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Originally published January 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 2, 2008 at 10:52 PM

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Hawks fans pump up the volume

The crowd noise at Qwest Field contributes to opponents' false-start penalties — and revs up Seattle players.

Seattle Times staff reporter

KIRKLAND — The Seahawks know their fans will be into the playoff game against the Washington Redskins on Saturday. It's a perk they've been able to count on every home game.

"You can ask any team that's been here. They'd probably tell you it's the loudest stadium they've probably ever been in," Seahawks running back Maurice Morris said.

The numbers say it all for Seattle, which is making its fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs. The Seahawks are 7-1 at home this season and 33-7 in regular-season games at Qwest Field since 2003. That mark is tied for second-best in the NFL during that span. Seattle is 3-1 in home playoff games since 2005, and in 24 regular-season games since the start of the 2005 season, opposing teams have committed 68 false-start penalties, by far the most in the NFL.

That's crowd noise.

"Just that by itself speaks to how effective they can be," safety Deon Grant said.

Adds linebacker Julian Peterson, "A lot of people say ... 'We see people jumping offsides.' But they never really get to experience it until they come to the game, and then they realize why this is one of the loudest crowds I've been around."

Defensive players have to call signals amid the din, too, but there they are, raising their arms, urging the crowd to get loud. It never fails to have an effect. The Seahawks ride the energy wave, and big plays happen.

"We have the best fans in the NFL," Morris said. "When the defense is out there on the field, it's hard for our guys to make calls on defense, so I can imagine what the offense is like for the opponents."

Spontaneous and unsolicited chants of "Seahawks! Seahawks!" have broken out in the middle of games this season. Opponents not only have to deal with the long trip to Seattle — Washington is flying cross-country after a shortened week of practice — but they also have to face a quality opponent and a wild crowd.

"We're going to travel five hours and go play out there at their place. That's hard to do," Washington coach Joe Gibbs said.

Washington did that two years ago, playing at Qwest Field in the divisional round of the playoffs. The visitors lost 20-10.

"We were complaining two years ago about not being able to hear there. So now we've got the opportunity to go back," Washington running back Clinton Portis said. "We know what to prepare for, we know what to expect. Two years ago, we didn't know. We went into that blind. The crowd was into the game, and it caused us a lot of problems."

The fans will try to do the same Saturday afternoon.

Last season, every wild-card home team won in the playoffs, including the Seahawks over Dallas. The year before, only one of four home teams was victorious, as was the case in 2004.

But ask any coach in the league — he would rather have his team playing at home for as long as possible in the playoffs. In the case of the Seahawks, it's a huge advantage because of their success rate at Qwest Field and the fact that they don't have to travel this weekend after three East Coast trips in December.

Washington, however, is 3-0 under Gibbs as the visiting team in the wild-card round, most recently winning at Tampa Bay in January 2006. But the Seahawks will have a distinct and audible advantage.

"They gear it up for all the big games, so I'm not worried about that," Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu said of the fans. "They'll be on their A game."

Notes

• Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck practiced Tuesday, two days after landing awkwardly on his right wrist during the Atlanta game.

• Seahawks DT Rocky Bernard practiced for the first time in more than a week, as did LT Walter Jones.

• Seattle placed DE Baraka Atkins on injured reserve with an ankle injury. WR Logan Payne was signed to the 53-man active roster from the practice squad to take Atkins' spot, and the Seahawks signed DT Kelly Talavou to the practice squad. Talavou is an undrafted rookie from Utah.

• Renowned mountain climber Jim Whittaker of Port Townsend will raise a giant blue nylon "12" flag at 10 a.m. today atop the Space Needle, replacing the tree-shaped lights that were there for the holidays.

• Thursday, fans can stop by Qwest headquarters downtown (1600 Seventh Ave.) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and sign another huge flag as part of a pep rally. Friday will be Blue Friday; fans are encouraged to wear Seahawks attire or blue to work or school.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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