The 12th Man flag flies high above Seattle’s Space Needle throughout the playoffs. A few weeks ago, a scuba diver planted a flag underwater inside the window of an exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium. The true fans of football are in Seattle, a city that has come down with a widespread case of football fever.
It’s what the Pacific Northwest has become suddenly, known as one of the most sports-crazed cities in America, with fans wearing Seahawks jerseys and flags with the number “12” hanging from mostly every building. There is, quite incredibly, a lot of noise in Seattle as the earth-rattling fans turn up the volume. The noise intensifies as the stadium becomes painfully loud and an insane house, and then reaches a decibel level. The people of Seattle, the 12th man, are the loudest in the NFL, so much that CenturyLink Field is the equivalent of an aircraft takeoff or a rocket launch.
The crowd is fired up, as it usually is, as if there’s no tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what day it is. The whole place erupts in a cacophony of roars, rupturing your eardrums and giving you goose bumps. The noise clearly bothered the San Francisco 49ers — and quarterback Colin Kaepernick, normally an unflustered specimen wherever he plays, has generally struggled against the Seahawks in a hostile environment, where he is 0-for-2 and hasn’t produced much against a hungrier and more focused Seattle team. The only way the 49ers are going to beat the Seahawks at home is by avoiding turnovers. In their last two visits, the 49ers have been outscored by a combined 71-16, with seven turnovers and four sacks.
The architects who built a cathedral were smart, though the building experienced a few minor earthquakes when the Seahawks scored a big touchdown. The designer produced the loudest outdoor stadium in all of sports, a more compact venue with heavily steep seating to purposely direct noise onto the field — the curvature of those big-roof parabolas generate sound instead of it escaping. These raucous fans broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the loudest stadium in the world, and reached a noise level of 131.9 decibels, shattering the previous record of 131.76 by a soccer crowd in Istanbul.
Statistically speaking, nobody has won more games at home since 2002, and after last Sunday, we can only assume that this prolongs a hot streak. It is well established that there’s no team more intimidating at home than these fearless Seahawks. They’ve lost once in 17 games at home the last two seasons, and in turn, the fans have been loyal, passionate and energetic.
It’s going to be loud in Seattle’s Bird Nest for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, and understandably the blue-and-green clad fans will be really loud, with their hated rivals in town to face the city’s beloved Seahawks. It’s a great time to be a Seattle fan, and folks in Starbucks Country enjoy good vibes from the home team’s success. There’s a sense that something special is going on here, the kind of season that is too remarkable to implode now that the Seahawks are on the verge of the Super Bowl. This week has been all about the 49ers vs. Seahawks and Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson, which have created front-page headlines in Seattle.
There’s no doubt about Niners and Hawks becoming the most intense rivalry in football, perfectly captivating our soul and not only our minds. There’s a good chance the Seahawks are America’s team, determined to win the Super Bowl with one of the stingiest defenses and most prolific offenses in the NFC, if not the NFL. How nice for it to be the Seahawks, so long pedestrian, now feeling superior as they are dubbed a Super Bowl favorite.
This team is intriguing. This team is fun to watch. It is now a good time to say nice things about a glorified franchise — making a strong case and pushing toward a championship run. The Seahawks are arguably football’s most complete team, maybe even showing they are the team to beat, by having a dogfight and playing physical. The sound we can’t hear on the field is the hard hits from Seattle’s talented secondary.
For the Seahawks, it’s about defense, an important ingredient for success. In that sense, with shutdown cornerback, Richard Sherman, the Seahawks are a team of physicality and will make life miserable for the 49ers offense. For what it’s worth, if nothing else matters, Kam Chancellor is most intimidating. The 25-year-old safety is the pillar of a fierce defense, and forcefully lays massive hits on players.
It’s not just those players who are having impressive seasons. It’s a season in which free safety Earl Thomas has grown into an unstoppable force and has been every bit as ferocious. The necessity of the Seahawks offense is a Beast Mode running game, which has often been the strength. It’s nice to have a running back as lethal and explosive as Marshawn Lynch. He is a Skittles-eating, relentless, fearsome beast — and he does not only taste the rainbow — he finds the holes, jump cuts, makes cuts, stays on his feet and takes off to the end zone.
It’s a season in which Pete Carroll, one of the greatest football coaches alive, has proven people wrong and moved into elite company among NFL coaches. Weird as it might sound, after whipping Southern California into a national powerhouse, he’s now a game away from the Super Bowl. With two more wins, he joins the company of Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, the only two head coaches in NFL history to lead teams both to a college national championship and a Super Bowl. If there has been any doubt, it was when Carroll left college football’s most successful program for Seattle, where he’s made himself feel at home.
When he arrived, the Seahawks were 5-11 and were mediocre and soft, filled with useless veterans who he replaced with players that met his standards. His vision for the future, almost immediately, has built the Seahawks largely into a contender four years later. Simply by doctoring the franchise and replacing the previous regime, Carroll’s Seahawks now reign supreme in the NFC West, if not all of football, at the rate they are playing of late. He’s been waiting such a long time for a moment this surreal, and after he was given another chance to prove that he’s one of the elite coaching names, Carroll has not failed the third time around.
Of course, the failures in the past doomed him, labeled an underachiever who was deemed not worthy to coach at the pro level. Once upon a time, Carroll went 8-8 with the Patriots in 1999, and shortly after, he got fired for the second time as an NFL head coach. But when he was given another opportunity, Carroll reinvented himself as a mastermind.
The perception is that he’s not a mediocre pro head coach and has proven that he’s more than just a rah-rah guy. He’s proven that he’s a brilliant man, much more appreciated in Seattle for rebuilding a team that had lost a competitive drive and the will to play. It was a rocky start to his Seahawks tenure, or at least in his first two seasons, going a horrible 7-9 before assembling ideal talent and coaching his team to a 13-3 record.
They’ve come a long way together, and the Seahawks are my Super Bowl favorites. This team has been nothing short of impressive, and they are playing for a trip to the big game.
The rest of the league should watch out for these 2013 Seahawks, the scariest team in these playoffs with a strong message for the rest of the world.