This season, FanHouse writers take their cameras to NFL stadiums to document what happens when you stop being polite and start getting real. Or something. We've cleverly titled it "FanHouse in the Stands."
Sunday night in Indianapolis, the colossal Lucas Oil Stadium was officially unveiled to the sporting world via Sunday Night Football on NBC, as the hometown Colts took on the Chicago Bears. I had already seen the stadium and field up close two days earlier -- having the pleasure of refereeing a high school game there Friday night -- but it's still so monstrous that you can't help but be impressed every time you step through those doors.
The concourses are so big that there is never any sort of real congestion. Sure, it's crowded right before the game, but you are always moving and never feel suffocated. For example, in the picture to the right ... this was taken about fifteen minutes before game time when the majority of the people were on the way to their seats.
The Funny Car Cafe, pictured here, illustrates the wide-variety of food and drink around the concourse.
During the game, it couldn't have been more comfortable for me. The seats are as spacious as they need to be, while it was a beautiful night. I do think with the roof and side window open the air flow is much more pleasant than the old RCA Dome, but they also killed the sound. It wasn't near as loud in this game as it has been in Indy in the past.
There has been some grumbling from fans about obstructed views, but apparently I was fortunate enough to avoid those issues. I had an unblocked view to all the on-field action.
Well, sort of.
Side Rant: If you are going to a game with the intention of trying to get on TV, please understand a few things. First of all, you better have something bigger than a piece of cardboard. Secondly, the TV crews generally film the actual game when the ball is in play. Standing up and holding up a piece of cardboard during the freaking opening kickoff does nothing but annoy people around you.
And yes, these two girls alternated holding up this damn piece of cardboard directly in front of me for the nearly the entire game. They battled through the "requests" by 15 or so people behind them -- all Colts fans except one, for the record -- to put the sign down and stayed the course. I'm not sure if they didn't hear it, or simply didn't care. I'm guessing it was the latter, because they were getting abused and it was really loud.
Speaking of abuse, I was wearing my Devin Hester jersey and -- much to my surprise -- received very little. A guy asked me on the way into the game, "you don't think you guys can win, do you?" I laughed and said, "no." One drunken idiot screamed in my direction for nearly a quarter about "Super Bowl 40" until I finally just turned and said, "don't you mean 41?" That brought the house down, and then he started screaming obscenities in my direction -- likely out of embarrassment. Other than, though, nothing derogatory in my direction. Maybe it's because I was the member of a "mixed" couple -- my wife was with me, and wearing her Peyton Manning jersey -- or that I'm a "good" visiting fan. People that turn around and mock home fans are just lame. I sat in my seat, watched the game, and cheered respectfully when the Bears made plays. I guess the combination worked, along with the Bears victory.
The Game Itself ... what we saw ... what it means
So my Dad asked me yesterday, "Are the Colts that bad, or are the Bears that good." That's a good question, because it was only one game. Invariably, with questions like this, the answer is almost always in the middle. I believe it is here as well.
On Friday, I wondered aloud whether or not the Bears even had a chance ... and I'm a die-hard fan. I did say there were five things the Bears could do to win, and they needed to do at least a few of them. Well, they most certainly controlled the football on offense, dominated the Colts offensive line with stellar defensive play, and won the turnover battle. While Manning didn't leave the game with an injury, the Colts offense was never really in sync. Some observations:
- The Bears defense apparently flipped the proverbial switch from the preseason futility just in time. Remember, Dusty Dvoracek and Mike Brown were lost for the season last year after the opener, and Nathan Vasher missed twelve games. Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher, and Charles Tillman also played all season hurt. It's true the Colts didn't look like an elite offensive team at all Sunday night, but the Bears had something to do with that. Add in the fact that they apparently have a chip on their shoulder, and I think the prospects of returning to '05-'06 form on defense are certainly present.
- Kyle Orton was the correct choice as a starter. I couldn't have been more wrong when I complained about the choice a few weeks ago. He made big throws when needed, and never put the defense in bad situations as was routine for the Rex Grossman era.
- Matt Forte is the real deal. No two ways about it.
- The middle of the Colts offensive line has to be better than that. Dvoracek, Harris, and rookie Marcus Harrison were in Peyton's grill all night within about two seconds. You can't get any sort of offensive continuity when things are disrupted from the middle like that. They either need to hope the inexperienced guys grow up really fast, or find some unsigned veteran to plug in until Jeff Saturday can return.
- While I understand that it was a nice playcall by Ron Turner, allowing a 50 yard draw for a TD on 3rd and six is pretty terrible for the Colts' defense. Orton isn't a prolific downfield passer, so I'm surprised there wasn't one guy assigned to Forte on the play -- in case he went to the flats or the Bears set up a screen for him.
- Let's keep in mind that Manning missed the whole preseason, and he's not used to that. He'll get better as the season moves on. As he goes, so does the offense. It's funny that we're talking about this when a guy threw for 257 yards on 30-49 passing. The issue, though, is that you're looking at barely six yards per completion. That's likely due to rust and the ferocious pass rush they faced all night.
- The Colts need to find more ways to get Joseph Addai out into the open if the middle of the line is going to get dominated like that. He was taken out of this game even before he left with injury. That is unacceptable.
As I said, the answer is somewhere in the middle ... the Colts aren't that bad, and the Bears aren't that good.
Matter of fact, I'll bet both finish in the ten win range, which is a disappointment for one and a triumph for the other.
Just like Sunday night. Who woulda thought?
Here's a video of the Colts' offensive introductions I took:
And here's one of some fireworks and a military helicopter fly-over: