During Wednesday’s Detroit Lions Luncheon team President Tom Lawand addressed the crowd, expressing objection to the notion from the media that the fans were buying into what the Lions were selling this year.
“That kind of bothers me for a couple of reasons,” said Lewand. “We’ve done it one day at a time, we’ve done it with that philosophical principal of hard work, high expectations for ourselves but being genuine about it and being disciplined with that philosophy that we have and the kind of team we wanted to build.”
If the success at the tail-end of last season, along with the preseason thumping of New England are any indication, Lewand's right -- the team isn't necessarily selling, but demonstrating instead. One thing the Lions are selling, though, is tickets. And the fans are buying.
The Monday night game against the Chicago Bears sold out in 45 minutes. The Thanksgiving Day game – against the Green Bay Packers – is reportedly ahead of last year’s pacing. The team even sold out last week’s preseason game against the New England Patriots.
The increase in ticket sales will translate to more fans in the stands and a larger reading on the decibel meter, as a packed Ford Field can be deafeningly loud, - so much so that it can actually impact the game.
Something the Lions hope they can use to their advantage in 2011.
“We have great fans here,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “But it’s another thing to have those fans affect the game.”
The fans excitement and enthusiasm, especially when manifested as thunderous roars, hollers and cheers can make it so difficult for an offense to operate, it forces them to alter their approach. The team may be forced to change to a silent snap count as the offensive players won’t be able to hear the quarterback.
This also impacts an offense that may want to make adjustments on the line of scrimmage and can be particularly impactful to the no huddle.
But it can be a double-edged sword when a home crowd continues to be vocal while their team’s offense takes the field. Something the Lions experienced against the New England Patriots last Saturday.
“Our quarterback likes to call a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage,” said Schwartz. “I don’t know if you guys noticed a lot of no huddles and stuff like that, and he needs people to hear him. And I love the ‘Let’s Go Lions’ cheer – and I don’t hear very much with my head phones but ‘Let’s go Lions’ I hear – but not when it’s fourth-and-goal from the three. If you can pass that around a little bit.”
There were actually two situations on Saturday when the Lions were faced with fourth-and-short and decided to go for it. Once in the third quarter, a run to the left by Aaron Brown picked up the first down (the Lions ran no huddle on this play) and in the fourth quarter, a four-yard touchdown pass from Drew Stanton to Derrick Williams (the play Schwartz is referring to).
Although the Lions converted, the risk of failure is greater when there are breakdowns in communication on the line of scrimmage between the offensive players.
The no huddle appears to be something the Lions will use with consistency this year -- they ran it on five plays while Mathew Stafford was still at quarterback against the Patriots. Hence keeping the volume down when the offense is at work will being key for fans.
The message? Scream, shout and be loud. Make some noise for the team. Just do it at the right times.
“Spread that word a little bit because home-field advantage means a lot,” said Schwartz. “It means making it very difficult for an opponent to hear but it also means cheering at the right times for us. When we score, we’re going to sing a song, we’re going to have a lot fun, we’re going to party down. But, give us a chance to score before we start those cheers.”