The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a great win to start their 2012 season, but it's time to move on and get ready for the next opponent. Yesterday I broke down how the Seattle secondary is something to keep an eye on, but today I will be discussing another element of football, the home-field advantage of the Seattle Seahawks.
This game isn't going to be a walk in the park. Yes, the Seahawks are starting a rookie quarterback and probably don't have a lot of dynamic weapons on their offense other than Marshawn Lynch, but they are a well coached football team that possess a talented defense.
In his recent article, Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News recently brought up some interesting facts about the Seahawks and their home-field advantage.
Eventually, they settled into brand new digs, setting up shop at airy CenturyLink Field in 2002. Since then, the Seahawks’ fortunes have changed. They have made the playoffs six times in the previous 10 seasons.
That Seattle’s recent run of success began around the same time its 67,000-seat home opened may be coincidental. Then again, it may not be. Since 2002, only six NFL teams – the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers — have posted a better winning percentage at home than the Seahawks have.
This is definitely a key factor to watch for because CenturyLink Field is notorious for the level of noise that they can generate. I didn't believe it myself, so I had to Google this, but it's true. Back in the 2011 playoffs, the "12th Man" caused a minor tremor when running back Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown on a fantastic run. Even though this isn't a playoff game, the Cowboys will be playing in a unfriendly environment on Sunday.
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The Cowboys had some trouble with penalties on the offensive line against the New York Giants. Tyron Smith was flagged for three false start penalties, while fellow offensive tackle Doug Free was flagged once for a false start. Crowd noise is usually a cause of false start penalties on the road, so both tackles need to be prepared and get their timing down.
Then you have to factor in that the Cowboys will be rolling with Ryan Cook at center. Even though Cook played really well after taking over for Phil Costa, there has to be some concern with a center making line calls and adjustments in a stadium that can generate a lot of noise.
Cook doesn't seem to be too worried about playing in Seattle, so at least he is displaying some confidence in his ability to overcome the crowd noise.
"There are a lot of stadiums in the NFL that are loud," Cowboys center Ryan Cook said. "Seattle happens to be one of them."
Ryan is right, there are plenty of stadiums that can get loud, but he doesn't have a lot of familiarity with our offense. He will be an important part of the offense, so he needs to focus and play some good football.
Something else to keep in mind is that Tony Romo is making a lot of adjustments at the line of scrimmage. In my opinion, he is becoming very good at it, but it may be difficult for him to make those adjustments this Sunday when his fellow offensive players can hardly hear him.
Romo has been changing plays, telling guys to alter their routes and changing the protection according to what the defense is giving him pre-snap, but how will he be able to do that when the noise level is through the roof? It will be interesting to see how the offense operates if we can't make pre-snap adjustments.
Jason Garrett talked about the home-field advantage the Seahawks have, comparing it to a "college-type atmosphere".
"All week long there will be sound at practice," coach Jason Garrett said. "This is a very difficult place to play. It’s loud, almost a college-type atmosphere, so we have t make sure we handle it better this week than we did last week. We had too many pre-snap penalties last week. Noise was probably a factor in that. Not the only factor in that, but we have to get better in that area, so we’re going to try as coaches to put our players in the best position to be ready for that all week long."
The Cowboys have been attempting to simulate the extra noise in practice, but it's probably nearly impossible to duplicate the type of noise they will see this Sunday. Mackenzy Bernadeau talked about the noise and how the Cowboys are working on their silent counts in practice.
"You have to prepare for that," Bernadeau said. "Because you know they’re definitely going to be a factor, the crowd. We prepare for that and get extra sets in while we’re out there."
"We just throw it on, we have a little speaker out there. We practice our silent counts and stuff like that."
In every football game, there are key factors and matchups to watch for. This week a key factor for the Cowboys to overcome will be the home-field advantage that the Seattle Seahawks have. If Tony Romo and company can take the crowd out of it early by coming up with some big plays, then the Cowboys may have a lot easier road to travel on their way to a victory.