This has been a year of upsets for Seattle. None saw them coming after consecutive 7-9 records, but here we are after upset wins over New England, Green Bay, and Dallas (which no longer seems like much of an upset).
Just how has this happened? How did the lowly Seahawks become a playoff contender?
It begins with Pete Carroll. He's a college coach, and college coaches don't normally succeed in the NFL. However, he is motivating a young team (their running back is only 26, their quarterback is a rookie, and their secondary's average age is 25, including seasoned veteran Marcus Trufant and his 31 years) using college tactics, and he has one of the best home crowds in any level of football.
NFL fans of non-NFC West teams might not know about the 12th Man at the Field Formerly Known As Qwest, but geologists do. During one of the biggest upsets in playoff history (when the 2010 Seahawks, the only team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record, beat the defending champion New Orleans Saints), the fans actually caused a small earthquake when Marshawn Lynch scored the game-clinching touchdown.
Every team that plays there understands how loud CenturyLink field gets. Coaches are commonly asked how they will prepare their players for the game, and often the answer is loudspeakers blaring crowd noise during practice. Even then, it often isn't enough- the Seahawks' official site states that CenturyLink Field leads the NFL in opposing false start penalties since 2005 with 113 false starts caused.
It's not just about false starts- with a young team like the Seahawks, having the crowd at your back is a big morale booster. Lynch runs harder, the defense plays tougher, the offensive line makes bigger blocks, and the team as a whole is amped up when they get the crowd in the game. They feed off the energy of the crowd, which never quits, much like the Oklahoma City Thunder and their crowd (which brings collegiate levels of enthusiasm when cheering their team on).
Critics are going to knock the Seahawks and their 1-4 record on the road, but you have to look at their opposition. Three of those games have been against NFC West rivals, all of whom have tough defenses and balanced offenses. They had to face the Cardinals back when Arizona had a starting running back (in University of Phoenix Stadium, which has the fourth most opposing false starts since 2005 despite not opening until 2006), making that game tougher than it now looks.
Of their two non-division games, they had one against a weak team (Carolina, who they beat), and one against the Lions, who have clawed their way back to 4-4. Oddly enough, the Lions' home stadium also makes the false start short list, coming in at third most since 2005.
So, in short, Seattle has had to face two of the next three loudest stadiums, they've had to face all of their division rivals, and they've had to face three teams that were playing better than normal at the time. Doesn't sound like a fair test of road capability, does it?
Here's something even more impressive:
The Seahawks have never lost by double digits, despite these obstacles.
Yes, home field is a big factor for the Seahawks, but don't think of it as the only strength they have. With a fierce defense and a powerful running game fueled by Skittles, they travel well. These aren't attributes that are created by crowd noise, but rather greatly enhanced by it.
The Seahawks are not an at-home beast that becomes weak on the road, no matter what you think of their record. Still, as the 2010 New Orleans Saints will tell you, the Seahawks have one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. Don't ever underestimate the power of the CenturyLink 12th Man.
The author is a Cowboys fan, but he has been talking up the Seahawks all year. He picked all three home upsets by the Seahawks (Patriots here, Packers here,and Cowboys here.) If he had to pick a surprise Super Bowl candidate, he'd pick the Seahawks.
He is also trying to figure out why he is getting sick at the worst possible time. You can offer him your condolences in the comments section down below, or on Facebook (search RGDSports@yahoo.com) and Twitter (@RGDSports). Or maybe just try to guess the team on his hat in his goofy-looking picture.