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More static in air

Patriots say Dome was loud, not clear

With coach-to-QB communication out, Tom Brady pleads for a faster signal from the sideline in the fourth quarter Sunday. With coach-to-QB communication out, Tom Brady pleads for a faster signal from the sideline in the fourth quarter Sunday. (JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)
Email|Print| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / November 6, 2007

FOXBOROUGH - The volume on the Patriots' rivalry with the Indianapolis Colts got turned up a notch, but according to the NFL, the crowd noise at the RCA Dome during New England's 24-20 victory Sunday did not.

During the CBS telecast of the game, there was a conspicuous audio glitch, a repeating crowd-noise crescendo, on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 14-yard pass from Tom Brady to Randy Moss. A clip highlighting the irregularity was posted on YouTube, and according to a Yahoo! Sports report, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft approached NFL vice president of security Milt Ahlerich after the game and asked that the league look into the possibility that the Colts were piping artificial crowd noise into the dome, which is illegal under NFL rules.

The league released a statement yesterday, attributing the unusual audio to a CBS production problem.

"CBS has informed us that the unusual audio moment heard by fans during the Patriots-Colts game was the result of tape feedback in the CBS production truck and was isolated to the CBS broadcast," said the statement, which was disseminated by league spokesman Greg Aiello. "It was in no way related to any sound within the stadium and could not be heard in the stadium."

Following the release of the NFL's statement, the Colts, who were accused of fan high-fidelity by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005, released a statement as well.

"We trust this will put an end to the ridiculous and unfounded accusations that the Colts artificially enhanced crowd noise at the RCA Dome in any way," said the statement.

Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the Patriots never asked for an investigation and don't intend to pursue the matter.

"We did not register any formal complaint nor do we intend to," said James. "Conversations with league officials are not uncommon. That doesn't qualify as a formal complaint. That's when you formally request in writing a matter you have concerns over, and we're not doing that."

When asked yesterday about the Colts pumping up the volume, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, "Well, it's always loud. It's definitely loud when you're behind by 10 points in the fourth quarter, I can tell you that."

But that wasn't the end of the sound furor because while Colts fans were at full blast - with or without audio enhancement - the Patriots offense was operating on mute.

When asked if he noticed any audio irregularities during the game, Belichick said the Patriots' coach-to-quarterback communication system was "basically useless."

"Well, we definitely had a lot of problems with the coach-to-quarterback," Belichick said. "Basically, we didn't have a coach-to-quarterback operation, so we had to signal in all of the plays, which is unusual, but that's the way it was. What-all was going on, I can't tell you, but I can tell you that, from a functional standpoint, the coach-to-quarterback was basically useless."

He added, "It was a problem from the first series. We stopped using it - we tried to use it, but it was ineffective."

That forced New England to relay the plays to quarterback Tom Brady with hand signals from the sideline or Brady to call the plays himself. Belichick said the team was "basically in that mode the whole game" without operational coach-to-quarterback communication, although the Patriots did have open communication on their headsets to their coaches in the booth.

The two systems are independent, and the Colts were allowed to continue using their coach-to-quarterback communication. They would have had to stop communicating with coaches in the booth if the Patriots had lost that ability as well.

The Patriots may not be in the best position to accuse a team of cheating following the flap from their illegal taping of opposing defensive signals, which led to the league fining Belichick $500,000 and the franchise $250,000, and stripping the team of what will be a first-round pick since it is a virtual lock to make the playoffs.

After the camera controversy earlier this season, another charge levied by some against the Patriots was that they were jamming other teams' coach-to-quarterback communication in Foxborough.

Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio mentioned that the Jaguars' coach-to-quarterback communication "mysteriously malfunctioned" for the entire first half of Jacksonville's 28-3 playoff loss to the Patriots in 2006.

The NFL never found any evidence that the Patriots were running audio interference with the coach-to-quarterback system.

The Patriots-Colts rivalry long has had controversy as background noise. Field conditions, changes to the NFL's pass defense rules, and thermostat readings have been among the fodder for the foes.

The teams' muddy matchups at Gillette Stadium allegedly caused the Colts to privately complain about the field conditions and to ask the NFL to discuss them with New England. For the record, the Colts never filed any official complaint with the NFL about the Gillette Stadium surface.

Last year, when the Colts scored a 38-34 victory in the AFC Championship game, some Patriots defenders cramped up inside the RCA Dome and later raised questions about whether the Colts purposely had cranked up the temperature inside the dome.

But this much is loud and clear: The only victories that really count in this rivalry are the ones on the field.

"They lost the game and that's what's important," said Patriots safety Rodney Harrison on WEEI radio yesterday, when asked about sound-fixing. "I don't know about all that audio, video, and all that other stuff."

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report

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