With no fans, Bears feeling at home on the road

The Bears travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, but without the fear of a deafening indoor stadium crowd that can disrupt the offense in key moments.

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Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw three touchdowns passes in the fourth quarter to lead the Bears to a 27-23 victory over the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit on Sept. 13.

Leon Halip/Getty

Bears coach Matt Nagy noticed a home-field disadvantage last week at Soldier Field.

The Giants drove from their 5-yard line late in the third quarter inside the Bears 5 early in the fourth quarter with the Bears leading 17-3. On third-and-goal from the 1, Daniel Jones threw an incomplete pass. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, running back Dion Lewis scored to cut the Bears lead to 17-10.

“Our defense is standing there, backed up at the 1-yard line with the offense in the huddle getting ready to go,” Nagy said. “There’s a break [after the incompletion] and it’s dead quiet. Usually, the crowd’s going. It’s loud. The players feed off that. It was completely advantage defense. It was like a scrimmage.

“That’s hard. I don’t know what it’s like on TV [with manufactured crowd noise], but it’s certainly different at thegame. So there’s no home-field advantage at all because no one’s there.”

The flip side of that scenario, of course, is that there is no road-team disadvantage in the NFL this season, either. So when the Bears face the Falcons on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, they won’t have to deal with deafening crowds, communication issues in the offensive huddle or silent counts at the line of scrimmage.

Overall, that is an advantage for the Bears, whosework-in-progress offense benefits from laboratory conditions as it tries to develop the timing, rhythm and chemistry Matt Nagy is looking for. In fact, playing indoors as the visiting team in empty stadiums might be more beneficial than playing at Soldier Field as conditions in Chicago become more inclement.

“It’s definitely a big advantage across the NFL for the offense, in my opinion,” Nagy said. “Because it’s actually the opposite [affect] in Detroit. It was super quiet — really, really quiet. So there was no effect of noise or music or anything like that.”

The NFL instituted a rule that crowd noise pumped into empty stadiums must be at 70 decibels — no higher or lower — from kickoff to the end of the game. From their experience at Ford Field in Detroit, Nagy and the Bears know that won’t be nearly enough to disrupt offensive communication.

“I do know generally when you’re in those domes — Atlanta and New Orleans and those places —it can get super loud and it’s advantage defensive line,” Nagy said. “Just from that first week and even last week [at Soldier Field], I feel like there’s more advantage to the offense being able to use your cadence and voice verbally.”

It’s only a two-week sample size, so take it for what it’s worth that visiting teams are averaging 26.6 points per game in indoor stadiums (domes and venues with a retractable roof). In the first two weeks of last season, visiting teams were averaging 18.0 points per game. In their previous four trips to U.S. Bank Stadium, the Packers scored 23, 17, 10 and 14 points against the Vikings). In Week 1, they scored 43.

So Sunday’s game is more of an opportunity than a dreadful road trip. In fact, with no fans at their road games, the Bears early schedule is ideal for a team trying to develop an offense. Five of their first six opponents were ranked in the bottom 10 in scoring defense in 2019 — the Lions (26th), Giants (30th), Falcons (23rd), Buccaneers (29th) and Panthers (31st). The Colts were 18th. If the Bears haven’t found their groove by the time they face the Rams at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 26, it’s on them.

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