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Originally published Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 6:45 PM

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Danny O'Neil

Seahawks' 12th Man looking for more reasons to cheer this season

Seattle's advantage at Qwest Field disappeared during 2008 season

Seattle Times NFL reporter

Seattle's 12th Man has been through a lot since the Seahawks moved into Qwest Field in 2002.

There was a lawsuit by some agricultural school in Texas over the Seahawks' use of the term, and there were questions about performance-enhancing decibels raised by the Giants in 2006.

The 12th Man was there when Seattle went to the Super Bowl and was present when Matt Hasselbeck was injured against Minnesota a year later when Seattle's franchise-record 12-game home winning streak came to an end.

But the Seahawks' 12th Man had never seen anything quite like what happened last year. At least not at Qwest Field, where Seattle went 2-6 and a home-field dominance that was among the best in the league evaporated amid a cloud of injuries.

The 12th Man didn't sit and watch the Seahawks struggle last season. The fans stood and screamed, but even that wasn't able to make a difference.

"Last year with the injury situation we had, we really couldn't defend the mystique of Qwest Field," defensive end Patrick Kerney said.

That's one reason Sunday's opener against St. Louis is so important. It's not just the season opener, it's the home opener. The first chance to show that last year was an aberration and that Qwest Field is a place where visitors can expect to be shouted down.

The Seahawks lost more home games in 2008 than all but four teams in the NFL. Seattle lost only seven games at home in the previous five seasons combined, tied with Indianapolis for second-fewest in the league in that time. The only team better at home was New England, which went 34-6 at home from 2003 to 2007.

Seattle established itself as a place where the fans loved to scream and opponents hated to play. Coach Mike Holmgren even awarded Seahawks fans a game ball in November 2005 after the crowd induced a flurry of false-start penalties by the Giants.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin couldn't believe how loud it was. He'd played in Seattle before — coaching the Jaguars when the Seahawks were playing at Husky Stadium — and he hadn't heard anything like that. When New York came to town the next year, a letter arrived from a league official saying there had been allegations that noise was piped into the stadium.

The Seahawks beat the Giants 42-30 in 2006 for a franchise-record 12th consecutive win at home. Seattle had built what every NFL team seeks: a home-field advantage both definitive and deafening.

The sound was there last year. The fury, however, was missing. Of Seattle's six home losses, the Seahawks held the lead at some point in four. It was the Seahawks' worst home record since going 1-7 at the Kingdome in 1992.

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It's fitting that this season starts with a home game, because if the Seahawks are going to bounce back, it's going to start here.

"Now that we're back, we're healthy and we're the team we were expected to be," Kerney said, "it's going to bring a little bit of that trouble back to our stadium.

"It's a long trip for teams, it's as loud a place as you're going to find in the league, and with the health of the team we have here, we should be able to take advantage of that."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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About Danny O'Neil

Danny O'Neil will comment on issues, events and personalities in the NFL. His column will appear on Sundays during the regular season. He also posts most days on the Seahawks Blog.
doneil@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2364

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