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Seahawks fans' invitation to Jets: C'mon, feel the noise

Qwest Field before a Seahawks game.

Qwest Field before a Seahawks game. Credit: AP

The music came blasting through the speakers, filling the Jets' indoor practice facility with pulsating beats.

The din was deafening.

But Rex Ryan kept the volume turned up for the sake of his players.

"We have to just let it go and make it so loud where it's miserable for all of us," the Jets' coach said.

Most of his players have no idea what awaits them Sunday in Seattle. It's been four years since the Jets traveled west to face the Seahawks. Back then, CenturyLink Field was known as Qwest Field. But the atmosphere remains the same.

Team owner Paul Allen -- who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates -- set out to create an outdoor space that would earn the reputation as the league's loudest venue. And he succeeded.

Sound reverberates off the partial roof, bouncing off the metal bleachers and the cantilevered upper decks that overhang the lower sections of the 67,000-seat stadium. The effect is a cauldron of commotion, an uproar so loud that it's impossible to ignore. And that amplified crowd noise is the soul of the Seahawks, who will look to improve to 5-0 at home with a win over the Jets.

"Whenever I'm back there on a kickoff return, I can feel the energy the fans are giving me," former Jet and current Seattle running back Leon Washington said of the crowd's "12th man" effect. "We know when opponents come here to play us, it will be a tough task for them to get a win."

But Ryan's Jets (3-5) are in "must-win" mode about 3,000 miles away from home, as a loss Sunday likely would force them to win at least six of their final seven to make the playoffs.

Making matters worse, opposing offenses have racked up 113 false-start penalties at CenturyLink Field since 2005, the highest average in the NFL. There's simply no way to manufacture the stadium's frenetic feel. But Ryan almost went deaf trying.

"You turn it up as loud as you can, and it's brutal," he said. "The thing you can't simulate is how they're literally on top of you. But the noise is something we think we can control. Pumping the music, the noise as high as we can. To be honest with you, it's a relief when the defense is out there. Now you can turn that stuff down a little bit."

Jets fan Jon Knight has witnessed the power of the people firsthand. On many a Sunday, he's felt the stadium shake and his eardrums pulsate, courtesy of the "12th man."

Knight was at CenturyLink Field the day running back Marshawn Lynch shook the ground -- literally -- during his epic tackle-defying 67-yard touchdown run against the Saints in an NFC wild-card game in 2011.

(With a laugh, Knight said he left the stadium a few minutes before Lynch's moment to catch the start of the Jets-Colts playoff game that same day.)

But he's seen plenty of big plays since then. And that's why Knight, 45, can't help but be nervous about the Jets' chances Sunday.

The native of Maplewood, N.J., a longtime Jets season-ticket holder before relocating to the Seattle area six years ago, said fans in the tri-state area "have no clue" how loud the stadium gets.

"There's times I've gone home with headaches because of the noise level," said Knight, a graphic designer whose fiancee is a merchandise manager at the Seahawks Pro Shop downtown. "I go to AC/DC concerts, KISS concerts -- nothing. I go to CenturyLink, I come home with a headache. The noise level [at MetLife Stadium] is nothing compared to what they do here. They're not going to be able to hear Sanchez in the huddle."

The crowd noise has reached 112 decibels, almost as loud as a Boeing 747 (130 decibels), according to the team's website. And the "12th man" has been known to move the earth. At the same moment the stadium erupted on Lynch's monster touchdown run against the Saints, the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network registered a blip on the seismograph.

It's no surprise that the Giants were flagged for 11 false-start penalties in their 2005 road game against the Seahawks.

Jets tight end Dustin Keller vividly recalled the hostility that greeted them on Dec. 21, 2008, the last time the Jets ventured into Seattle. "I remember it was cold," Keller said of that 13-3 loss. "We were getting hit by snowballs. It was a crazy day."

Snow won't be an issue this time around. But expect fans -- and the Seahawks' noted "Blue Thunder" drum line -- to try to confuse the Jets' offense.

"Our fans are incredibly cranked up every time we go," said Seattle's Pete Carroll, who was fired as head coach of the Jets after one season (1994).

" . . . They just won't back off and they won't sit down."

The fans have been the fabric of the Seahawks' organization since its inception in 1976. In 1984, former Seahawks president and general manager Mike McCormack retired the No. 12. In 2003, the tradition of hoisting the "12th MAN" flag was born -- a ritual that's carried out before kickoff of every home game by a former Seahawks great, local celebrity or sports personality.

The No. 12 also is placed on the inside collar of every Seahawks jersey.

"The fans are a major part of what they do," said Knight, who lives in Issaquah, Wash., a small town just outside of Seattle.

Jets safety LaRon Landry, however, refused to make a big deal of CenturyLink Field's animated atmosphere. "I don't buy into the crowd. Never happens," he said.

Landry's one and only playoff appearance was in Seattle when he was a rookie with the Redskins in 2007. Washington lost, 35-14, in that NFC wild-card game, but Landry wasn't about to give the fans any credit. "We kind of let it slip away," he said. "It wasn't anything they did."

Knight will be among the sea of blue-and-lime-green Seahawks supporters on Sunday, proudly wearing his green custom No. 67 Jets jersey. But he won't be alone. He helped organize a Saturday "pub crawl" and game-day tailgating for more than 100 Jets fans who flew in from the East Coast.

Knight has witnessed the "12th Man" effect countless times in person. But on this particular Sunday, he's hoping the Jets will be the first team to tame the raucous crowd in 2012 en route to a victory.

"The fans have this belief that they're invincible at CenturyLink," Knight said. "And maybe cocky is right where we want them."

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