The notion of a home crowd playing the role of the "12th man" may be cliché, but when it comes to the Atlanta Falcons' defense, there's no disputing that the home crowd plays a major role.
Consider that the Falcons, 27th overall in total defense, have allowed 28.3 points per game in their six road games this season but only 15.0 points per game in their five home games and you get a pretty good understanding on the effect the crowd in the Georgia Dome has in disrupting the flow of opposing offenses.
"Crowd noise, that's a big issue (this week)," said offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg. "They play very well on defense at home."
Since the start of the 2008 season, the Falcons are 12-1 at home, and they've yet to lose a game at home this season.
"I'm pretty sure that they have a great homefield advantage," said wide receiver Jason Avant, who could play an even bigger role this week with the potential absence of DeSean Jackson. "We just have to stay focused and keep our eyes on the ball. That's the biggest thing in the stadium, try to eliminate mistakes and try not to give them an opportunity. When you're playing in a dome, you're going to play fast, so we have to prepare for their speed."
"Communication is key," said center Jamaal Jackson. "So, we've been working on that a lot this week as far as preparation. We've got to get everybody on the same page preparing for the crowd noise.
"For the most part, we use hand signals. Coming out of the huddle, you can kind of scream out what you need to get across, but other than that, it's pretty much hand signals."
And Jackson is serious when he says the Eagles have been working on dealing with crowd noise. When they practice on the indoor turf at the NovaCare Complex, there is piercing piped-in crowd noise.
"We always have crowd noise in practice," said Avant, "and it's a lot louder than any stadium ever can get. So, it's kind of bleeding to the ears in practice, but in the game it's a lot easier."
Jackson said the key to overcoming the noise during the game is to weather the initial storm.
"I think during the course of the game, after that first quarter, you kind of understand what kind of atmosphere it's going to be," he said.
Of course, the most important reason the offense needs to be on the same page on every snap is the battle at the line of scrimmage. If the defense can consistently get off the ball first, it will be a long day for the offensive line and quarterback Donovan McNabb.
"Much of this game is beating your opponent to the punch," said Mornhinweg. "It's like a boxing match ... with that crowd noise combined with the turf ... and then (the Falcons) have beaten people to the punch in their place. So that's the biggest thing right there, one of the biggest keys to the ballgame. Other people have had real trouble that way with Atlanta beating them to the punch virtually every play."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 2:17 p.m., December 3