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Superdome fans may be Giants toughest challenge


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Geoff Schwartz knows it is coming. He can't predict the exact circumstances, or the precise timing. But the Giants' right guard is certain that at some point on Sunday, New Orleans Saints fans are going to go absolutely bonkers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

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"There's going to be an avalanche at some point," Schwartz said. "I don't know if it's the right term to use, but when you play away games at big places that are loud, there's an avalanche when you have a bad play, and then they score an offensive touchdown and it's loud again. You have to withstand that. It happens every time you play an away game. You have to be able to withstand that, and we have. In Buffalo we did, the first week in Dallas we did. In a place like New Orleans, you have to be extra mindful of kind of fighting through that adversity."

Schwartz began his career with the Carolina Panthers. As an NFC South alumnus, he is familiar with the uniqueness of the dome.

"It's loud," he said. "There's nowhere for the noise to go. I've played everywhere - I've played in Seattle, I've played in Kansas City, I've played in the Superdome. The Superdome, when it gets going, it gets pretty wild. To combat that, you've got to be able to run the football, get the crowd out of it, and score points early - that's kind of the formula in every crazy place."

The Superdome presents crowd noise issues for opposing teams unlike any other stadium. In a city where the citizens specialize in loud celebrations and love their football team, the din from opening kickoff to final second is relentless.

"It's a challenging place to play, and it's a good football team," said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who held the same position with the Saints in 2012. "Fans make it tough, because they're into it. I've always thought you embrace that and go down and enjoy it. That's what makes the NFL so exciting. But it is one of those places that's tough to win."

"I coached there for a year, too," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "It's an advantage. When that place gets rocking, it's tough to quiet it down."

But the Giants might have the ingredients to do it. They lead the NFL with a plus-10 turnover differential, and few events frustrate a home crowd more than a giveaway. And last week, the Giants ran for a season-high 132 yards. The Saints have the NFL's 28th-ranked run defense, so if the Giants can keep their momentum on the ground, they'll control the ball and frustrate the fans.

"'Have the poise in the noise,' is something we always say," left guard Justin Pugh said. "It's a challenge. "We have to over-communicate. We've played in hostile places before, we just have to make sure we're on the same page. If we do our job, we can quiet them down. We've got to go out and we've got to execute and score points. I think we were able to do that in some games where you put some points on the board early and help take the crowd of it. Look at Dallas in the first game, we kind of quieted them down. We've got to go out there and start fast and execute and that will help us out."
Of course, the Giants also have a quarterback in Eli Manning who has excelled many times, and led the team to numerous victories, in loud, hostile stadiums.

But none of those triumphs occurred in the Superdome, where the Giants are 0-2 since his arrival.

Manning has seen the best and worst of the Superdome, and the stadium sounded the same in each instance.

Growing up in New Orleans, Manning sat in the stands as the Saints' enthusiastic fans inspired the home team with their cacophonous cheering. But in two visits as the Giants' quarterback, Manning learned the noise doesn't sound quite as pleasant when you're on the opposing team – especially when you lose by a combined 97-51, as the Giants did in 2009 and 2011.

"The times we've played, it's been loud," Manning said. "So it's always going to be loud. Their offense has been scoring and we've gotten down, so they get pumped up. We've got to do a good job just trying to control the crowd, try to get some first downs, and get into a little rhythm. It's going to get loud at times, but we can deal with that."

"I think they're a young defense that has improved quite a bit as of late," McAdoo said. "They've won three out of four, they're playing at a high level, they're playing fast, they're playing hard, and it's going to be a tough environment for us to go and play in. We need to be ready to go and handle the chaos. That type of environment is a tough environment to be able to execute there, so we have our work cut out for us."

This is a homecoming for several Giants. Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. were raised in New Orleans, and played prep football at Isidore Newman School. Landon Collins was born in the city, and was raised in nearby Geismar. Orleans Darkwa played at Tulane. Rueben Randle lives in Bastrop, in northern Louisiana. Randle, Beckham and punter Brad Wing all played at LSU.

But this weekend, Manning isn't thinking about a family reunion.

"Just going to play a game," he said. "I'm not seeing family before the game, or doing anything. It's the next game, going to New Orleans and trying to get a win.

"I'm sure there will be lots of friends and family there. You've got to tune it all out and just worry about playing football. It's about just doing your job, knowing your assignment, and going out there and just playing the game."

Sounds like a formula the Giants will need to win in the Superdome.

Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at 1PM

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