TEMPE, Ariz. — Under Bruce Arians, the Arizona Cardinals have compiled an 18-4 record at University of Phoenix Stadium, showing a level of dominance fitting of one of the NFL’s best teams.
Most of their success can be attributed to a talented roster and top notch coaching, but ask anyone involved with the organization and they’ll give plenty of credit to the home field advantage provided by the aptly-named “Red Sea.”
Cardinals fans have done a great job packing UofP Stadium since it opened in 2006, with every game played there being a recorded sellout. Unfortunately, it’s sellouts of a different kind, so to speak, that have some upset.
Two weeks ago, when the Cardinals faced off with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football, there was a sizable contingent of purple-clad fans in the building cheering for the visitors. It was noticeable and at the same time disappointing to those in Cardinal Red.
Unfortunately, if people thought the support the Vikings brought to the table was bad, what the Green Bay Packers figure to do this Sunday will be on an entirely different level.
While you should not expect a Sun Devil Stadium-style invasion of visiting fans, do not be surprised if Packer Nation makes its presence felt. The Cardinals sure won’t be.
“We’re expecting to be on some silent count because there’s going to be a lot of Green Bay fans here and it’ll be loud,” Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said while noting he does not do anything different to prepare for a game like this.
That’s not how this is supposed to work.
“It’s been that way for a while, ever since my whole career you get those historically great teams, they always travel well, and there’s probably a lot of Packers fans that live here,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “The BirdGang is still strong and they’re going to represent for us — it’s going to be loud for them as well, and our offense is prepared, so we’ll be OK.”
For a 12-2 football team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, it’s an unfortunate byproduct of being in a transient area during a time of year when many folks who do not live in Arizona year-round are in town because … well, have you been outside lately?
On the flip side of Arizona having to deal with Packers fans is Green Bay getting to enjoy what should probably not be described as a true advantage. But at the very least, it’s not the kind of hostile environment most teams face on the road.
“It’s great,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of the support. “We’ve got a great crowd. We travel really well. We always have a great presence on the road, and at home. It’s a special place to play. When you’re stepping on the field at Lambeau Field, you think about all the great players who’ve played there. You look up at the names on the stadium. It just gives you a good feeling if you’re a fan of the league and you know the history of our team and our league. It’s a pretty special opportunity. I think guys might not realize it initially, but you figure it out pretty quickly.”
It won’t take long to learn just what kind of presence those fans will have Sunday, and of course, the best way to combat their effect would be for the Cardinals to take an early lead and never look back. Long-term, the best thing the Cardinals could do is develop their own fan base to the point where opposing fans cannot find tickets for the game.
While they may be in the process of doing that, the franchise is not there yet.
“There’s going to be (Packers fans). So, get used to it,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Hopefully, as our young fan base grows — again, we had a bunch of good fans in Philadelphia. Hundreds of them and it was great to see. But, so many of those tickets belong to brokers, but I know our young fan base isn’t going to sell their tickets.”
Acceptance does not equate to approval and Arians, who said he can’t really worry about or control how many Packers fans will be there because he’s “got enough problems,” is trusting that Cardinals fans will still give Arizona a proper advantage.
“It’s gonna be huge,” he said of Cardinals fans keeping control of the stadium. “Just don’t try to out-cheer them when we’ve got the ball. Cheer when they’ve got the ball.
“Our fans are great, and they’ve drowned it out — everybody that’s shown up this year. I know there will be a bunch of them and we’re ready for it.”
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