LEARY: Home field advantage plays major role in weekend games

Patrick Leary
Patrick Leary

After this weekend, I can’t help but believe in the very real power of home field advantage.

Last night, the two best teams in the National Football Conference squared off in Seattle. On one side, the fearsome defending NFC champs, the San Francisco 49ers, came in riding high after knocking off the Green Bay Packers on the season’s opening week. On the other side, this season’s sexy super bowl pick, the Seattle Seahawks, eked out a win over Carolina in Week One and had forfeited their consensus top spot in most power rankings to the Niners.

The one clear difference separating the two teams was the CenturyLink Field crowd. The Seahawks home fans, widely regarded as one of the loudest groups in the league, provided the sole impetus for Seattle entering the game as three-point favorites.

And sure enough, the crowd made the difference for Seattle, who demolished San Francisco 29-3. In the process, the Seahawks fans set a new Guinness World Record for the loudest stadium ever recorded, registering 136.6 decibels during a Niners’ drive in the third quarter. Even more impressively, the fans stuck it out through an hour-long lightning delay.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for 412 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions at home in Week One, went 13-of-28 for 125 yards and three picks Sunday night. His quarterback rating dropped from 129.4 against Green Bay to 20.1 in Seattle.

Overwhelmingly, home field advantage mattered for the Seahawks Sunday. And Seattle wasn’t the only team to reap the benefits of a friendly environment last weekend.

Speaking of the Packers, they had a pretty fun time at home Sunday afternoon. Aaron Rodgers and Co. jumped on the Redskins early and led by as much as 31 points before Robert Griffin III delivered a few garbage time touchdowns. Rodgers threw for a career-high 480 yards and four touchdowns and all four of his primary targets had over 60 yards receiving.

Saturday, the specter of home field advantage hung over the controversial result between Wisconsin and Arizona State. In a ridiculous turn of events, the Sun Devils escaped with a two-point victory after Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave half-kneeled, half spiked the ball on the game’s final play. The blame rightfully fell on the referees, but they were set up to fail from the start. The refs were a Pac-12 crew in a game between the Pac-12 and Big Ten. The implied bias of this officiating assignment created the potential for disaster, and that’s exactly what happened. There is no way a murky finish goes down the way it did if that game was played in Madison.

Call it cliché, but there’s no place like home in sports, and the Seahawks, Packers and Sun Devils all proved that this weekend.