Pete Carroll doesn’t think Gillette Stadium is a particularly tough place to play. Patriots fans hearing Carroll’s barbs yesterday can chide Carroll all they want over his shortcomings during his time in Foxboro, or his overseeing of arguably the most boneheaded play call in Super Bowl history.
But he’s right.
The Patriots undoubtedly perform better at home than on the road. Tom Brady’s return last month led the Internet to uncover the fact that since 2007, he hasn’t lost at home to an AFC team in a regular season game that he finished.
And yet, the home crowd has seemingly little to do with it. Apologies for this opinion being anecdotal rather than based on false start statistics for visiting teams, but is there any Patriots fan that watches a game on TV and thinks, “Wow, the crowd is going insane”? Those who say yes are either lying, or have never watched games played in places like Denver and Seattle. Yes, altitude and stadium design have something to do with it, but you can just sense it on TV. Those fan bases bring it, every game, no matter what. Go watch the tape from last year’s AFC Championship Game if you need further proof.
Sunday’s loss was embarrassing enough for New England—at home, coming off the bye, facing a team flying cross-country on a short week. It’s among the most inexcusable losses of the Belichick Era. The worst part had to be Seattle’s offense repeatedly marching down the field, with their notoriously porous offensive line playing so well, Cris Collinsworth and Bill Simmons got into a Twitter fight over it.
(Speaking of which, if Collinsworth comes at Simmons about anything, it should be Simmons’ awkward, unfunny impression him saying “Look into my eyes, Tom” that Simmons did for Al Michaels on a podcast, referring to the way Collinsworth described interrogating Brady about Deflategate.)
Seattle had two false starts, but both were on receivers (there, Jimmy Graham, someone called you a receiver, because lord knows you do little else). They didn’t seem to have any trouble communicating. They looked comfortable. And while the Patriots front seven was anemic, the crowd didn’t do them any favors (apologies to my friends who were there, according to Instagram).
Maybe it’s because Patriots fans—myself included—watch games assuming Brady & Co. will figure it out. Even with the adrenaline rush of being at the stadium in person, that subconscious confidence that it’ll all work out may negate the need to get rowdy and influence the game. It’s not that New England fans don’t appreciate what they have, they just don’t have to work as hard to continuously obtain it.
Petey Boy Carroll’s criticisms—Gillette wasn’t “nuts” and it’s “not a great place”—have merit. He did make a point to call it a “classy” place, which may be just as much of an insult as the direct ones. The Krafts will take “classy” any day of the week, but fans who claim to take pride in their passion would prefer a comparison closer to how the crowd in Oakland is described. Too far? Eh, close enough.
And yet, at the end of the day, soft as the Gillette crowd is…it’s not as pathetic as the Seattle crowd. Make no mistake, Seahawks fans are passionate, loud, and influence games. But they call themselves “The 12s”, which is sort of a joke even before you realize they spun it off from another team’s nickname. And that’s where they lose all credibility.
Seattle leases the “12th Man” moniker from Texas A&M, who has it copyrighted. They couldn’t give themselves a real nickname, so they borrowed one from a college team. It’s easy for Paul Allen to shell out the cash so his constituents can feel like they’re a part of something, but couldn’t he have just paid some Microsoft marketing whiz to come up with something? (Now the headline makes sense). I don’t see Alabama paying the Packers to call themselves the Cheeseheads.
Sure, the Gillette crowd is a bit lethargic and maybe even bored at times. If the Patriots want to make the Super Bowl, a raucous home crowd in January—assuming they secure home field—will go a long way towards that. But at the end of the day, even if the Foxboro fans continue coasting, at least they won’t carry the indignity of both defining themselves and touting their perceived superiority by virtue of another institution allowing them to borrow a nickname.