As the 49ers get ready for their Week 12 contest against the New Orleans Saints, I would say this game marks the toughest road game of their schedule to date. The 49ers opened the 2012 regular season with a road game against the Green Bay Packers, but the noise of the Superdome combined with the surging Saints makes me believe this is the toughest road game thus far.
During his end of week press conference, Coach Harbaugh was asked about the noise, and whether having already played in the Metrodome helped prepare for this one:
Having played in Minnesota, is there any advantage of playing going to a dome for the second time in the season and playing in an atmosphere like that?
"Yeah, possibly. It's going to be a hostile environment, loud. But, every week is loud when you're on the road. I understand that the domes are a little louder. So, believe that that experience will help us."
Is that something that you prepare for by bringing in noise or anything like that extra compared to any other game because it is a dome?
"Pretty much, yeah. Prepared with the noise all week long. Darn near every offensive snap we had noise this week."
But is that different than when you do it any other game?
"If it was a road game?"
"Maybe just a little bit more this week."
This becomes an even more intriguing challenge for the 49ers with a quarterback making only his second career start in the NFL. Colin Kaepernick played some big games with the Nevada Wolfpack, but this will be as big a challenge as he has faced to date because of that crowd noise. I realize some still think Alex Smith will end up starting this game, but I'm going to operate under the "assumption" that Kaepernick is the guy this week.
This really goes beyond just having the second year quarterback running things. The 49ers offense did a fairly solid job penalty-wise in their last indoor game agains the Vikings. They had one delay of game penalty, but otherwise managed to avoid shooting themselves in the foot in that regard. They had other issues to deal with, but from a penalty perspective, it wasn't too bad. The 49ers offensive line has been a pivotal part of the offensive improvements throughout the season, so ideally the Superdome noise will not be a significant issue.
How big a concern however is the noise and the atmosphere for the 49ers young QB?