Fans can be difference-makers

Posted Sep 6, 2013

The Cleveland Browns are looking to create a home-field advantage at FirstEnergy Stadium, and they will start with Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

The sight of 73,300 Cleveland Browns’ fans standing up in FirstEnergy Stadium and cheering so loud that it is difficult for opponents to communicate and call plays during games, and the thought of celebrating victories with those same supporters served as motivation for the team as it prepared for the 2013 regular season.

That is what the Browns are striving to create, an environment where the players are excited to play at home and opponents have to face the added obstacles that come with playing road games in the NFL.

“That’s part of the reason you play,” veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “You talk to a lot of guys who are retired, they miss that. You can’t duplicate it. You can’t duplicate the feeling you get when you make a big play on third down or on fourth down or an interception to win the game. That’s something that all of us strive for each and every week, and when you get it, it’s pretty electric. It keeps you coming back. It keeps you focused and getting prepared to do what you usually do so you can be in position to make those types of plays.”

Added six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, “It’s tremendously important. You want your home games to be in a difficult place for your opponent to play. It gives you those advantages on offense and defense. (Being) completely behind the team helps motivate them, get them ready for the game, and I think it helps in the win-loss column.”

And, to the players, creating that home-field advantage where FirstEnergy Stadium is a place opponents do not like to play starts with Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

“It’s a way to start off the season right,” defensive back Joe Haden said. “The first game is always the biggest one just to get a good feeling to start off the season. To start off this one with a win, just to get it changed around, it starts with winning the first game of the season.

“We’re going out here trying to win the first game. Like Coach (Rob Chudzinski) says, ‘Win the one,’ if we can get it started off like that, winning the first game, momentum is such a big thing. Just to stop saying, ‘Things have changed,’ and win the first game is a bigger step than anything people can say.”

Throughout the offseason, Browns players and coaches have talked about a different atmosphere in the building. Now, according to Haden and Jackson, the time has come to prove it at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“It’s time to (man) up,” Haden said. “We’ve talked about it, and talked about it, and if we can’t come out here and win, it’s not a step forward. We just need to come out here and play. Everybody’s ready. Everybody wants to win this game. The last thing you’ll see is a lack of effort.”

Jackson added, “One thing we want to do is be able to win at home, and win the first one. I’ve been here a while, and I know, in that first one, we haven’t had a lot of success. We’ve got a good opponent coming in. We think we’re good, but we’ve also got to go out and play the game. We’ve got to show that we can win at home, and then, the division.

“We’ve got to beat Miami and can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, but that’s ultimately the goal: win the division and win at home. You take care of those things, and the other things will align how you want them to be.”

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