Donnie Jones doesn’t have many fond memories in Seattle.
The Eagles’ veteran punter was drafted by the Seahawks in the seventh round in 2004, but spent just one subpar season with them. Then, from 2007 to 2011, Jones traveled back to Seattle five times as a member of the St. Louis Rams and left with five losses.
In that regard, Jones isn’t alone.
Darren Sproles is 0-2 at CenturyLink Field. Malcolm Jenkins, Stefen Wisniewski and Rodney McLeod are 0-1. Brandon Graham and Jason Kelce are 0-1 from the Eagles’ 2011 loss.
These guys aren’t alone either. It’s tough to win in Seattle. In fact, it’s tougher than any other NFL city.
Since the new stadium opened in 2002, the Seahawks are 82-34 at home (.707), good for the top home record in the NFL. Since 2012, when they drafted Russell Wilson and became Super Bowl-good, they’re 31-5 at home (.861).
So what makes it so tough to win there?
“We're about as far away as you can get. And it is a big trip,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday on a conference call with Philly reporters. “This stadium and the fans that show up, the 12s that come to our games are just ridiculously avid and loud and so loyal. It's an incredible environment. There's nothing you can say. It's just so loud and they just won't stop getting after it. They stand up and they holler the whole time.
“It's just the nature of this area and the people that show up. They do it for the (University of Washington) Huskies as well. It's built in. But it's about the noise and it's about the level that we play at when we're playing for them. It can be a distraction, so it's been a good a good factor over the years.”
The “12th man” in Seattle is notoriously loud. Fans at CenturyLink Field are among the loudest in the NFL as evidenced by the world record it once held for loudest outdoor stadium. The mark of 137.6 decibels was the world record until Kansas City took it back in 2014.
Even without the record, CenturyLink can cause trouble for opposing teams. While the Eagles have practiced inside at times this season to prepare for road games, head coach Doug Pederson said he’s thinking about spending Thursday and Friday in the bubble with loud crowd noise pumped in.
“The place is loud. It’s a loud place to play,” said safety Chris Maragos, who spent three seasons with the Seahawks and is one of the few players in the Eagles’ locker room to know the feeling of winning in the stadium. “The fan base is great out there. But I think the biggest thing is just being disciplined. Obviously, it’s a unique set of circumstances. Every game, there’s different things that are advantages for each team. I think just understanding what your responsibility is and then just doing that really well.”
One of the big concerns on Sunday will be limiting procedural penalties.
The Eagles have 15 false starts in 2016 after picking up five against Atlanta. Only four teams have more. They also have four delay of game penalties — again, just four teams have more.
Now the Eagles are going to a stadium where there have been 150 opponent false starts since 2005, most in the league.
“Going into this stadium, this 12th man — it's real,” Pederson said. “The last time that I was up there was with the Eagles a few years back, and it's a loud place. Those things are the things that keep your offense from executing and staying on the field, and this team definitely feeds off that and tries to get you into those second-and-long, third-and-long situations. The point of emphasis this week obviously is to be able to handle that and minimize those penalties.”
While the Eagles lost in Seattle in 2011 (31-14), they actually beat the Seahawks in their nest in 2008. Brent Celek and Jon Dorenbos were on the winning end of that one.
The only other Eagles who have won as a visitor at CenturyLink Field: Jason Peters in 2004, Stephen Tulloch in 2010.
“I definitely think a lot of people maybe let the crowd noise get in their head. Maybe. I don’t know,” said Allen Barbre, who played for the Seahawks in 2010 and 2011. “I think you just gotta go and do your thing and don’t let all that get in your head. I think they pride themselves on trying to get false starts as a crowd. You just have to go in there and play smart football.”
It’s obviously a little daunting to travel across the country to face a team that almost never loses on their home turf. But most on Wednesday downplayed the impact of crowd noise and said they just need to worry about their game.
“It obviously gets loud. I don’t think it’s as loud as this place,” Jones said, referring to the Linc. “It’s just another stadium. You really can’t focus on any of that. The field’s still the same. The lines are painted the same. Just go out and focus and execute your job.”
If it works, maybe Jones can finally leave Seattle with a pleasant memory.