The Green Bay Packers will be heading out of Wisconsin for the last time until two days before Halloween when they get their first look at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday night. During their press conferences Wednesday, both head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers discussed the pros and cons of going on the road to Minnesota – in front of a four-game home stand split up by the Packers’ bye week.
The question on the minds of Minnesota Vikings fans is the same one being asked in Sconny – who will be Minnesota’s starting quarterback Sunday? Mike Zimmer is mum on that subject, but McCarthy believes it won’t change much of what Green Bay will do Sunday.
“It can’t make a difference,” McCarthy said. “That’s why you have preparation. We’ve taken the approach that we could see either one of the quarterbacks. My understanding is that it’s probably going to be Sam Bradford, but I have a lot of respect for Shaun Hill. He played very well against us when he was with the Detroit Lions, so we’ll prepare for both quarterbacks.”
A bigger issue is the potential for deafening noise in the new stadium. The Metrodome set a pretty high standard for reverberating fan noise. U.S. Bank Stadium has yet to be experienced for a Vikings-Packers game and McCarthy is preparing for the worst.
When Green Bay practices this week, it’s going to have a high-decibel soundtrack. McCarty plans to go Spinal Tap style and turn the dials up to 11.
“We crank it up,” McCarthy said. “Just even in our walk-throughs we have the music up very, very loud. It’s just part of our preparation. It’s significantly different in the Metrodome, but you have a number of stadiums that are very loud opponent stadiums both indoor and outdoor. It’s part of our prep. We really start working noise in the spring now, where in the past we never really worked it until we got into training camp. But it’s a part of our daily operation. My understanding it’s going to be very loud in the new stadium.”
That will likely entail Rodgers having to call plays with a silent count – the only thing that is expected to be silent Sunday night.
Rodgers is no stranger to ringing ears in the Metrodome, whether he was on the sidelines (and where McCarthy has accused stadium personnel of piping in noise and directing speakers at the Packers bench) or attempting to call audibles in vain.
The difficulty is that, when the noise gets dialed up, the Packers will likely be stuck calling the play that was called or be forced to improvise on the fly – an aspect of Rodgers’ game that he is pretty adept at.
“You've got to prepare for some noise,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, the old Metrodome was a very loud stadium when they were rolling. It makes it difficult on the communication, so you have to have a plan for that. And then just withstand the surge. We're going to their place, it's opening up. They're going to put up the banner, I think, for winning the division. They had a big win in Week 1. So it's a big game, a division game, so we've got to withstand the initial surge.”
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The outside distraction for the Packers takes on a different aspect when it impacts how plays are called or changed. The Packers have incorporated hand signals and buzz words to get the point across.
The Packers will be coming in blind to Zygi Bank – that tends to happen when it’s the first official game in the building – so there will be much more attention paid to the smallest of details and sticking to their own way of doing things as opposed to over-scheming an opponent.
“Communication is a big part of it,” McCarthy said. “It’s definitely part of the challenge of playing over there. To me, that’s not going to change compared to how we had to prepare in prior seasons. But every year is a new year. They’re a different team, we’re a different team. We’re just focusing on our preparation. We have 13 rookies on our football team. We’re tailoring a lot of our focus to our young guys.”
The only advantage the Packers may have is that they know the Vikings defense – at its best (at Lambeau last year) and its worst (at TCF Bank Stadium).
The familiarity with the Vikings, even though there are new wrinkles in the defense that have been saved for Rodgers, will be something they can draw upon when preparing themselves for the Thunderdome they will be entering Sunday night.
“That's division football,” Rodgers said. “It's about execution when it comes to playing opponents you play twice a year. It's early in the season so there's still unscouted looks on both sides and maybe you hold them for this game, (what) you worked on during the offseason for both sides. But it comes down to execution. You know the players well. You know their tendencies. You pair the film up with how they're playing year to year, whether they ascending or descending. You've just got to go out and play well.”
At the end of the day, McCarthy is going to leave the noise up to the Packers offense. The crowd will be quiet (as quiet as a home NFL crowd gets) when the Green Bay defense is on the field.
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Whether it’s Bradford or Hill the Packers face, McCarthy’s biggest concern is what it has always been – even when the quarterback was Brett Favre.
“I think it’s part of your personnel evaluation,” McCarthy said. “It’s part of your scheme evaluation. You tilt toward certain schemes with one quarterback, as opposed to another. Those are the questions you ask through the game-planning process, but the fact of the matter is it’s going to start with giving the ball to Adrian Peterson. Every time we play the Vikings, that’s the focal point of our defense.”null