Colts Key Matchup: Lemon vs. The 12th Man

Greg Talmage has always featured two players in his weekly key matchup analysis. But for the first time, he sees one of the key matchups in a contest as being the one between a rookie quarterback and thousands of fans in the RCA Dome. Greg explains why...

Miami Dolphins QB Cleo Lemon will be making his first career start Sunday in Indianapolis. The way in which the first-time starter deals with and handles the RCA Dome crowd will be an interesting variable in Sunday's game.

A loud, rancorous, and thunderous RCA Dome will give even the most seasoned quarterback problems. The noise makes it difficult to hear signals from the sidelines, for the O-line to hear snap counts and line calls, and as a result teams opt to do more silent counts and hand signals. That could create an interesting proposition for a quarterback making his first start and having to do such things for the first time in his NFL career.

So how will Miami head coach Nick Saban game plan to counter the crowd noise? Given Lemon's inexperience, the Dolphins will more than likely be operating from a scaled back playbook. So they'll want to keep the play calls simple by running the ball successfully on early downs and keeping Lemon out of 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long situations. These obvious passing downs will allow the Colts DEs to pin their ears back and go after Lemon, thus putting extra pressure on their offensive tackles and the quarterback himself.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Saban knows the struggles of the Colts run defense weighs heavy on the minds of Colt fans and will seek to take the Dome crowd out of the game by scoring early. He'd like nothing better than a run-dominated time-consuming touchdown drive on their first possession to possibly bring down a chorus of boos by the hometown crowd. A successful early scoring drive would also go a long way in establishing their young quarterback's confidence.

But using the crowd to its advantage is something the Colts defense will be looking to do. If that unit can come up with a big play or a three-and-out or a takeaway early in the game it will go a long way in keeping the fans fired up.

The Colts are 7-0 at home coming into this game and looking to complete a regular season sweep in the Dome. That has only happened once in the history of the franchise. In 1958, the Baltimore Colts went 6-0 at Memorial Stadium. That team went on to win a championship. Hopefully, the same will be said about this team when it all said and done.

I think this is the first time in my years of writing columns for this site that my matchup was not about two players on the field. But this week I think the Dome faithful has a real opportunity to make things difficult for Cleo Lemon. How the first-time starter is able to manage the situation will have a huge effect on the game and will also help demonstrate to Coach Nick Saban just what kind of quarterback he has. This should be an intriguing dynamic to watch.

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