By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Arrowhead Stadium is the loudest venue in football. Can the Patriots offense cut through the noise?
There’s a parallel between this Sunday’s AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Chiefs, and the last two times the Pats had to play this game on the road. Both of those games came in Denver’s Mile High Stadium, which is also known for the way crowd noise can affect opponents. It forced the Patriots to communicate differently, as it does for any team. They couldn’t stay in sync in the 2015 AFCCG, which the Broncos won 20-18 on the strength of their pressure on Brady up front. The Pats offensive line had trouble in pass protection and generally weren’t on the same page.
Big difference this season, though. The Patriots’ O-line is fully healthy and is coming off arguably its most complete game of the season against the Chargers. In 2015, the Patriots lost starting left tackle Nate Solder, featured journeyman Josh Kline at left guard, and started a rookie Shaq Mason at right guard.
Now, the offensive line has all five starters in tow and they’ve all played nearly every snap this season. Mason has become one of the best guards in football. Only five games were missed between the entire group. Left tackle Trent Brown, left guard Joe Thuney, and center David Andrews started all 16 games in the regular season and against the Chargers.
But as far as the environment is concerned, it doesn’t get tougher for an opposing offense than Arrowhead. Like at Mile High, the Patriots are going to have to rely on silent snaps and ensure that the whole unit knows their jobs. Because yelling it out at the last second wouldn’t be ideal.
“I think you just have to be very thorough,” said Andrews. “You can’t leave anything assumed and need to make sure everybody’s on the same page. You can’t work on a snap count so you have to be on the silent but I think that’s something we can do a good job of. It’ll be a big challenge. It’s going to be a great environment for a football game, that’s for sure.”
It only adds to the challenge that the Patriots will need to be sharp in the Arrowhead powder keg while going up against an improved Chiefs defense, particularly up front with their pass rush.
“They’re the first seed for a reason,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “They’ve had a great season and we’re going to have to go into a really tough environment and play our best football, so it’s a great opportunity for us and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”
Unlike 2015, the health and consistency is there. It bodes well for the Patriots’ chances of executing much better than the last time they had to play for the right to go to the Super Bowl on the road in a loud stadium. They’re also in a position to have to kill the prevailing narrative that they can’t play the same way they have at home (perfect 9-0 record) when they’re away from Foxborough (3-5 record). They’ve dealt with noise in places like Pittsburgh and Miami, with mixed results.
Sunday represents their final chance of the season to prove that this offense can execute at a high level regardless of stadium, surface, weather, or noise. They’re in a better position now to pull it off than they’ve been in years.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.