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Home Field 'Dis'-Advantage Costing Broncos

I am going to be absolutely blunt with all of you.  What the hell has happened to the "Mile-High Magic" the Broncos used to enjoy at home?  The Broncos have always been a formidable opponent at home, during good times or bad.  Recently, however, Invesco Field @ Mile High has turned into a home-field "dis"advantage.  

Playing at Mile High Stadium used to get into the collective heads of the visiting team.  The lack of oxygen, the thunderous crowd, Bucky staring down from above the scoreboard, whatever it was it had opposing teams spooked. It hasn't always been this way, in fact, the exact opposite.  From 1974-2000, the Broncos amassed the best home record in football, an incredible 167-53-1(.759) record, including an 11-2 record in the postseason.  The Broncos averaged 6 wins at home per season over that time, and when you are 6-2 at home it makes getting to 10 wins that much easier.  It was almost a lock that the Broncos would win 6 games at home regardless of the talent on the team or who was coaching.

Things didn't change much when the Broncos first moved into Invesco to start the 2001 season.  The Broncos are 3rd in the NFL in home wins since then, amassing a 36-14 record(.735).  The Broncos have been at their best under Mike Shanahan, winning nearly 78% of their home games since 1995(75-22).  It's an amazing rate of consistency and something us Bronco fans have grown accustomed to - Death, Taxes, Broncos Win At Home.

Something happened to change all of that, something that really has not happened to the Broncos in over 3 decades.  The Denver Broncos are struggling to win at home.  It all started in 2005.  The Broncos were their typical, dominating self at the friendly confines, using a perfect 8-0 home schedule to go 13-3.  After an impressive home win against the Patriots, the first playoff game played at Invesco, the Broncos were routed by the Steelers in the AFC Championship game.  Things haven't really been the same since.  Including that loss, the Broncos have gone just 5-6 at home in their last 11 regular season and playoff games at home.  That number is actually enhanced by a 3-0 start at home in 2006 - The Broncos are a paltry 2-5 in their last 7 home, regular season games.  Crucial home losses to Seattle and San Francisco last season cost the Broncos a play-off spot, and this year hasn't started much better with the Broncos squeaking by Oakland before getting dominated by Jacksonville.

As troubling as the losses are the way the Broncos are losing these home games.  The Broncos had sizable leads in all 4 home games they lost last season -

10/29/06 - Led Indianapolis 14-6 at Halftime, and 28-23 in the 4th quarter - LOST 34-31
11/19/06 - Led San Diego 24-7 midway through 3rd quarter, and 27-21 in 4th quarter - LOST 35-27
12/03/06 - Led 13-7 at Halftime, tied 20-20 in 4th quarter - LOST 23-20
12/31/06 - Led 13-3 at Halftime, 20-16 in 4th quarter - LOST 26-23(OT)

What makes it even more perplexing is the Broncos solid play on the road.  They have back-to-back 5-3 road records, and have started 1-0 on the road this season.  Do the math - The Broncos are 11-6 in their last 17 road games, while going 13-5 at home over their last 18.  Not that big of a home field advantage, and surely not what the Broncos are used to.  Has the atmosphere in the stadium changed that much?  Many fans will tell you that Invesco Field just doesn't have the same aura that old Mile High had.  They say the types of fans going to the game has changed, that people no longer go to the game to cheer on their team, rather simply to be seen.  Is it that easy?  Do players really care?

There is no doubt that fans can be the 12th man on the football field.  I can remember watching games at the old stadium, the aluminum seats, the vibrating TV camera's.  It was deafening, and opposing teams were impacted.  The new stadium doesn't have that feel, though not for a lack of trying.  12" aluminum boxes were installed in front of the seats, allowing fans to re-create that "Rocky Mountain Thunder" we are all so fond of.  It just isn't the same.  Some of it might be the fan base has changed a bit, spoiled by back-to-back Super Bowl titles.  If players can be accused of losing their hunger after a title, why can't the same happen to the fans?

Invesco Doesn't Retain The Noise

Some of it is just engineering and the laws of sound.  You see, Invesco Field @ Mile High holds roughly the same amount of people as the old stadium.  The problem is the footprint of the facility is over twice as large.  Get it?  The same amount of people, trying to make the same amount of noise in twice as much space.  Nearly impossible.  While Invesco Field is surely a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, it just isn't built to retain sound, thus the atmosphere never seems to get as loud and unruly as the old Mile High, and it most likely never will.

Regardless of the reason, the one thing we all know for sure is the Broncos need to get back to what they did better that anyone the last 30+ years, dominate at home.  If they can't find a way it's going to be another long winter void of Rocky Mountain Thunder.