It didn’t matter whether you were leaning against the wall that blocks the Broncos’ practice fields from public view or driving along one of the nearby roads a half-mile from team headquarters; you were going to hear noise for most of a two-hour period at midday Thursday, whether you liked it or not.
The noise, supplied by massive speakers abutting the Broncos’ practice fields, is necessary, because Monday’s game with Atlanta will be the first time this year that the Broncos and their Peyton Manning-led offense will have to execute their still-new system in a hostile road environment.
In the preseason, the first-team offense only had one possession on the road — and it came in the preseason opener at Chicago, where the crowd noise was more like a tepid Wednesday night Royals-White Sox game on the city’s south side than the typical Soldier Field din.
For three quarters of work in two other preseason games and the entire regular-season opener Sunday, Denver’s offense could operate in relative silence, with Manning’s cadence easily picked up by microphones because the Broncos’ home fans were so quiet. The Georgia Dome throng Monday night will offer no such favors.
“I don’t know if it’s the dome just as much as it’s the crowd,” said Manning. “This has been a playoff team for the last number of years and it’s an exciting team to watch, so I think it’s just a loud place to play.”
Domes have never caused Manning many problems, as the climate-controlled environment has counter-balanced any issues from increased noise. Manning has a 113.6 passer rating in 16 career road games played in domes or retractable-roofed buildings, compared with an 86.9 rating for all other road games. Of course, it’s also worth noting that nine of those games took place at expansion Houston from 2002-10, when the Texans never made the playoffs — but if those games are eliminated, Manning’s road/indoor rating is even higher, at 118.3.
The difference this time is that Manning won’t have an offense that is used to reading his hand signals without a vocal accompaniment.
“Communication is definitely a challenge,” tight end Jacob Tamme said. “That’s something that the dome can make a little bit of a difference. The main thing is that it’s our first road game and it’s a challenge for us to communicate and make sure we’re on the same page.”
And that’s where the speakers come in.
“Practicing with the crowd noise, it gets you as ready as good as you can. It’s hard to simulate 80,000 people in the stands, but I think communication will be important this week,” Manning said.