CHARLOTTE – More than 20 players on the Carolina Panthers' 53-man roster have faced the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field before, but none have as unique a perspective on "The 12th Man" as defensive tackle Colin Cole.
"When you're in it and actually feeding off their energy, it's one of the most exciting feelings a football player can go through," said Cole, who started for the Seahawks in 2009 and 2010. "They pride themselves on being able to throw an offense out of rhythm. I've seen them to cause offenses to false start over and over again as well as not be able to get plays off in time because of the noise.
"On the flip side, I've seen teams be able to overcome that and come out with a win. Their team has a lot of ability and has guys that can make a lot of plays, but at the end of the day, they're beatable at home. They've been beaten at home this year. Now we're hoping to be able to do something that nobody's been able to do in the playoffs over the last few years."
The Seahawks, who have won seven consecutive home playoff games, will host the Panthers in an NFC Divisional Playoff on Saturday (8:25 p.m., FOX). Seattle's streak started following the 2005 regular season, a postseason run to the Super Bowl that included a home victory over Carolina in the NFC Championship.
The Panthers, having lost close games at home to Seattle each of the past three seasons, are familiar with the volume of playmakers up and down the reinging Super Bowl champions' roster. Now they're preparing for the volume of Seattle's fans, in part by moving what center Ryan Kalil calls Carolina's "jet engine" noisemaker from the practice fields to inside Bank of America Stadium.
"Every week that we play away, we have the jet engine. It never really sounds like it does at a stadium with all the chants and things like that, but it helps," Kalil said. "That's how we prepare for every away game any way. The only difference is that it will just be a little louder."
Head coach Ron Rivera said he thinks the noisemaker is louder when it reverberates around the stadium bowl. Cornerback Josh Norman agrees, pointing to a moment in Tuesday's practice when quarterback Cam Newton had to stop the action because he couldn't hear.
"It affected him," Norman said. "If we can play in that noise now, it will prepare us for what we'll get up there. It's going to be bananas."
Cole agreed that the artificial noise helps but said it's not on par with the real thing.
"That noise is something that I don't think can be duplicated in my opinion, unless we had a dome and we were pumping noise through the entire dome. But it can give our guys a taste of what's to come," Cole said. "I've been there when you can't hear the person standing next to you talk. It's going to be difficult. Our offense will have to do a great job of communicating."
From 1989-2006, an NFL rule allowed game officials to warn the home crowd and/or administer a 5-yard penalty for excessive noise. There was a time when quarterbacks would turn to the referee and say he couldn't hear, but the plea usually fell on deaf ears.
The rule was eliminated in 2007. It fell by the wayside in part because offenses adopted silent counts to cope.
"I don't think it matters that much. If it's loud, it's loud," tight end Ed Dickson said. "We can't let it be a negative for us, and we can't use it as an excuse. We know what to expect. We're practicing our silent counts this week and being able to communicate non-verbally."
Veterans like Dickson and Cole know the noise can be a factor, but they also know the way the Panthers play can drown out the noise and speak volumes about the game's eventual outcome.
"You just have to keep your composure," Cole said. "It's going to get loud, going to get raucous. Their team is going to feed off of it.
"But what it's going to come down to is beating the man in front of you. That's what we're going to have to do to win the game."