Veteran safety Roman Harper doesn’t need any reminders about the noise and atmosphere the Carolina Panthers can expect Saturday at CenturyLink Field when they face the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional round.
Harper was with New Orleans when the then-reigning Super Bowl champion Saints lost a wild-card game to a 7-9 Seahawks’ team in Seattle during the 2010 playoffs. The game is best remembered for the “Beast Quake” – the 67-yard touchdown run by the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch that prompted a crowd response that registered as a small earthquake on a seismometer a few blocks away.
Harper said Monday he understands why the crowds got more excited with each subsequent stiff arm and broken tackle during Lynch’s run.
“That’s probably one of the greatest runs of all-time, especially in playoff history by any player,” Harper said. “And just saying I was on the field kind of (stinks). But it is what it is and I’ve learned from it.”
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen also has played in Seattle, as a member of the Chicago Bears. Olsen said Seattle’s famous “12th Man” fan base is as loud as advertised.
“It’s hard to really describe it. So playoff football, coming off the Super Bowl, I can only imagine it’s probably even more so than when I was there a couple years ago,” Olsen said. “But it’s great. It’s what you’d expect. It’s the atmosphere you’d want in a playoff game.”
The Panthers are expected to have crowd noise piped in for their practices this week. But it will be tough to simulate the atmosphere at CenturyLink, which set a Guinness world record for stadium noise during December 2013 (since broken by Kansas City Chiefs fans).
Harper said the best thing the Panthers can do to deal with the noise is play well.
“There’s something about going into a hostile environment and getting their crowd and making them silent and having them sitting on their hands, and taking over a stadium like that,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing, and it’s not just words to be said.”
Leave early, arrive happy: The Panthers won’t be traveling to Seattle with the same routine as the last time Carolina played there in the playoffs.
In January 2006, the Panthers went cross-country on Saturday, one day before the NFC Championship Game. Then-coach John Fox’s decision to leave for the West Coast one day before the game didn’t sit well with the players.
“No, it didn’t,” said linebacker Thomas Davis, who was a rookie safety that season. “We’ve learned a lot from that day. We travel now to the West Coast two days before instead of a day before because your body’s not going to feel as good as it possibly can after coming off a long flight like that the day before. We understand that now and we’ll be much better prepared this go around.”
The Panthers plan to get to Seattle on Thursday night, nearly 48 hours before Saturday’s kickoff.
Davis also vividly remembers the 34-14 playoff loss to the Seahawks following the 2005 season. He recalls the injuries at running back that forced little-known Jamal Robertson to be the first-team running back.
Davis also remembered quarterback Jake Delhomme trying to force the ball to wide receiver Steve Smith, who had a host of defenders following him all game long. Smith caught five passes on 11 targets for 33 yards. One of the passes was intercepted and the final completion resulted in a fumble.
“We had a lot of guys hurt, and we were in the situation where we were trying to force the ball to our star player and they had three or four guys on him at times,” Davis said. “We’re in a much better place right now than we were in 2005.”
Injury update: No. 3 receiver Philly Brown suffered a subluxed shoulder injury during Saturday’s win against Arizona, an MRI revealed this weekend, and he’s listed as day-to-day.
Brown, a rookie, does not have structural damage to his shoulder. A subluxed shoulder injury essentially means shoulder instability.
Brown is Carolina’s lone speed option at receiver. He did not play in the Oct. 26 game against Seattle because of a concussion. If he can’t play this weekend, Brenton Bersin likely would see more time at receiver.