Bears fans might not want to hear what Leslie Frazier has to say.
For five seasons, Frazier played his home games at Soldier Field as a defensive back for the Bears. He started on the Bears’ Super Bowl championship team in 1985.
But when it comes to the best home-field advantage in the NFL, Frazier said, no other team matches the Minnesota Vikings. Frazier will coach his 35th game with the Vikings (6-6) today when they host Lovie Smith and the Bears (8-4).
“It gives me energy just thinking about what that noise factor will mean for our football team on Sunday,” Frazier said.
Perhaps the Bears can derive energy from silencing a cavernous building.
The Bears will play indoors for the first time since their 2011 regular-season finale, when they beat the Vikings by three points at Mall of America Field inside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. To prepare for the game, Smith had his team practice inside the Walter Payton Center at Halas Hall throughout the week.
Bears coaches blasted artificial crowd noise through speakers during practice. They tried to re-create the volume in the Metrodome, where the Vikings are 162-89 since they moved to the building in 1982.
Besides long-term hearing damage – say what? – the biggest threat from the noise figures to be costly false-start penalties. Among those challenged will be starting tackles J’Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott, who will strain to hear Bears quarterback Jay Cutler as he barks play calls above the racket.
Cutler said he was confident in his linemen, who have allowed only two sacks in the past two games after giving up 34 sacks in the first 10 games.
“J-Webb has played there before,” Cutler said. “He’s used to it by now, and he’s able to perform in those conditions. J-Scott is new with me, so he’s going to have to listen to the snap count and get a good jump.
“But it is difficult to play there. [It’s] very loud, and you have the pressure of those ends because you know they’re coming. It’s about keeping it in third-and-manageable. If you get in third-and-long, second-and-long, they know you’re passing, that’s where you get in bad situations.”
Bad situations for the Bears would equal good situations for Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who notched 3˝ sacks against the Bears’ offensive line in the teams’ previous meeting at the Metrodome. The Bears blanked Allen for zero sacks Nov. 25 at Soldier Field, but coaches and players said he is much faster on the indoor surface.
Allen’s career statistics suggest the same. The four-time Pro Bowl player has registered 66 sacks in 57 home games compared with 48 sacks in 50 road games.
“The speed will be different for us on the field turf than it is on grass,” Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. “It’s very important in the pass rush [we] have to make sure we account for Jared Allen every time we throw the ball, and we will.”
It’s a message that Tice’s linemen hear loud and clear.
Besides, they play against some of the world’s most talented football players every week during the regular season. They can deal with some screaming fans.
“It’s all about preparation,” Scott said. “You have to prepare for the noise. You have to prepare for unique situations.
“That’s why we practice. We’ll definitely be ready for it.”