Photos by Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB
Photos by Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB

Can You Hear Me Now?

There isn’t a more uninviting place for a visiting NFL quarterback than CenturyLink Field, where Seattle’s 12th Man might as well be in the huddle screaming into a megaphone. Lean in close and listen to Bucs QB Mike Glennon explain how bad Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers will get it on Sunday

The home-field advantage at CenturyLink Field, where Seattle will host the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, needs little introduction. The Seahawks are 16-1 there over the past two seasons, and the famous 12th Man twice set the Guinness World Record for noise at an outdoor season this season. How, exactly, does an opposing quarterback function in that ruckus? We asked Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon, the only visiting QB to post a passer rating above 100 at CenturyLink in the past two years, to describe the task of running an offense in one of the NFL’s most hostile environments. His Buccaneers lost on Nov. 3 in overtime, 27-24, but the rookie had the best touchdown-to-interception ratio (2:0) at Seattle of anyone not named Russell Wilson since 2012. Somehow, Glennon managed not to get a headache.

By Mike Glennon

I thought I had played in some loud atmospheres in college at N.C. State, but nothing could have prepared me for our Week 9 game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. In most NFL stadiums when you’re on the road, it gets loud on third down and whenever you’re in the red zone. But in Seattle? It’s loud on every single down, no matter where you are on the field. It feels like there’s someone with a megaphone screaming in your ear. Only it seems more amplified than a megaphone. The deafening noise has a lot to do with the architecture of the stadium, but you have to give those fans a lot of credit.

The emphasis for us going into the game was communicating well in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. We prepared by using speakers during our practices all week, taking more than 100 reps against the noise of screaming crowds. I don’t know where Coach Schiano found that soundtrack. I was hoarse by the end of each practice, and I even started losing my voice a little on the Friday before the game. Coach told me to drink lemon juice mixed with hot water. It actually helped.

My voice was fine by game day, and it had to be. I was basically just screaming at the top of my lungs in the huddle. I was trying to enunciate, scan the huddle and look my teammates in the eyes, to give them a chance to read my lips if they had to. The huddle just seemed to get tighter than it normally does; everyone was leaning in, trying to get closer to me, and all eyes were on me.

seattle-loudest-sign

When you visit most other NFL stadiums, it gets loud when you walk up to the line of scrimmage before a play. But as soon as a play ends in Seattle, it gets loud again pretty much right away. I had to keep covering the earholes on my helmet to hear my coach through the headset. Another point of emphasis during our week of preparation was to make sure the coach who called in the play was really clear and enunciated everything. He would give the call to me twice, to make sure I got it right, but he couldn’t speed through the calls.

Yet we had to get the play in quickly, and get in and out of the huddle quickly. That way, if we did have to audible, we’d have enough time left on the play clock. We left audibles on for calls that had them—the noise didn’t change the adjustments we could make—but I had to allow for extra time to execute them. If I wanted to audible in this environment, I had to walk along the line of scrimmage from tackle to tackle, telling my teammates the change. Normally we can communicate a change within two or three seconds, but I gave myself about five or six seconds in Seattle to be on the safe side.

I was trying to enunciate, scan the huddle and look my teammates in the eyes, to give them a chance to read my lips if they had to.

My teammates did a great job communicating outward, or repeating the audible call from the guards to the tackles, and the tackles to the tight ends. We really didn’t have any communication problems the whole game, which was pretty impressive given how loud it was. It’s typical to start any road game using a silent cadence on plays out of the shotgun, but we can often switch out of it later on when the noise isn’t too bad.

Inside the Link

What makes CenturyLink Field so loud? It's all by design. FULL STORY

Against the Seahawks, we had to use the silent count out of the shotgun for the whole game; the linemen couldn’t hear me even from a couple yards back. The silent count actually helped us a few times, because we got them to jump and got a few free plays. On my first touchdown, a 12-yard pass to Tim Wright, I knew that a defender had jumped offside, so I gave our receiver a chance to catch a ball that I might not have thrown if they weren’t offside. I think we got the Seahawks to jump twice, but that was a while ago, so they might have cleaned it up since then.

There was only one drive when it actually was pretty quiet. We had just scored a touchdown to go up 14-0, and a special teams turnover—Seattle fumbled the kickoff—gave us the ball right back on their 31-yard line. I threw a ball down to the 4-yard line, and then a little pop pass thrown by running back Mike James put us up 21-0. I actually heard a few boos after that, and I can’t imagine those fans boo too often. But Seattle went down and scored on the next drive, and that kind of got them back into things.

There wasn’t another stadium this year that compared to Seattle’s raucous environment. We played in the Georgia Dome, Ford Field, the Superdome—none of them come even close. The noise was just overwhelming, and I can imagine it’s going to be even worse with the Super Bowl on the line.

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258 comments
jelloboy
jelloboy

Ugh, who are these wimps complaining about wanting a penalty because the crowd is too loud? Are you kidding? Stick to Glee you pieces of trash. The only way there should be a penalty is if the crowd noise is being pumped in by the stadium (looking at your St Louis Rams - Greatest Fraud on Earth years).

JohnAlport1
JohnAlport1

The question nobody wants to address is whether one-sided fan noise --- when it gets to the point of interfering with the play of the game --- is good for the game of football.  I happened to be watching some of a Seattle home game earlier this year from a sportsbar in Atlanta that has every game on a different big screen TV.  I can't remember exactly who they were playing, but the opposing offense looked like the Keystone Cops because they couldn't understand what play was being called, the audible, or the snap count.    Here's what I noticed.  Almost nobody in the crowded sportsbar was watching THAT game.  Occasionally, somebody would come by, watch for a bit, and laugh at the hapless QB trying to get some movement from his offense, and then he would move on to another game. So I would ask these questions.  Is this GOOD football?  Is this GOOD for the game of football?

MortimerSnerd
MortimerSnerd

I bet it's a lot louder in Seattle than it was in Chapel Hill (heh).

badbeatya
badbeatya

Here's the funny thing about this subject... I would be willing to bet that the 49ers new digs, Levi's Stadium, is immediately going to be the 2nd loudest open-air stadium in the league...& you know what they say about 'imitation being the sincerest form of flattery...


but let us not forget that this should all be in rooted in the enjoyment and fun of a GAME & there should be no room for hate & animosity.  at least these guys are using this rivalry to do some good in both communities:  http://blog.sfgate.com/saracevic/2014/01/15/49ers-join-s-f-seattle-fans-in-fundraising-effort/

eunice12
eunice12

Is there any chance a high tech solution will come allowing the other players to hear through their helmets and block out the noise? I have never been to a live game and never will with all the idiots screaming their heads off and pretending that is why they came, however one guy said the qb uses a helmet microphone. Is that true?

MarkPost
MarkPost

Noisy audiences is just a PR thing and sports writers take the bait every time.  It's more to secure money for the team by motivating fans to attend ("We NEED you so be sure to pay $500 for your playoff ticket so you can scream yourself hoarse!").

RudolphSchmidt
RudolphSchmidt

It's actually their 13th man.  Their 12th man is the PED's.  Just the facts.

JimCody
JimCody

Seahawks would've gone 4-4 or 5-3 at best if they played at home in the dump the 49ers play in. So at best they would have been 11-5. The real 12th man is the stadium architect.

picklejuice
picklejuice

The noise in Seattle has been there since the 80's. As a Seahawks fan during the miserable late 80's and 90's, I can tell you that it was loud even when the team had a miserable record. Noise doesn't win games on its own. It might cost a team one or 2 drives during the course of a game, but it won't decide a game. What makes Seattle fans unique is that we are just as loud when the team is 4-12 as 12-4. We are just as loud when the Seahawks are winning or losing a game. That Seattle is loud isn't the problem teams have, its that there is no relief. In other stadiums you can quiet the crowd by making good plays. That just doesn't happen in Seattle.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

10,000 lbs elephant in the stadium: unsportsmanlike conduct.  There comes a point (decibel level) when such fan noise is distortive of the outcome and crosses into unfairness, not unlike fans over-reaching for foul balls.


NFL's a competition between players & coaches, hired by owners with varying degrees of commitment & skill, both sides subjected to the same weather & rule book and traditionally accorded home field advantage (HFA).  But with so much today, a good thing (HFA / foul balls) is taken to extreme, like a child with no guidance, while most sit on their hands in scared silence when they should make noise in protest. 


Excessive fan-noise (or involvement) is wrong, and always has been ('85 Bears @ MIA).  Cheer, boo, pout, laugh or cry, but let players & coaches prove their mettle and settle the outcome themselves. 

badbeatya
badbeatya

@JohnAlport1It's good for football.  It gets the fans of BOTH teams more interested and involved.  The home crowd gets amped up and really into the game.  The visiting team's fans will remember and plan to respond in kind when they are the home fans.  This is one aspect of a great rivalry, especially a divisional rivalry.  This subject alone gets the fans involved on many levels and via numerous media outlets.  Anything that helps to keeps the fans passionate for their team to such a degree is a positive for any sport.

Why do the fans pay for such high ticket, concession, and merchandise prices?  Why do the fans fill open-air stadiums in the blinding rain; the freezing cold; or sweltering heat?  PASSION for their team and sport.  Professional sports would be a losing business model without the support of the fans. Period.

kmac360
kmac360

@JohnAlport1 It's great for football.  It generates debate and conversation, which is what the NFL wants.  New stadiums will be designed similarly.  Also, your evidence is ridiculous.  Nobody in Atlanta was watching a Seattle game?  Weird.  I don't understand for a second why you think a loud stadium is bad for football.  It's not that nobody wants to address it - it's that it's not a question anyone cares about asking.

Frotoon
Frotoon

Now show an Atlanta game on one of the TVs in a crowded bar in Seattle. Even fewer people would watch it. It's got nothing to do with the noise of the stadium. It has to do with what games are relevant to a particular city.

kmac360
kmac360

@eunice12 Wow.  Ok, what do you mean "pretending?"  And the QB uses a helmet that has a headset through which he hears coaches call in the play they'd like him to run.  The issue in Seattle is that it's too loud for the QB to always hear those calls.  I get why you have issues with live events, but until you've been to a game, reserve judgement.  There are a few idiots, for sure.  Any time you get 60,000+ people in the same place and serve them alcohol, you're going to have that.  That being said, the overwhelming majority of fans at games are cool.  I've been to C-Link a number of times, as well as SF, Buffalo and Oakland as a visiting fan.  I got a hard time, but never worried about my own safety.  

pugetsmith
pugetsmith

@MarkPost So an opposing teams QB wrote this article for the media to have BAIT for people to read? That is wild!

EricGoldberg
EricGoldberg

...says everyone whose own home team is sitting at home watching the playoffs on TV.

bigdaddychi
bigdaddychi

@JimCody 6-2 on the road, so by those numbers they would be 12-4 tied with SF.  Still chance of #1 seed, but that isn't what happened and made up scenarios mean nothing.  

Michael Magnussen
Michael Magnussen

@JimCody Really? They were 6-2 on the road, idiot. What makes you think they would have lost more at home?

badbeatya
badbeatya

Uh, Seattle was 6-2 away from Century Link

pk_sea
pk_sea

@JimCody Remember 49er fans, we cheer loud when our team is on defense, and are quiet when we are on offense. This is so our quarterback can call plays. Don't forget to wear red on game day.

FortyFkinNiners
FortyFkinNiners

@JimCody Candelstick a dump? What an unkind thing to say. Although I admit the food could have been better.

BargainTuesday
BargainTuesday

@picklejuice I lived near Seattle most of my youth and would go to games every now and then in the 90s.  It was never that loud.  It is 100%, unquestionably, the way the stadium is built.  As for those "records", it's pretty easy when you tell everyone that you're going to go for it and to bring megaphones and then "1...2...3...ok everybody be loud!".  It's the dumbest "record" ever.  (Has any team attempting to break it even failed yet?)

eunice12
eunice12

@picklejuice You must have trouble understanding the game if you think a drive or 2 is unimportant in 60 minutes.

bigdaddychi
bigdaddychi

@KeysSteven Please, or maybe the fans of your team should get involved.  If I'm paying $100 per game, I'm going to get the most out of my experience and if something I do can give them an advantage even better.  

nastynick626
nastynick626

@KeysSteven

Every team in the league has the same opportunity to bring the noise but they don't. 

kaiser28
kaiser28

@KeysSteven Much less a Seattle advantage than the mile-high altitude, or suffocating humidity, or snowstorms, or early games back East for Western teams, or fans throwing objects at players.

JimNoonan
JimNoonan

@KeysSteven Well it's not *exactly* like a fan reaching for a ball. Is it? An interesting theory, though it is. It's the difference between someone screaming at you and someone punching you in the face, I think.

Pizzasaurus
Pizzasaurus

@KeysSteven  Crowd noise used to be a delay of game penalty - on the home team defense. Not sure why it still isn't. Otherwise, every team in the league is going to be demanding retrofits to their stadiums to make crowd noise so disruptive that opposing offenses can't function. In the meantime I'd think every team would want to blast music or jet engine noises at ear-damaging levels every time an opposing team gets the ball. What's the difference between that and what Seattle does?

daddyratty
daddyratty

@kmac360 @JohnAlport1 I disagree that the NFL truly wants debate and conversation.  Think Stabler and the Holy Roller play.  Think about how much conversation and debate that play has generated in the 35 years since then.  But in the ensuing off-season this play was considered illegal and so has never been able to happen again.  There's inherent risk in a deliberate fumble -- it's not as if the trajectory of a careening football is very predictable.  Why should teams be forbidden from taking on this risk?  Just think about the "debate and conversation" that would be generated on a regular basis.

bigdaddychi
bigdaddychi

@BargainTuesday @picklejuice That is incorrect, in 1984 they created a rule if you can remember back then that was initiated because of teh Kingdome fans amongst others.  I can remember seeing John Elway whining to refs because he couldn't hear.  

pugetsmith
pugetsmith

@BargainTuesday@picklejuice You're right, the records aren't important. What is important, is that an opposing teams QB wrote this article describing the impact that the 12th man had when he came up here.

If Tampa had won, the game this weekend would be in Whiner country. Obviously, the crowd noise has an impact...record or no record, the stadium is louder than any other because of the fans.

GI_Styles_SES
GI_Styles_SES

@BargainTuesday @picklejuice 1. Yes. Kansas City broke the record mid-season against Oakland, I think. There was 30 seconds to go with the Chiefs up by like 20, and then they told everyone to yell loudly, so you've got a point there. 2. Seattle broke the record twice. The first time came from Michael Bennett sacking Kaepernick on a 3rd down, which I think completely pushed them out of Field Goal range. The second was against the Saints and I think it happened during the Coleman Touchdown in the 2nd half (The Bennett TD broke the old record, but narrowly missed out on the KC record). So it wasn't a matter of the megaphones telling everyone to yell very loud (at least not for Seattle). They were genuinely screaming their arses off over there when it happened.

nastynick626
nastynick626

@Pizzasaurus @KeysSteven You have Arrowhead, the Superdome, Century Link, and I'm sure if the other fan bases had some heart other stadiums would be loud.  Give me a break.  You probably would like it if we hung a flag from each players hip and stared playing flag football.

pk_sea
pk_sea

@Pizzasaurus @KeysSteven Some fans are louder than others. It's just as loud at Arrowhead. and that is open air. Seattle (and KC) can't help it that other team's fans are complacent. I would call it cheating if the stadium pipes in noise on plays, but that's not what happens. 

kmac360
kmac360

@daddyratty @kmac360 @JohnAlport1 It's a good point.  The same line of thinking could be said for the "Fail Mary" play last year.  I guess what I'm getting at is that I think the home field advantage topic generates conversation and publicity for a team that historically has not been a huge draw outside of the Pac NW.

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

@DiegoCerda419

were you alive when the whiners won their last one?That was an original post by the way.

AJDembroski
AJDembroski

@craazyville @Pizzasaurus @KeysSteven 1st off, there is no helmet microphone. There is a speaker, it only goes one way and it's shut off when the play clock hits 15 seconds.

Secondly, prior to the helmet speaker, plays were relayed in by substitutes... how exactly does the speaker change anything?

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