SEATTLE — In the end, the silence at CenturyLink Field was deafening.
At the venue where the Seahawks were thought to be invincible, a fan base renowned for its ability to rattle opponents sat stunned. And so did the team that had come to believe, at least in the Russell Wilson era, that they would figure out something, somehow, some way, to prevail at the Clink.
Seattle’s home-field magic, which the Wilson-led Seahawks had always been able to muster, even when their fate appeared most dire, never showed up.
And just like that, in the wake of a 17-10 loss to Arizona, one had to wonder if this defeat would have a more far-reaching effect than merely a delay of the Seahawks’ clinching celebration.
Was their home mystique shattered — or at least cracked? Did a motivated Cardinals team just show the rest of the league that they need not abandon all hope when in the presence of the vaunted 12th man?
Call it the Tiger Woods Syndrome: Once vulnerability is shown, the intimidation factor can be hard to reclaim. In this case, the Cardinals pulled back the curtain on Oz, and revealed a Seattle team that struggled on offense and special teams, unable to capitalize on the four turnovers they were gifted by the Seahawk defense.
“We had a lot of stuff, cool things to throw at them, and things we wanted to get in there, the downfield stuff, and we tried them,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We used everything. We just couldn’t find the hookups we normally do.”
“Offensively, we were just off by a hair,” Wilson added.
The Seahawks wrote it off as a blip, an aberration — even a welcome wake-up call. The lesson learned, said Doug Baldwin, was that a home-field advantage is different than a home-field birthright.
“If there’s a positive I take away, it’s a good thing it happened here because now we know we’re not invincible at home,” Baldwin said. “This is going to help us not only with the next game next week but through the playoffs if we get home-field advantage.
“Ultimately, we want to be able to win the games wherever we are, but especially at home. It’s going to make us refocus ourselves that even though we’re going at home, we need just as much attention to detail as if we were playing away.”
Especially against an opponent fighting for its life, as all will be in the postseason. The Cardinals had the added motivation of last year’s humiliation at CenturyLink eating away at them.
“If you’ve got any pride or care about football, when a team beats you 58-0, you think about it,” said Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. “And it stuck with us. People ask, ‘You get a butt-whupping, does it stay on you awhile?’ That one stayed on us for a whole year.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who wasn’t with the team during last year’s debacle — but was there in Arizona for the Seahawks’ decisive 34-22 thumping earlier this season — hammered home the pride factor during a fiery pep talk on Friday.
“It was basically about being tough, coming into this environment and not being pushed around, doing the pushing and taking over, and that’s what we did today,’’ Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer said.
Seahawk defensive end Red Bryant, who was around before Seattle’s home field became so dominant, paid heed to the power of an opponent with a score to settle. Especially such a lopsided score.
“I know how they feel, because I’ve felt like that before,’’ he said.
And Bryant echoed Baldwin’s take that the Seahawks had better gear up for teams hellbent to neutralize the 12th-man edge.
“Everyone knows if we handle our business and get another win, we’ll have home-field throughout the playoffs,’’ Bryant said. “But that’s not going to stop people from coming in and trying to get a win. Today, we got an example, if we’re fortunate enough to get home field, of the type of effort other teams are going to give.”
Baldwin acknowledged “this stigma, this mystique about Century Link and the 12th Man and everything, where you just feel you have an extra edge when you’re at home ... At the same time, on any given Sunday, anything can happen, and that’s another NFL football team over there.”
Perhaps most jarring of all for the Seahawks was Wilson looking more human than he ever has in the friendly confines of CenturyLink. The miracle comeback he executed earlier this season against Tampa Bay wasn’t forthcoming, the last vestige of hope disappearing with the pass that clanged off Baldwin into the hands of Karlos Dansby.
That’s when the noise was sucked out of CenturyLink. But Wilson, who hadn’t been defeated at home since his North Carolina State days, doesn’t believe the Seahawks lost any sort of psychological edge that was attached to their home-field perfection.
“No concern of that,’’ Wilson said quickly. “We still have that mindset, it doesn’t matter where you play.”
The Seahawks just better hope now that opponents don’t strengthen that same attitude when they’re Seattle-bound.