If the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans isn’t the loudest stadium in the National Football League, it’s certainly one of the top two or three.
Fans in the Crescent City were rambunctious and noisy even before the hometown Saints became one of the NFL’s premier teams. So the Indianapolis Colts know what to expect in tonight’s nationally-televised (8:30 p.m., NBC) rematch of Super Bowl XLIV.
“This [stadium] would rank right up there near the top. It is a noisy, noisy place,” Jim Caldwell said late last week. The Indianapolis coach, though, added this caveat. The Colts, due to all their success over the past decade, have become used to hearing the best, or worst, opposing fans can offer.
“I’m going to be honest with you. For the most part, with us over the years, it’s always been a situation where teams, fans and everyone else has been really geared up to beat us,” Caldwell offered. “So oftentimes we’ve run into some very, very noisy and hostile crowds. But this one is as noisy as they get.”
Whether it’s the Superdome, or the Metrodome in Minneapolis or Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, the Colts have come up with their own system for preparing and dealing with crowd noise. Unfortunately, quarterback Peyton Manning — who has mastered both the silent count as well as communicating changes in blocking schemes — remains sidelined as he recovers from preseason neck surgery.
It’s going to be up to first-year starter Curtis Painter to try and emulate Manning’s style and system during this evening’s meeting with the Saints. New Orleans defensive coordinator Greg Williams, meanwhile, will try and throw some monkey wrenches into Painter’s decision making process.
“We do try to recreate that atmosphere [in practice], but there are some places that you can work at it as hard and as much as you like, and it’s still going to be difficult. [The Superdome] is one of those places, because it’s extremely loud,” Caldwell said.
“Curtis has been able to manage [communicating in road games] pretty well. I do think that, because of the fact that we practice those situations, he is accustomed to functioning within that kind of environment. That makes things a bit easier.
But when you add to that the multiple looks, changing defenses and adjustments that New Orleans will give you, then that presents even more of a challenge. It does require a little bit more communication. But, all in all, he’s been fairly good, and this week he’s going to have to really be good.”
Indianapolis offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen concurs.
“Historically, we’ve played extremely well [on the road]. We don’t miss a beat. How many teams go on the road and go no huddle, hurry-up tempo and signal everything and handle everything? We just go and function like we function at home,” Christensen said.
“We were able to treat home and the road the same when we were humming. Now our circumstances are a little bit different and we’ve been a little more conservative. We huddled at Houston [in the season opener]. The issue of noise has become a non-factor. It’s just elevator music. You don’t notice it and you keep going and you function.”
And that’s where the subject of Painter, among others, comes in.
“The play clock is a huge factor. And what [New Orleans does] is they do a great job disguising [their defenses]. They do a great job giving you a trillion looks. They’re multiple in their defense. And a cement roof dome makes it a noisy place,” he said.
“And it’s not just Curtis. We have so many other new guys playing. There’s [rookie running back] Delone [Carter]. There’s new guys, there’s new scenarios, there’s new situations that come up. The more those get multiplied by the more people that you have new in there, the harder it is and the more conservative you have to be.”
But Christensen thinks his quarterback can handle the situation.
“He’s such an even-keeled guy. I’ve been extremely impressed with him on the sideline. His demeanor and he’s seeing things well. He’s been as calm as a cucumber. And that’s what you want to see. That’s what you’re looking for as a coach,” the veteran assistant said.
“He’s been good. But it will be a great challenge for him. We’ve been beating the same drum [with Painter]. They’re going to confuse us some, so throw [the ball] away. Punting is not a catastrophe. Sacks, interceptions, holding the ball, getting hit. Those are catastrophes. Punts aren’t. Incomplete’s are not. And he’s done a great job with that philosophy thus far. He’s been really patient and he’s been really good that way.”
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If the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans isn’t the loudest stadium in the National Football League, it’s certainly one of the top two or three.
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