SEATTLE – Ten and counting.
Not since the memorable, Monday night meltdown against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 6, 2004, have the Seattle Seahawks lost a regular season game at Qwest Field.
They’ll take that streak into today’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, and chances are that the 11 Seahawks on the field won’t be the only ones in Seattle excited about the opportunity.
The so-called 12th Man will be back in hysterics this afternoon when the defending NFC champions host their first game of the 2006 regular season.
“Everybody’s expectations are up now,” Seahawks fullback Mack Strong said. “When you go undefeated at home and go to the Super Bowl, that’s the way it is. Who wouldn’t be excited about that? Of course our fans would have a lot of anticipation about this year and be ready to support us at home.”
As much as the Seahawks appreciate the enthusiasm of their home crowds, opposing teams have grown to disdain it. Qwest Field has developed a reputation as one of the more difficult places for visiting teams to play.
Just ask the Carolina Panthers, who were affected by the atmosphere in last season’s NFC Championship game.
“They were loud the whole game, and that really surprised me,” Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross told reporters after the Seahawks beat his team 34-14 at Qwest Field almost eight months ago. “The crowd was definitely a factor here.”
Today’s visitors aren’t looking forward to the inevitable harassment they’ll receive for most of the afternoon.
“It’s difficult,” said Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who has played in 74 NFL games but only one at Qwest Field. “Obviously it gets loud there; the fans are great.
“It’s one of those things. The way I look at it, it’s a great homefield advantage because when you go up there as an opposing team they make everything a little bit tougher.”
Arizona coach Dennis Green didn’t have to look far for evidence of how the Qwest crowd affects visitors.
“Look at the (Seahawks’) won-loss record,” he said, referring to the Seahawks’ 21-3 mark in regular-season games at Qwest Field since 2003. “I think it’s very difficult (to play there). Fans are very excited, it’s an area that enjoys football (and) it’s a great venue for it, so I think it’s definitely one of the most difficult places in the country to play.”
Difficult for opponents, but a safe haven for the Seahawks.
“The last couple years the fans have been great,” Seattle left tackle Walter Jones said. “When teams come in here, they usually struggle. You have to give a lot of credit to the fans.”
The epitome of Seattle’s homefield advantage came last November – the same day the Seahawks clinched the division – when the noise played a part in nine false-start penalties against the visiting New York Giants.
“It was real crazy – loud,” said Seahawks linebacker D.D. Lewis, who was then a starter on Seattle’s defense. “You can’t hear anything out there. It goes to show how important the 12th Man is in helping us win.”
The publicity surrounding the Giants game led to even louder fans for the postseason, which included wins over Washington and Carolina before the Seahawks went to Detroit and lost Super Bowl XL.
Now the Seahawks are back in town, and the fans are likely to be ready.
“It’s one of the best stadiums in the league,” Lewis said. “From when I first got in the league (in 2002) to where it’s at now is just crazy. We just want to continue to do well for them.”