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Cantilever roofs give Seahawks unique home-field edge

SEATTLE -- Joe Gibbs appreciates where his Redskins are as much as anyone.

Four consecutive wins to end the regular season sent Washington to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

The improbable, inspirational December surge, which followed the death of defensive leader Sean Taylor, also allowed Gibbs to rebound from what he calls the "lowest point" of his 16 years as a head coach. Gibbs called consecutive time outs at the end of a game five weeks ago, earning a 15-yard penalty and making Buffalo's winning field goal easier.

As for where the Redskins are going Saturday? Well, the Hall of Fame coach doesn't appreciate that so much.

"That's the good news," Gibbs said of the 10th playoff berth in his legendary career. "The bad news is we're going to Seattle. It's not a good place to go for a playoff game."

The Seahawks were 7-1 at home this season and are 34-7 at Qwest Field since Week 16 of the 2002 season. Only New England's 35-7 home mark is better during that span. Since 2001, Seattle is 42-14 at home, second only to the Patriots' 45-11.

That doesn't include the playoffs, in which the Seahawks are 3-1 at Qwest Field. That includes a 20-10 win over the Redskins in the teams' previous meeting, during the divisional playoffs in January 2006 on Seattle's way to the Super Bowl. That is Gibbs' only loss is six career games against the Seahawks.

"I think ... we went to Seattle not knowing," Washington running star Clinton Portis said. "That stadium was loud. The crowd was amazing."

It's not just that Seattle is starved for a title -- though it is, not having felt a major men's professional sports championship since the 1979 SuperSonics won the NBA.

And, no, it's generally not the weather. Saturday is expected to bring -- shocker! -- steady rain and temperatures in the mid 40s during the game, with gusty winds that will make it feel like the mid 30s. But Seattle's FieldTurf, which is near real grass without the mud, and a high-tech draining system generally neutralize the effects of most weather.

Seattle's home-field advantage largely comes from Qwest Field's cantilever roofs along each sideline. Each is 760-feet long, the same as three 747 jets parked end-to-end. The roofs hang over each upper decks of each sidelines and cover 70 percent of the 67,000 seats. They are supposedly designed to keep fans semidry during the many rainy games.

But effectively, the roofs are noise traps that push the fans' roars back onto the playing surface, making players' ears ring and grandstands shake. The Seahawks love to point out that their "12th Man" of fans has caused 68 false-start penalties by opponents during the last three seasons. The New York Giants had 11 in one memorable mess of a loss at Seattle in 2005.

The Minnesota Vikings' home inside the Metrodome is second in the league in that span, having produced 57 opponents' false starts.

"I would think that an indoor facility would be louder than outdoor, but I hear that Seattle is louder," said Redskins quarterback Todd Collins, whose four consecutive wins included a key victory last month at Minnesota.

He was last inside Qwest Field in 2002, when he was a backup with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seahawks were chronically mediocre.

At least one Redskins player -- a native of Lacey, Wash., about an hour south of Seattle, no less -- thinks the Seahawks' noise is artificially enhanced.

"That place had to be miked up because the last time we played there, it was ridiculous. We couldn't hear ourselves talk," running back Mike Sellers told The Washington Times this week. "For a stadium that small, it can't be that loud."

That made Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren -- and presumably the 67,000 locals who hold tickets for Saturday's game -- smile.

"Anyone who's been to a game here knows it's not artificial. It's all our fans," Holmgren said. "It's a learned activity for them. So you don't have to encourage them a lot.

"Now, I would suspect that if they think someone is accusing us of doing something like that, they might even come with a little more voice."

Holmgren grinned. About the only thing he didn't do was stomp his foot to emphasize his invitation to the fans.

This isn't the first time opponents have accused the Seahawks of piping in recorded noise. The Giants did after their false-start fiasco two seasons ago.

The NFL sent a memorandum early in the 2006 season, before the Giants played again in Seattle, about such complaints. A monitor from the league attended a game here that season to ensure there wasn't artificial amplification.

"It is quite an experience," Holmgren said of a Seattle home game. "The people that I have talked to this year -- that I might bump into at a store or something, that went to the game for the first time -- they can't believe it. They just cannot believe it.

"So, I suspect, if history tells us anything, that in the playoffs it will be noisy.

"It's one of the things when it is all said and done here for me I'll feel very, very good about: the fact that going to the game at Qwest Field is fun again. ... We need them Saturday, that's for sure."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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