The Herald Bulletin
---- — Indianapolis was once known as one of the loudest cities in the NFL.
Noise levels got so high in the old RCA Dome that conspiracy theories developed suggesting the team was artificially enhancing the decibel levels through the public address system.
Lucas Oil Stadium can get loud, too — just ask any Jets fan who attended the 2009 AFC Championship Game — but Indy's reputation just hasn't been the same since the move.
Chuck Pagano would love to change that Sunday when the Colts host the Seattle Seahawks, the reigning champions when it comes to homefield advantage.
"Our fans are second to none, and it's 12th man," the Indianapolis head coach told the media Monday. "We know about (Seattle's) 12th man. So our challenge to our fans this week will be who's the best 12th man in the National Football League? I know who it is, and I know our fans will prove it come Sunday."
Those are likely to be fighting words in the Pacific Northwest.
Two weeks ago, Seahawks fans etched a place in the Guinness Book of World Records when they reached an astounding 131.9 decibels during a 29-3 demolition of the rival 49ers. To put that into perspective, the noise on the deck of an aircraft carrier averages about 140 decibels.
But I don't think Pagano is talking about world records. His comments speak to a broader point about Sunday's game.
This is the kind of Big Game (with capital letters) that Indianapolis hasn't seen for awhile.
When the Green Bay Packers visited last year, the Colts were 1-2 and were just about to shock the nation. By the time the Houston Texans rolled into town for a Week 17 matchup with homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs on the line, Indianapolis already was locked into the No. 5 seed.
No, the city hasn't seen a game quite like this — with the 4-0 Seahawks visiting the 3-1 Colts — since unbeaten Indianapolis hosted New England in November 2009. That game remains infamous for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 rather than punt the ball away to Peyton Manning.
Tom Brady's pass completion was short of the marker, and Manning hit Reggie Wayne soon after for the game-winning score.
Sunday's game is not in prime time — like that one was — and it can't match the history of that classic rivalry. But it does feature two of football's finest young quarterbacks — Seattle's Russell Wilson and the Colts' Andrew Luck — and it offers fans the perfect chance to turn back the clock to the glory days for one afternoon.
Less than two years after selecting Luck with the No. 1 overall pick, Indianapolis looks like a contender again.
On Sunday, Pagano believes, it can sound like one, too.