Packers Making First Trip To Noisy Qwest Field

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If the Packers had a concrete formula for how they handled the noise in Minnesota's Metrodome two weeks ago, they'd certainly patent it because they'll need it again on Monday night at Seattle's Qwest Field.

Known as one of the loudest stadiums in all of football, Qwest Field features a partial roof that covers 70 percent of the seating area, making the noise from the crowd reverberate back down to the field. And as with any home venue, the more successful Seattle has been, including winning the NFC Championship last year, the louder the stadium has become.

It has created a distinct home-field advantage for the Seahawks, who have won 14 of their last 15 games there dating back to the start of the 2005 season. It also has wreaked havoc with some opposing offenses, contributing to a whopping 11 false start penalties by the New York Giants in one game last season.

Coincidentally, Monday night (Nov. 27) will be the one-year anniversary of that game, which prompted Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren to give the game ball to the home fans after a crucial overtime victory.

The Packers' goal, of course, is to not give those home fans enough to cheer about.

"It won't be a factor if we jump up on them early and take the crowd out of the game," tight end Bubba Franks said. "The coaches are trying to prepare us that we've never heard anything like it. If it's louder than it was in Minnesota, that's going to be amazing. I seriously believe Minnesota is the loudest stadium we've ever played in."

The Packers have never played at Qwest Field, which opened in 2002, but getting ahead early certainly helped handle the environment at the Metrodome on Nov. 12.

With a field goal and a turnover to set up a touchdown, the Packers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. They did fall behind 14-10 but trailed for less than half a quarter before retaking the lead for good by halftime.

By using a silent count and signaling for audibles with hand motions rather than calls or cadence, the Packers committed just two pre-snap penalties, a false start early in the first quarter and a delay of game midway through the fourth.

They also converted a respectable nine of 19 attempts on third down, when crowd noise tends to get the loudest for an opposing offense, and had some of their key plays on third downs - the TD pass to Noah Herron in the first quarter, the catch-and-lateral by Greg Jennings and Donald Driver in the third quarter, and a 20-yard catch over the middle by Ruvell Martin in the fourth quarter. Those latter two third-down conversions led to field goals.

"We don't have any chemistry or anything," Franks said of handling the noise. "It's just watch the ball, line up and play.

"You don't want to be that guy jumping offsides consistently because you can't hear. So you kind of move off the guy next to you, and he moves off the guy next to him. But if he jumps, then you jump, so you have to trust that the guard will watch the center, and the tackle will watch the guard so the tight end can watch the tackle. You just take it one play at a time, that's all you can do."

Several factors will add to the atmosphere for the home Seahawks on Monday night.

{sportsad300}For one, like the Packers, they are coming off a frustrating loss they want to put behind them as quickly as possible. In addition, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will be returning to the lineup after missing four games with a sprained knee, and running back Shaun Alexander is playing in his first home game after missing six games with a broken foot.

Alexander returned last week at San Francisco but had just 37 yards on 17 carries, and Holmgren felt he ran understandably tentative after having to stay off the foot for so long.

"I expect a big jump this week," Holmgren said. "I think he's excited about it. He feels confident now that he went through kind of a test with his foot and he came out OK, I'm hopeful now we can get back in gear."

The Packers will do their best to prevent that and, as is customary prior to road games, have practiced this week with crowd noise piped in during the offensive snaps.

How much that actually helps is up for debate, but at a minimum it gets the players focused on the type of environment they're about to play in, knowing they can't let the noise become a distraction, no matter how fired up Seattle's fans are.

"The biggest thing we can do to combat that is make plays, shut the crowd out," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "They're going to be loud and excited because it's Monday night and Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander are back, so it's just going to be something we'll have to deal with, and hopefully we'll make some plays to counteract that and quiet them down a little bit."

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