INDIANAPOLIS — Colts safety Mike Adams knows all about Dallas’ home-field advantage.
There’s that massive video board, the sights around the field and the Texas-sized crowd. They’re all potential distractions even for an 11-year veteran like Adams. So Adams has spent this week counseling teammates who are about to play their first game at AT&T Stadium about the dangers they’ll face Sunday.
“I’ve been there before and I had to gaze around,” Adams said after traveling there last season with Denver. “I tell the young guys ‘Go out there in pregame and start gazing. Start looking up, see how long the screen is, from the 20 (yard line) to the 20 (yard line). Just get it all out of your system because once that ball’s snapped and once the game starts going, you’ve got to stay focused.”
The Colts (10-4) can’t afford to get discombobulated by its surroundings in Dallas.
While a four-game winning streak has given Indy its second straight AFC South title and at least one home playoff game, the Colts, currently the AFC’s No. 3 seed, still have plenty of work remaining.
A loss this week or next could drop them into the No. 4 spot, though two wins would give Indy a longshot chance of moving into one of the top two spots and claiming a first-round bye.
It’s not just about playoff position, either.
Andrew Luck is trying to right a suddenly turnover-prone offense, and coach Chuck Pagano is urging the Colts to get rid of the penalties. Indy has had 12 turnovers and 29 penalties over the past four weeks.
The NFC East-leading Cowboys (10-4) pose even bigger challenges. Tony Romo has thrown 28 TD passes and just eight interceptions this season, receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten pose potentially problematic matchups and nobody’s sure what to expect out of DeMarco Murray after the NFL’s leading rusher had surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand Monday.
Murray has practiced this week and the Colts expect him to play this weekend.
But the stadium itself creates another obstacle.
“It’s probably one of the biggest things that I’m trying to educate our guys on through other people that have been there, played there and try to get them ready and prepared,” Pagano said. “I think what happens is you can go there and get enamored with all the things that I’ve heard and researched about the stadium itself, the (video board) that covers the entire field and everything else that goes along with that stadium.”
Pagano was so worried he considered leaving one day early so the Colts could hold a Saturday walkthrough at “Jerry World.”
The fact that it’s even being discussed so much this week plays right into the Cowboys’ hands. Indy hasn’t been to Dallas since 2006, three years before the Cowboys’ new opened, and the Colts haven’t won in Dallas since 1996.
“I think that’s one of the great things that Mr. (Jerry) Jones does is create an environment, a stadium that’s just so unique and special,” Romo said, referring to the Cowboys’ team owner.
Adams and some of the other Colts who have played in Dallas more recently don’t expect it to be any different this weekend, especially with the Cowboys chasing a division title.
They just want Indianapolis to focus on football.
“It’s like a spectacle,” Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “One thing you really have to understand is you have to stay in the moment, understand why you’re there because you can get misled by the big (video board), the theatrics going on around you. It’s hard enough to play a football game, let alone all the theatrics they have going on in that stadium.”
Notes: Receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring), right tackle Gosder Cherilus (groin) and right guard Hugh Thornton (knee) all missed practice for the second straight day. Thornton’s backup, Joe Reitz (ankle), also missed a second straight practice. Pagano has not said if he will give any of his injured players extra rest Sunday. ... Cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) and linebacker Erik Walden (knee), both starters, were limited participants Thursday. Jackson and return specialist Josh Cribbs were full participants in practice after resting Wednesday. ... One other player who could sit Sunday is receiver Reggie Wayne, who has been battling a torn left triceps and an injured left elbow but he has not missed practice this week. After last weekend’s victory over Houston, Wayne said he intends to do things his way the rest of the season — which means practicing every day.