After riding the crowd noise at Qwest Field in their opener, the Seahawks hit the road this week where the din will be reversed for Sunday’s game against the Broncos in Denver.
The last time the Seahawks ventured to Denver was on a cold December day in 2006, so only 10 members of the current roster played in that 23-20 victory at Invesco Field.
But first-year offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was with the Broncos from 2006-08, so he knows what awaits the Seahawks on Sunday afternoon – when the temperature is expected to be near 90 degrees.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Bates said. “They’ve got good crowd support.”
Make that fanatical crowd support. The Orange-clad crowd in Denver is notorious for booing the ridiculously low number of no-shows when the attendance is announced. This boisterous brood that fills the 76,125-seat stadium also delights in generating a headache-inducing din when the opposing offense is on the field – creating a home-field advantage much like the 12th Man crowd at Qwest Field.
It’s one of the reason the Broncos have not lost a home opener since moving into Invesco in 2001, a run that has padded their league-best 23-3 record in home openers since 1984. And yes, this will be the Broncos’ 2010 home opener after they dropped their season opener to the Jaguars in Jacksonville last week.
But the Seahawks say they are prepared. Crowd noise has been blaring from speakers in practice not only this week, but since the start of training camp. A special emphasis was placed on dealing with crowd noise before the third preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome, and the Seahawks’ offensive starters passed that ear test.
“No question, his experience you can’t put a mark on it,” Bates said. “He’s seen every look; he’s seen every front, coverage, blitz. He’s way ahead of the game.”
It also helps that Hasselbeck was one of those players who was around the last time the Seahawks played in Denver – the others being center Chris Spencer, right tackle Sean Locklear, wide receivers Deion Branch and Ben Obomanu, linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill and defensive backs Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings and Jordan Babineaux.
Still, the Seahawks will be playing with an offensive line that includes a new starter at right guard – Stacy Andrews, who was acquired in the Sept. 5 trade with the Philadelphia Eagles and is stepping in to replace out-for-the-season Max Unger (toe surgery); and a second-game starter at left tackle – ex-Bronco Tyler Polumbus, who came to the Seahawks in an Aug. 31 trade with the Detroit Lions and is replacing injured first-round draft choice Russell Okung (sprained ankle).
“Stacy has had a great week of practice,” Bates said. “You’re talking about a guy who has played in the West Coast offense, so he has a lot of carryover from Philly. He’s a good football player. He’s a big man (6-7, 340 pounds). He’s athletic.”
Defensively, the Seahawks will not have the Qwest factor to help ignite their pass rush this week. In the opener at Qwest, the Seahawks got 11 hits on 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, which rattled him into a poor performance – especially in the second half, when Smith completed 11 of 25 passes after going 15-of-20 in the first half.
“We’ve emphasized that – somehow we’ve got to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback, whether it’s through a four-man rush, a five-man rush, a creative rush,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “Whatever we’ve got to do. Each week, we go into a game with that mindset.”
But generating a game-altering pass rush isn’t the only thing on Bradley’s mind this week.
“Their offense is well-coached; extremely well-coached,” he said. “They make checks and audibles at the line of scrimmage to get to the right plays. They shift and motion to try to see what your hand is and then go to it. That’s the thing that shows up most.”
Another thing that shows up is the unexpected.
“It varies from week to week,” Bradley said. “One week you might see them really emphasis 12 personnel and the next week it’s 22 personnel, then the next week it’s 10. And it’s like, which team are we going to get?”
Translation: The Broncos will use a variety of formations, featuring different numbers of running backs and tight ends, which allows them to spread the field or stick to more traditional personnel groupings.
“It forces the defense to say, ‘OK, let’s have a package for this; let’s have a package for that.’ And then there might be some adjusting as the game goes on,” Bradley said. “We’ve just got to be ready to adjust to whatever they show us.”
Just as the offense will have to adjust to it being extremely loud when they’re on the field this week.