ALLEN PARK -- Since Ford Field opened its doors in 2002 it has received praise.
The $500 million stadium is an architectural beauty, there is no doubt. But the one compliant has been crowd noise – or lack thereof.
The Lions left the Pontiac Silverdome and its 80,000-plus seating capacity built a reputation for its incomparable crowd noise, for Ford Field, which reached its capacity of nearly 68,000 on Monday night. At the time, many felt the team sacrificed a significant advantage.
Some have suggested that the acoustics of Ford Field simply didn’t allow the volume of other venues – a notion that was debunked on Monday night.
A nationally televised game helped fuel the fire that has been sparked by the Detroit Lions unbeaten start to the season, making for the loudest home game the Lions have had since moving.
“I think they made an argument to be one of the top three (loudest stadiums) in the entire NFL,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “That’s one of the loudest places I’ve heard in my entire NFL career.”
Lions fans helped Ford Field compare to Qwest Field and Mall of America Stadium, at least for one night, as the crowd noise helped cause nine false start penalties by the Chicago Bears.
“They (the fans) obviously did have an impact, it’s not just a notion, it’s not just an idea,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “The proof was in the pudding. It’s one thing to be loud and it’s another thing to affect the game. That was obvious to anyone that was in that stadium. If you were there, you felt it. We need a lot more games like that.”
The home field advantage that crowd noise has is unique to the NFL. The louder a crowd is during an opposing offense’s time on the field, the more difficult it becomes for that offense to call plays, perform at-the-line audibles or even snap the ball. It gives fans an opportunity to literally impact the game.
“All of our fans felt like they were part of the game and they should have,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford. “They knew that what they were doing was affecting directly what was going on on the field.”
The Lions recognize the importance their fans have to their home field advantage and are grateful for the support. They demonstrated this both verbally and through signs of gratitude.
Schwartz, who always gives game balls to a few deserving member’s of the team after each contest, dedicated a ball to the fans this week.
“We had game balls given out this week and coach Schwartz even gave the fans a game ball,” said Stafford. “He’s going to have one painted up and put up at Ford Field.”
Also, during the game, wide receiver Calvin Johnson felt the need to give back to the fans.
After scoring a 73-yard touchdown, Johnson did his best impression of the Lambeau Leap, as he plunged half of his body into the first row of stands to celebrate with the fans.
“The crowd, they did such a great job,:” said Johnson. “So I decided to jump up in there and give them a little action too.”
As sellout games become a trend for the Lions, they hope the energy and 12th man effect continues during Sunday's tilt with the 49ers.
“They did a heck of a job,” said Stafford. “That kind of atmosphere is something we need week in and week out. It’s an unbelievable advantage for us.”
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