PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
In weeks leading up to a road game, the Ravens wheel out large speakers to one or two practices to get the players re-accustomed to communicating in spite of crowd noise.
This week, they’ll be using the speakers at every practice and cranking up the volume.
That’s because Baltimore’s third straight playoffs road trip begins at what is considered the loudest outdoor venue in the NFL – Arrowhead Stadium.
Despite having a record two-games worse than the Ravens’ 12-4 mark, Kansas City will play host in Sunday’s wild-card round matchup. And playing at Arrowhead Stadium may be the Chiefs’ biggest edge.
"This place requires specific preparation," said Ravens Senior Offensive Assistant Al Saunders, who spent 15 seasons coaching in Kansas City.
"All the years that I was there, we always thought it was one of the great advantages we had as a football team. I’ve never experienced – other than the Kingdome in Seattle – as loud a stadium as Arrowhead."
Obviously, the Kingdome, which has since been demolished, had a noise-trapping ceiling. Arrowhead Stadium is outdoors and "without question" the loudest outdoor venue according to Saunders.
Arrowhead Stadium, with a capacity of 79,451, is so loud because of its unique construction and passionate fan base.
The stadium is partially below ground-level and has high-sloping walls of seats on both sides of the bowl, which creates an echoing effect and redirects sound back down to the field. It was specifically built in 1972 with the thought of being noisy.
According to Saunders, the fans don’t stop yelling from the moment players step on the field to warm-up until they go home. That creates communication problems for opposing offenses, which often leads to false starts or other pre-snap penalties that have plagued the Ravens this season.
"Those people are so invested in the success of the Chiefs and they’re not self-conscious about their vocal involvement," Saunders said with a chuckle. "The fans go there to be participants, not spectators. They take pride in being part of the game. It is loud. I mean, it … is … loud."
According to Accoustical Design Group, Inc., Arrowhead’s maximum decibel level is 116. That’s just 14 decibels less than the threshold of pain and 10 decibels higher than a Boeing 727 landing.
But the music to Ravens’ fans ears is that, despite the benefit, the Chiefs haven’t played well at home in the playoffs.
In the 38 seasons at Arrowhead, the Chiefs have hosted five playoff games and won two of them. They have lost three straight home playoff contests (1995, 1997, 2003).
Kansas City went 1-7 at home last year, but has restored its home-field luster this year by going undefeated at Arrowhead until their regular-season finale.
"Now that they’re in the playoffs, it will be an electric atmosphere," Saunders said. "It will be the loudest venue that we’ve played in this year – no question."
The Ravens are accustomed to going into hostile environments and winning. They won two road playoff games in 2008 and last year ended New England’s 11-game home playoff win streak, which dated back to 1978.
"The fact that we’ve done it before is a plus for us," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.