Facing the reality of games without fans, the Falcons are working on changing up snap counts


Good news: Games without fans will make it easier for the road team’s offensive players to hear the snap count clearly and completely.

Bad news: Games without fans will make it easier for the home team’s defensive players to hear the snap count clearly and completely.

At first blush, it’s a positive for a visiting team’s offense to operate in relative, if not complete, silence. At a deeper level, it’s a problem — because it will be easier to crack the code on everything about the snap calls, from the commentary to the cadence.

As a result, the Falcons are working on changing up their snap counts in order to prevent defenses from figuring out the rhythm of the procedure.

“We want to be able to change our count up a lot,” center Alex Mack said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s going to be a weird year with no fans. Hopefully, we can get them later in the year.”

The effort to mix up the snap count includes using a device typically relevant in deafening noise: A silent snap count.

“We were working through some silent count and not nailing quite like we want,” coach Dan Quinn said, via Ledbetter. “After practice there was a silent count clinic put on by one of the guys who’s the very best at it.”

The goal is to avoid predictability as to when a play will start.

“We want to be able to mix up our snap count as much as possible to really keep defenses not knowing our count so they can question what’s going on,” Mack said. “The more that we can do, the more we can mix it up, the better we can be. . . . Silent [count] is one of those things that we can get really complicated with. If we can switch it up, that’s going to make it real tough on defenses.”

Quinn has even consulted with tight end Hayden Hurst, a former baseball player, on how to incorporate hand signals into the process.

The end result will be a combination of the various devices — changing cadences, using a silent count, and incorporating hand signals — aimed at keeping the edge that comes from the offense knowing precisely when a play will start, and from the defense spending the first split-second after the snap reacting to the fact that the play has begun. Sometimes, having that sliver of extra time becomes the biggest difference in totaling up the points scored after the full sixty minutes of game time expire.