The crowd roared as the Ravens trotted out their field goal unit. The sound blared louder as Billy Cundiff went through his pre-kick routine. Any barking along the line was rendered inaudible.
Only after Morgan Cox had fired the football through his legs and Cundiff booted it between the uprights was there a brief moment of relative silence at Friday’s practice out at the Castle.
Pumping crowd noise into practice is standard procedure for the Ravens, but the need to do so was amplified this week with the team traveling to Seattle to take on the Seahawks on Sunday.
“Seattle's the loudest stadium I've been in,” Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “At times, you can't even hear the quarterback screaming at the top of his lungs in the huddle.”
Since 2005, Seattle’s opponents have been flagged for a league-high 107 false start penalties in 51 regular-season games at CenturyLink Field — formerly Qwest Field — for an average of 2.1 per game. In one game during the 2005 season, the New York Giants committed 11 false start penalties.
The Seahawks are 32-19 at home since the start of the 2005 season.
“[The fans] really take pride in false starts and messing up offensive timing because of a lack of communication,” said Ravens defensive end Cory Redding, who played for the Seahawks in 2009.
False starts aren’t the only problem. High decibel levels make it difficult for the quarterback to audible and for the center to make protection calls. The noise can also slow down the no-huddle.
That’s why working together in the week leading up to a road game is so critical for the offensive line. The players use a silent count in practice. They get their hand signals down for Sunday, and the artificial boo birds force the players to get used to reading Joe Flacco’s lips in the huddle.
“When you’re at home, I think you take it for granted,” Ravens center Matt Birk said. “Joe calls the play, the center makes the call and everybody hears it at home. On the road, you almost overcommunicate [in the huddle and non-verbally at the line] just to make sure everybody’s got it. Because when everyone isn’t on the same page, offensively, that’s when bad things happen.”
Especially when Seattle’s crowd — its famed “Twelfth Man” — cranks the decibel level up to 112, nearly as loud as a Boeing 747, according to the Seahawks’ website.
“What’s 100 decibels versus 105?” Birk said. “Loud is loud. So it doesn’t really matter.”
Birk will attempt to overcome the squawking with sweet silence. When the offense uses a silent count, the center’s timing must be precise — each snap exactly like the last — so his teammates don’t jump the gun.
“That’s why you do it during the week almost ad nauseam,” Birk said.
Cameron believes the artificial crowd noise pumped in for Cundiff’s kick during Friday’s practice will outdo the cacophony that is expected to pound his players’ eardrums on Sunday.
“It’ll be equally, if not louder, in practice,” Cameron said. “Doesn't do much for your hearing. Trust me when I tell you.”