Ready for dome
A sound strategy for Dallas
Team well prepared for Metrodome noise
IRVING, Texas - Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking remembers the loudest game of his career coming in Minnesota’s Metrodome.
And he remembers winning it - a victory that sent his team to the Super Bowl.
Brooking also remembers that the loudest game Dallas played this year was indoors, at New Orleans’s Superdome.
He remembers winning that one, too.
So as the Cowboys prepare for a trip to Minnesota for tomorrow’s divisional-round playoff game, the message from the Dallas locker room is clear: Bring it on, Vikings fans; make all the noise y’all want.
“We have pretty good experience facing a hostile crowd,’’ Brooking said. “The way you have to handle the situation is, obviously, you can’t allow them to get the momentum going early in the game. You’ve got to go for their heart. If you can put a little doubt in their minds in the beginning, that can go a long way. But we’ve got to be ready for a 3 1/2-hour battle and fight to the end.’’
The Cowboys followed that game plan four weeks ago in New Orleans. They jumped on the Saints with two quick touchdowns, silencing the crowd with a 14-0 lead. Dallas remained in front all night, but things got shaky - and loud - in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans scored two touchdowns and was driving for the potential tying score when the Cowboys staved off Drew Brees and the inspiration of the New Orleans fans to hold on for the win. Dallas hasn’t lost since, winning four in a row, including its first playoff victory in 13 years.
“I think it does help that we played in New Orleans,’’ coach Wade Phillips said. “We have to have the same kind of focus and concentration that we did in that game. It’ll be loud in there, but that’s part of being the visitor in this league.’’
To get acclimated, or at least try to, Dallas practiced Thursday at its domed stadium with a recording of crowd noise cranked up.
While it’s not the same blood-pumping atmosphere as a packed stadium, the deafening sounds forced the offense to work off gestures instead of commands hollered by quarterback Tony Romo, and the defense had to respond to movement instead of the quarterback’s voice.
Romo knows what to expect and is already plotting how to counter it.
“There are going to be a lot of little things that come up that I won’t be able to say as we’re leaving the huddle or at the line of scrimmage,’’ Romo said. “[You have to] be prepared for what could happen. Tell them in the huddle things you won’t be able to say because it will be too loud. Things like that I’ll have to think a little extra on.’’
The burden isn’t only on Romo. It’s actually tougher for the other 10 guys, who have to be tuned in to him.
“An atmosphere like that, [we’re] more tight in the huddle so we hear every word that comes out of the quarterback’s mouth,’’ receiver Roy Williams said. “The snap count is big. You can’t hear him saying ‘down, set, hut,’ and on the defensive side of the ball they’re trying to get us to jump offside. We have to be together as a unit.’’
The success of both teams starts with talented players and coaches who can get the most out of them. Still, the so-called 12th man can only help, and at this time of year, teams need every little edge they can get.