January 6, 2017
Lions kicking out some deafening
jams preparing to invade Seattle
By KEITH GAVE
The noise. Right up there with having to find a way to score points against one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses and containing a quarterback who is more dangerous with his legs than the guy who beat his team last weekend, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell knows his team has to find a way to play through all the static in Saturday’s wildcard playoff game in Seattle.
CenturyLink Field is the loudest stadium in America. Yes, the 79,451 fans on hand at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City in 2014 registered the highest decibel level recorded at 142.2, which replaced the Seahawks’ previous record at 136.6. But CenturyLink’s capacity is 67,000, and in a smaller venue the sound those people make can overwhelm a visiting team. It often does.
“It’s always rowdy, you know, it’s always a lot of noise,” Caldwell said at after a practice this week. “I remember a few years back there was a visiting team that went in that ended up with six false starts in the game, maybe more than that, but I know it was six at a minimum. Those kinds of things stick out in your mind. It’s difficult to hear and it’s certainly a team that you have to get prepared for in that regard.”
Which is why Caldwell has opened up a request line this week. Have a favorite song. He’ll play it for you. And he’ll split your eardrums with it.
Actually, Director of Player Development Galen Duncan is the team’s designated DJ, but players – and even Caldwell on occasion – will ask for a certain tune.
“They don’t have to call in on the request line, but they do have a way to go in and request music,” Caldwell said, adding that Duncan “goes with different genres, different artists. . . I’m sure that some of the guys don’t like some of the music.”
Doesn’t matter in the end, Caldwell said, as long as it’s so loud his players can’t hear themselves think let alone communicate with the typical barks by the offensive and defensive signal callers.
“What it does do is try to get your guys to really focus,” Caldwell explained. “That’s typically how we’ve always worked. We’ve always tried to use, you know, blaring music. We used to use kind of a real annoying sort of a sound that was not music, it was a compilation of, I don’t know what it was actually, but it was hard to deal with. Some of the music is too, by the way.
“Some of that stuff that they’re playing, it’s good for a distraction because I can’t understand quite what they’re saying anyway, what half of the stuff means. But I know some of the younger guys enjoy it.”
That noise will especially be a factor when the Lions have the ball. Seattle fans are smart. They know when to turn up the volume. Having two rookies on the offensive line – left tackle Taylor Decker and guard Graham Glasgow – makes communication from the quarterback that much more critical. Especially with Glasgow working at center in place of Travis Swanson.
Getting the exchange from under center without bag full of yellow laundry all over the field may be quarterback Matt Stafford’s biggest challenge after trying to find open receivers against Seattle’s all-world secondary. That’s why having Swanson return this week after being released from concussion protocol is heartening. But whether Swanson will actually play, and how much, remains a well-guarded secret. Caldwell wasn’t saying.
Winning on the road in the NFL is hard. The degree of difficulty increases exponentially in the playoffs. Home-field advantage eluded the Lions like an amped-up antelope in the final three weeks of the season, so this is their consequence.
But it doesn’t mean Detroit doesn’t have a chance, despite what the oddsmakers think by making Seattle an 8-point favorite.
If the Lions defense can contain the elusive Russell Wilson, and keep the Seahawks’ quarterback in the pocket better than it did against Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers last Sunday, Detroit can cover the spread.
If Stafford has the prime-time moment we’ve been expecting of him for a while now, if his banged-up throwing hand allows him to hit open receivers better than he did against the Packers, the Lions are more than capable of winning this game.
PREDICTION: Stafford and Co. move the ball enough to give kicker Matt Prater some legroom, and that’s the difference in this game. The Detroit Lions make some big noise of their own this weekend. Lions 19, Seattle 17.