It is easy to get lost in the numbers of the Ravens’ offense — an NFL-best 450.7 yards per game, the second-ranking scoring attack — and forget about the crowds they have faced, too. Their last two road games, they have played before a combined 141,000-plus fans, most of them inhospitable to anything in purple and black, and played as if they’ve barely noticed the noise.
In a 33-28 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 3 and a 26-23 win over Pittsburgh at Heinz Field two weeks later, the Ravens committed just two presnap penalties. Wide receiver Willie Snead IV jumped early at Kansas City, and wide receiver Seth Roberts didn’t get set in time against the Steelers, and that’s it. The offense has actually committed more false-start penalties in three games at M&T Bank Stadium (two) than it has on the road (one).
As the Ravens (4-2) prepare for maybe their toughest test this season, Sunday’s showdown against the 5-1 Seattle Seahawks, volume control will be as much of a priority as containing Most Valuable Player favorite Russell Wilson. CenturyLink Field will get loud; it has twice held the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at an outdoor stadium. But the Ravens can at least tell themselves they’ve heard it all before.
“It’ll be a factor for any offense,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. “That’s a very loud place, and for any quarterback. That’s something that any team that plays in Seattle has to contend with to a very large degree, whether you’re silent with your cadence, signaling, communication, talking loudly. Just getting the play called in the huddle is a big deal. So absolutely, that’s a main focus that we’re going to have in practice. It’s going to be loud here in the next couple of hours at practice.”
He laughed. “I hope our people get used to it. Put your earplugs in, because it’s going to be loud.”
Seattle’s 68,740-seat stadium was designed with two elements in mind: rain and noise. The open-air stadium’s two huge canopies on the east and west sides of the venue cover 70% of the seats, not only protecting fans from the region’s wet weather but also amplifying the fan noise. The parabolic canopies point the sound back at the field — and at the offenses unfortunate enough to hear it all.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has so far proven immune to home-field advantages (perhaps even his own). Over 11 career appearances in Baltimore, including rookie-year repetitions as a backup, Jackson is 127-for-201 (63.2%) for 1,434 passing yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions, with 16 sacks taken. Over 11 road games, he is 65-for-164 (60.4%) for 1,274 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, with 16 sacks taken.
But this is his first time in Seattle, where the Ravens are 0-2 all time.
“The coaches have been telling us it’s very loud,” Jackson said. “I just have to do a good job of executing, calling out the plays and letting everyone hear me.”
“It’s definitely a challenge — one of the great environments in the NFL to play in,” running back Mark Ingram II said. “It’s always tough to go into Seattle and into hostile environments against good teams, but you have to be able to do it. If you want to be a great team, if you want to be a playoff team, if you want to be a championship team, you have to be able to travel and handle the crowd noise, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The CenturyLink Field din’s greatest threat might be to the Ravens defense, which has struggled at times with presnap communication. Safety Chuck Clark handled defensive-headset duties Sunday, when the Ravens held the Cincinnati Bengals to 250 yards, but this will be his first road game overseeing the defense. The noise will be lessened somewhat when the Seahawks have the ball, but not completely muted.
A defense on different pages will be disastrous against Wilson, the NFL’s top-rated passer (72.5% accuracy, 1,704 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions). The Ravens, though, are rebuilding their secondary on the fly. Knee injuries have knocked out safeties Tony Jefferson and DeShon Elliott the past two weeks, and cornerbacks Maurice Canady (thigh) and Anthony Averett (ankle) missed three and two days of practice this week, respectively.
“Communication is going to be really critical,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. Fortunately, new acquisition Marcus Peters has experience with what the Ravens ask of their cornerbacks. Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said that there are “maybe a couple of different things, terminology-wise,” that the two-time All-Pro selection has to familiarize himself with before Sunday’s game.
In his first comments since being traded from the Los Angeles Rams, Peters said Friday that he’s done his defensive homework. Even if Peters hasn’t, Martindale joked the day before that he didn’t want to hear otherwise.
“He said he’d let me know by Friday if he’s ready to go with the whole thing,” Martindale said. “I said, ‘Just lie to me and tell me that you are, and we’re just going to play you.’”
Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
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