Over the last year, Gillette Stadium underwent a massive $250 million renovation project. The main attraction was a brand new record-breaking video board which measures 22,200 square feet (370 x 60) as the largest outdoor stadium video board in the country.
While the project was set to drastically increase the viewing experience for New England Patriots fans, it is now having a direct impact on the football games as well.
Playing in the northeast, wind has always been a factor during Patriots’ home games. Now with the new video board, the wind patterns have not only changed but made the elements even more difficult to deal with, particularly in the kicking game.
“The scoreboard didn’t eliminate the wind, which was something we talked about like that being that big of a scoreboard was it going to knock all the wind down? It’s actually kind of made it actually even more difficult because the wind is circling, it’s got something to bounce off of,” special teams coordinator Cam Achord explained on Tuesday.
“Depending on as we’re going, is it coming from the west, the northwest, the east occasionally. As we go and charting, how is it playing based off the direction of the wind? It’s going to be something to look at for sure, but it’s definitely circling in there. So going one way and during the game, you may feel it one way and then come mid-third quarter, you’re like, ‘Wait a minute is it transitioning and shifting a little bit?’
New England’s specialist have felt the affect of the unpredictable wind patterns this season. Against the New Orleans Saints in Week 5, rookie kicker Chad Ryland’s 48-yard field goal towards the new video board appeared to get caught in the wind, resulting in the attempt being pushed wide left.
Ryland recovered nicely two weeks later against Buffalo — in a game that Achord explained had the “most wind” they've faced this season. Facing a 49-yard attempt in the same direction, the rookie split the uprights with ease.
“Chad comes in every day ready to work and he’s continuing to get better,” Achord said. “The more you can kick in the wind and the elements, in NFL stadiums, and actually go in there and kick or in our practice field. I actually hope for every time he kicks, I like it to be really, really windy. He’s like, ‘Really?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, this is what you’re going to play in.’
“So, he’s gotten better each time and you see that he continues to get better, he continues to improve. You just gotta keep working at it and he’s got a great head on his shoulders and that’s allowing him to be successful.”
Four home games remain at Gillette Stadium this season, and the wind is set to become even more of a factor with the Northeastern winter on the horizon. For the specialists, they will continue to adapt on the fly and learn from their experiences.
“I think it’s definitely something the guys are gonna have to get used to and the more chances they get to kick in there, and the wind is different each time, the more we’re gonna be able to adapt,” Achord added. “Say, ‘Hey, you remember back in, just call it, we played Buffalo the wind is this, it’s gonna be the same,’ or as we play more games, you’re able to chart that and log that in your brain.”