Scientists this week installed seismic monitors around CenturyLink Field.
So, it’s officially the Richter Season.
If it seems premature to expect that the performance of the Seattle Seahawks in Saturday’s divisional playoff game against Carolina will cause ground-shaking fan delight — as it did against New Orleans in January 2011 — it’s worth studying the history of such things.
As good as the Seahawks have been at home (22-2 the past three regular seasons), they’ve been better during the playoffs the past 10 years, winning all seven of their postseason games at CenturyLink Field.
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Quarterback Russell Wilson calls the boisterous home-field environment “electric.” Cornerback Richard Sherman says it’s “unnerving” for opponents. Linebacker K.J. Wright claims he can see the confusion and frustration on the faces of flustered opponents.
While the Seahawks make it sound as if a visit to Seattle is like submitting opponents to enhanced interrogation techniques, it is unquestionably effective.
Their last playoff loss in this venue came after the 2004 season — the same year New England was the last defending Super Bowl champion to score so much as one win in the following postseason.
Since then, all but four champions have failed to make the postseason, and those that did went 0-4.
The speculative reasons include personnel changes, competitive complacency, staff defections, and that the weekly opponent is geeked to the gills to depose the reigning champs.
So, to get to this point with a 12-4 record puts the 2014 Seahawks in rare company. To win another Super Bowl would place them in a fraternity of seven franchises to score back-to-back titles, which has been increasingly rare in the free-agency, salary-cap era.
New England’s twin titles in XXXVIII and XXXIX represent the only repeat in the 21st century.
But once the Seahawks earned the NFC’s top seed, the first-round bye, and the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the odds of their return to the Super Bowl got much better.
“I’m excited to play in there every time we get to step on the field,” Wilson said. “The energy that (fans) bring … it’s a cool thing, man.”
Not for opponents, of course.
Sherman explains: “People can tell you a lot of things about how loud and disruptive it is, but until you get out there in a crucial part of the game and you can’t hear, you can’t communicate, you can’t talk, and you still have to play at a high level, then there’s really no way to feel or experience it.”
The noted “12th Man” fan base hadn’t fully mobilized in January 2005, when the Seahawks gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter to the St. Louis Rams to lose, 27-20, for their last home playoff defeat.
That note makes it timely to mention that the Hawks have not surrendered a single point in the fourth quarter of their last six games this season.
During the seven-game playoff streak at CenturyLink, the Hawks have outscored opponents 197-126, or an average score of roughly 28-18, which is an impressive margin against playoff opponents.
And only three of those games were within the range of a touchdown, and each of those was won by a huge, game-defining play.
In January 2007, they scored a 21-20 win over Dallas when quarterback/holder Tony Romo bobbled the snap for a sure go-ahead field goal and was tackled by Seahawk Jordan Babineaux at the Seattle 2 with 1:14 left in the game.
In January 2011, the 41-36 upset of defending champion New Orleans turned on the 67-yard “Beast Quake” run by Marshawn Lynch, which started the whole seismic concern in the first place.
And in last year’s NFC title game against San Francisco, Richard Sherman made the historic pass deflection to teammate Malcolm Smith that secured the 23-17 win and the trip to the Super Bowl.
With the Hawks as double-digit favorites, the game is not expected to come down to such late-game heroics. If they take care of business, as has been their habit, they’ll be playing host to the NFC title game again next week.
Still, Carolina has won five straight and has had a habit of playing the Seahawks tough.
And if they can pull of the upset at CenturyLink, the seismographs surely will register the massive crashing to earth of the Seahawks fans’ high hopes.