Despite the noise pollution that is part and parcel of playing in the not-so-great indoors, coach Mike McCarthy has fashioned a 9-3 record in domes. He's 2-2 at Mall of America Field, with wins in 2006 and 2007 and a last-second missed field goal from Mason Crosby spoiling a chance to win in 2008, too.
"You have to credit the players and the practice structure and the focus," McCarthy said, "because it takes extra focus to play in the noisy environment. I think that's obvious to everybody. Our guys have been disciplined and focused when we're on the road in the domes, so it's really a credit to the players."
The Packers have averaged 31.4 points in those 12 dome games compared to 23.9 points per game outdoors during McCarthy's four-and-a-half-year tenure. Granted, it helps that the Packers have averaged 37.5 points in McCarthy's four victories at Ford Field, but the Packers have handled the noise remarkably well. They'll have to continue that trend, with Sunday's game at Minnesota, next week's game at Atlanta and a game at Detroit in the next four weeks.
It all starts with the offensive line.
During a home game, the offensive line has the advantage of knowing the snap count, allowing the blockers that split-second head-start on the defenders. In a dome, because the tackles and oftentimes the guards can't hear the quarterback barking out the signal, that advantage is lost, since the offensive and defensive lines are both moving on the ball.
To help get ready, the Packers — like every other team — pump crowd noise through speakers to try to replicate the noise. That doesn't even get close to matching the noise in Minnesota, according to running back Brandon Jackson, but it's better than nothing.
Beyond that, the coaches try to put the offensive line at the same disadvantage that they'll be in on gameday.
"You'll see some of our coaches do drills where they'll have the defensive guy move first in practice," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "So, you train guys for that response to get yourself going as quickly as you possibly can."
It goes beyond the snap count, though. In the chess match that takes place at the line of scrimmage just before the snap, the offensive players must sort through everything without the benefit of verbal communication. That makes their in-week preparation even more important than usual.
"It's heightened, sure," said offensive line coach James Campen, who started at center for the Packers during their trips to Minnesota in 1990 through 1992. "Sometimes, if I'm standing next to you when it's loud, you can't hear the guy next to you. That's why you'll see a lot of times, especially (in Minnesota), when the quarterback comes up when he's in shotgun and comes down (to the line of scrimmage) and gets right into the ear hole of the guard or the center and tells them, ‘Hey, this is what I want.' Then you see a bunch of hands fly because he's told them to change the (blocking)."
Outside of last year's game at the dome, when fill-in left tackle Daryn Colledge and right tackle Allen Barbre were the big problems as the Packers allowed eight sacks, Campen said the Packers' line has done well in previous dome games.
That shows in the stats. During McCarthy's 12 dome games, the offense has averaged 375.3 yards per game compared to 355.3 yards in the outdoor games. Philbin said there's no secret formula. Just execution and taking care of the football. The execution part of things is by necessity. Because it's so loud, there are times when quarterback Aaron Rodgers might want to audible out of a play but will just have to run what's called.
"I think it depends on where you are (on the field)," Philbin said. "Minnesota's renowned for its noise. I think backed up and red zone, I think you've really got to be careful. Usually whenever you're playing inside, I think that's something I would say definitely you've got to be careful about. The middle of the field, it depends on the stadium you're in, the type of game you're in, how close it is, that type of thing. Certainly, Minnesota, it can be a very, very loud place."
The skill players love the fast track and lack of elements of an indoor game.
"I like it because the ball is consistent, you're not dealing with any slickness or weather or wind," Rodgers said. "That makes it easier for the passing game. But I think we've also been behind in some of these games in the dome and had to throw the ball and so we put up pretty good numbers. We're going to find out what's working Sunday and hopefully stay balanced and come away with a W."
Greg Jennings' career-high receiving game came at Detroit in 2008 (167 yards), and one of his three two-touchdown games came at Detroit in 2007. The best game of Donald Driver's career came at Minnesota.
"I think a lot of it is attributed to our execution, knowing that we're going into a hostile environment and knowing we're going to have to depend more so, solely, on us executing and not being able to communicate verbally," Jennings said. "That way we're more in tune with the game plans and what's going to take place that week because we have to be because of the noise factor."
That noise factor is a huge reason why the Vikings are 3-1 at home this season — compared to 0-5 on the road.
"Really, it's like playing in front of a bad stereo system," McCarthy said. "You just take a couple extra Advil and go play."
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.