Stats show Soldier Field tough on visitors

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Statistical evidence might actually back up the assertion that Soldier Field can be one of the most difficult places to play for the Chicago Bears’ opponents.

Perhaps that’s why the organization stretches a flag across the field that says “Fourth Phase” for all to see prior to kickoff, and why coach Lovie Smith makes it a point to acknowledge the club's fan support after every game whether the team plays at home or on the road.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Chicago’s opponents commit an average of three delay of game or false-start penalties -- typically a result of excessive crowd noise -- at Soldier Field, which ranks as the league’s third-highest average for a home-team’s stadium behind LP Field in Tennessee (3.3 delay of game or false-start penalties per game) and, surprisingly, the Cardinals’ University of Phoenix Stadium (3.2).

Interestingly, of the top five in this statistic -- Tennessee, Arizona, Chicago, Buffalo, and Washington -- only the Bears have a winning record. Of the bottom three -- Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Dallas -- the Steelers have a winning record.

So maybe crowd support plays a role Sunday when the Bears host the New England Patriots. Smith and the team certainly think it will.