Home-field advantage in the NFL can be the difference between a win and a loss. Outside of the emotional advantage, home-field can affect a visiting team’s communication ability, snap counts and sometimes even mental focus. In a league where wins are extremely hard to come by, winning teams can rarely afford to lose games in their home stadium.
It remains to be seen how many games the St. Louis Rams will win in 2012, but through five games they’ve made one thing apparent – they fully intend to defend their house. The Rams have started 3-0 at home, thanks in part to a fan base re-energized by a team playing competitive football. After Thursday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, Rams QB Sam Bradford said the fans deserved credit for making the Edward Jones Dome a tough place to play.
“I thought (the fans) were awesome,” Bradford said. “When our defense was on the field, they were loud. It’s probably the loudest that I’ve heard the Dome. Hopefully, that continues to get better. The more we win, hopefully, the more reasons they have to come out and support us. But I thought our fans were great tonight.”
The difference is noticeable on the scoresheet as well. The Rams have given up 50 points in their two road games as opposed to 44 points allowed in their three home games. For a team quickly becoming known for its stubborn defense, a loud home crowd is a big advantage for the unit.
“It’s huge,” LB James Laurinaitis said. “You have to play great in your home, especially when you have a dome. When you have a dome, that’s a huge advantage. There’s only one outdoor stadium I can think of, and that’s Seattle, that has a huge advantage with their fans. If you’re going to play well in a dome, you’re going to be pretty loud and it’s going to be hard for opposing teams.”
Great teams don’t just win at home, though. In 2010, the Rams went 5-3 at home but finished only 7-9 overall and missed the playoffs by one game. Rams veteran RB Steven Jackson knows that while winning at home is important, the team still has work to do before it will be considered a legitimate force.
“We, one, want to be a very tough home team and two, we want to win our division,” Jackson said. “For us to be able to win these last two games is huge. It’s big for us, but it doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to continue to build off this. We have a nice little break coming ahead of us, but we’ve got to face another tough team on the road. And we have to learn how to win on the road.”