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Are the Patriots ready to handle the noise and heat in the Georgia Dome?

09.29.13 at 11:29 am ET
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In his 39 years in the NFL, Bill Belichick has learned how disrupting domes can be.

He remembers the Monday night in 2009 when the Patriots were overwhelmed by Drew Brees and the Saints. The Saints got their offense going that night in New Orleans and the boisterous fans in the Superdome followed, as the Patriots were blown out, 38-17.

It was that night, as the crowd was going nuts, Belichick made his famous “I just can’t get them to play the way we need to” observation to Tom Brady on the sideline late in the fourth quarter.

Sunday night in Atlanta has the potential of the same sort of nightmare if the Patriots aren’t careful and don’t get to quarterback Matt Ryan.

Of course, the Patriots have gone into domes before and have been successful. They beat St. Louis in 2004. They won Super Bowl XXXVI in the Superdome.

When did all of the crowd noise start to really impact the opposing offense?

“I’€™d say it’€™s really a shotgun formation,” Belichick said. “I think you could operate with the quarterback under center. It’€™s loud, but you can still do it. As the stadiums have gotten bigger, we’€™ve gotten away from the baseball stadiums where there might be 70 or 80,000 people but in a lot of those stadiums, the fans at midfield were 40 yards from the sideline because they were pushed so far back and the majority of the people were in the end zone so a lot of times it just got loud in the end zone.

“I think there are a lot of circumstances. You have a lot of artificial crowd noise that there are different regulations on and so forth. Over the years, that’€™s changed. Some of that was pumped in, now there’€™s different rules on that. There are a lot of different forces at work here. Certainly being in the shotgun, not under center, pistol, gun, whatever you want to call it, the crowd noise situation, the stadium configuration, all that, I think, all played into it.”

Seattle has often been a nightmare for Belichick, going back to the old Kingdome and last season at Qwest Field when Russell Wilson engineered a fourth-quarter comeback. Places like old Mile High Stadium in Denver, Arrowhead Stadium and RFK Stadium in Washington, when he was on the Giants staff, also stand out among the loudest places he’s coached in.

“I think Seattle has always been one of the noisiest places but you get stadiums like RFK or old Mile High, where the seats were aluminum seats and they would beat on those and it was like 60,000 sets of cymbals going off at the same time,” Belichick said. “Literally the whole stadium was sort of reverberating, particularly in Denver where they had the Mile High, they brought the third baseline in, kind of like they do in Candlestick where they bring that in to put it next to the field and so it’€™s not real stable to begin with. But those were some loud ones.”

There is one silver lining to playing offense on the road. If you communicate effectively, it’s hard for the home defense to communicate when the crowd is trying to get to the quarterback.

“Yeah, it’€™s the reverse problem; it’€™s the exact reverse problem,” Belichick said. “It’€™s the same thing in the kicking game. On the road, it’€™s your punt team and your field goal team and at home it’€™s your punt return team and your field goal rush team getting the communication, the call. Like your punt return team comes in there and you have a couple guys that are probably still on the defensive unit that are part of that team and then, are you going to rush, are you going to return. What’€™s the call?

“You’€™ve got gunners that you have to go out and cover and getting the communication to them, that’€™s the reverse of the playing on the road. Playing at home, I mean hopefully, if you have crowd noise at home then that could be a problem. If you don’€™t have crowd noise at home, then it’€™s not a problem. If you have it at home, then it’€™s a problem, especially in the red area and on the goal line, where everything is closer and closer to the fans and all that.”

There’s something else about playing in a dome — hydration. Chandler Jones remembers the times in the Carrier Dome that his Syracuse Orange would literally turn up the heat to wear down opponents not accustomed to playing indoors. “You really have to hydrate and drink lots of water because you can dehydrate real fast,” Jones said this week.

“We have to keep gas in the tank,” Rob Ninkovich said of the defense’s need to get after Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense. Part of that gas is water. “Definitely, you have to keep your body hydrated because it gets warm real fast indoors.”

Read More: Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, Georgia Dome, Matt Ryan
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