49ers preparing for rare silence in Seattle without fans

·3 min read

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The loud piped in noise at practice, silent counts and other preparations that usually accompany a trip to Seattle aren’t necessary this year for the San Francisco 49ers.

With the Seahawks one of the teams that still isn’t allowing fans in the stadium because of the coronavirus, the Niners will only have to deal with the 11 defenders on the field for Seattle instead of the vaunted 12th man when the teams play Sunday.

“It’s definitely weird,” All-Pro tight end George Kittle said. “But the fact that we get to go there and we’re going to be able to hear every cadence, not have to go on the silent count, it’s going to be refreshing. I’m looking forward to it because it does definitely gives the offence an advantage.”

Dealing with the crowd noise has been a major issue for opposing offences ever since the Seahawks moved into their stadium in 2002. It’s always been known as perhaps the loudest venue in the league and even set a world record for loudest noise at an outdoor stadium in a 2013 win over San Francisco.

The Seahawks have traded the top spot with the Chiefs over the years since then but the noise in Seattle gets as loud as being on an aircraft carrier deck when opposing offences are on the field.

That makes it nearly impossible to change plays at the line of scrimmage and often has led to false starts, miscommunications and offensive linemen who are slow off the ball because they can’t hear the snap count.

Despite not having to deal with those challenges, Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said something will be missing Sunday when the teams play. Garoppolo won his only start ever in Seattle in the season finale last year that gave the San Francisco the division title when the Niners stopped the Seahawks at the goal line on the final play.

“I’ll miss the atmosphere up there,” Garoppolo said. “It’s one of the coolest places to play just with the fans and everything, but yeah, definitely with the cadence, the procedure and all that stuff it will definitely make it easier for us. So, looking forward to that.”

The lack of crowd noise won’t be the only change this year that should make things easier on the Niners offence when they play in Seattle.

The normally stingy Seahawks defence that harassed opposing offences for most of the past decade is a thing of the past. Seattle has allowed 479.2 yards per game, including 368.7 on pass plays, the worst in NFL history through six games.

Seattle has allowed at least 23 points in each game, including in a 37-34 overtime loss at Arizona last week. But they still have won five of six games thanks to Russell Wilson and the league’s most prolific offence .

“They’re giving up a lot of yards,” Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I know their numbers are real bad, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The way their offence is playing, their offence is playing as good as an offence I’ve seen. They’re putting up the points, they’re putting up the yards.

"Whenever you do have an offence playing like that, usually the opposing offence is trying to play a lot of catch up and stuff and they’re doing a lot of aggressive things. And they’ve given up some explosives, which gets the yards going, but they’re still third in the league in turnovers, which means they cause a lot of problems.”

NOTES: LB Kwon Alexander (ankle) and S Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) returned to practice on a limited basis. ... WR Deebo Samuel (hamstring), S Jaquiski Tartt (groin), RB Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) and WR Richie James Jr. (ankle) remain out for San Francisco.

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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press