The home Georgia Dome crowd unofficially reached a decibel level of 107 before the game even began, reaching that highpoint when wide receiver Julio Jones was introduced and emerged from the tunnel into the sight of every eye in attendance. From that point on, Atlanta's crowd followed convention staying nearly silent while Atlanta's offense was on the field (except for the eruptions when a big play came) and rising up with their voices when the Falcons D was on the field against Seattle. On defense, the crowd noise escalated as each down came and passed and each third down on defense seemed to best the previous one in terms of volume of noise.
Players spoke of the edge they felt Atlanta's crowd gave them following the game. Dunta Robinson called the Georgia Dome crowd the "real 12th man" and many players felt it was the loudest they'd ever heard inside the arena and this past week preparing for the 49ers, they've expressed how much they hope the NFC Championship game is on par with the divisional round.
"It was crazy," linebacker Akeem Dent said. "At times you couldn't even hear out there on the field. This week we're going to need fans to be there early and get the dome rocking. We're going to need that high-energy level."
The loudest point prior to the end of the game came in the second quarter when William Moore stopped Seattle fullback Michael Robinson from advancing on fourth-and-1 from the 11-yard line. Easily the key stop on defense in the first half, Moore's tackle for loss kept Seattle off the scoreboard and the Falcons fans inside the Georgia Dome responded by reaching 110 decibels, a level at which regular exposure to for longer than one minute can begin to result in hearing loss. Effects like that are huge in determining the outcome of a game and the influence the Georgia Dome crowd has can be a deciding factor.
"The 12th man is a big part (of the game)," linebacker Mike Peterson said. "The same way if we were going up north outside and having to deal with the weather elements. It's those same elements of coming into a dome atmosphere where the crowd is going to be loud"
Tracking of decibels didn't occur in the moments after Matt Bryant's game-winning kick, but most in attendance felt the response from the crowd was the loudest sound many of them had ever heard. Needless to say, a crowd response like that will be helpful once again this week against the San Francisco 49ers.
The players spoke of being most impressed with how early the fans arrived to the stadium. The sell-out crowd, as the Julio Jones introduction response can attest to, was ready to go well before kickoff.
"That's the most packed I've seen it so early," Harry Douglas said. "I encourage the fans to come out and do the same thing this week. We love it. We feed off it."
The dome-crowd advantage the Falcons gain is invaluable. Since 2008 under Smith, the Falcons are 34-7 at home, good for the top home record in the NFC and second in the NFL to only the Baltimore Ravens. The homefield advantage inside the Georgia Dome was a topic of conversation with the media all week and the players repeatedly expressed how excited the fans made them and they're looking forward to a repeat performance.
"That's the goal," Peterson said. "We're urging the fans to get in there early again and keep it real, real loud. We're going to need you this week."