Challenges heightened for Rivers, Smith

September, 26, 2010
9/26/10
9:56
AM ET
The play clock ticks a little louder for Philip Rivers and Alex Smith.

The NFL quarterbacks run offenses with prodigious terminology, making it tougher for them to call plays before incurring penalties for delay. The challenges are heightened during road games because opposing crowd noise complicates communication between playcaller and quarterback.

Rivers and the San Diego Chargers spend Week 3 at Seattle's Qwest Field, one of the NFL's loudest stadiums. Smith and the San Francisco 49ers are at Arrowhead Stadium, another environment with deafening noise.

As the chart shows, Rivers has incurred more delay penalties on the road since 2007 than any other NFL quarterback. Smith ranks third, even though he did not play in 2008. Data comes from Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information.

The Chargers and 49ers run digit-based offenses, as does Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who ranks second on the list since 2007 with 14 such penalties. These offenses tend to feature terminology that don't lend themselves to shortcuts.

A playcaller who remains aggressive on third down can incur additional penalties in these pressure-packed situations as crowd noise becomes a bigger factor and quarterbacks try to get calls right. Thirteen of the 17 penalties against Rivers came on third down. Five of the nine against Smith were on third down. The rate of third-down delays for other quarterbacks stood at only 50.9 percent, an indication the Chargers in particular remain aggressive on third down.

It's just one more thing to keep in mind Sunday as play clocks tick down.

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