January 13, 2011 in Sports

Lynch’s epic dash shook the NFL

Tim Booth Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Matt Hasselbeck, right, celebrates as Marshawn Lynch scores on a 67-yard touchdown run that has become part of Seahawks lore.
(Full-size photo)

RENTON, Wash. – The run should never have reached epic status.

New Orleans linebacker Scott Shanle was there, shedding a missed block and squared up on Marshawn Lynch in his only running lane. At best, Lynch should have gained a couple of yards to bring up a key third-down with less than 31/2 minutes to go last Saturday.

Then “Beast Mode” showed up, and what seemed to be a nominal short gain suddenly became the greatest run in Seattle Seahawks history.

“More people have been talking to me about the run than the win,” Lynch said.

Days after Lynch’s game-clinching, tackle-breaking, 67-yard touchdown against the Saints in the first round of the NFC playoffs, the run is still being discussed. Talk radio is full of it, asking listeners to give a name the electrifying dash. YouTube has hundreds of varieties of the film, some with more than a half-million views in just a handful of days. The video has been set to the sound effects from “Super Mario Bros.” and imitated using the 1980s video game “Tecmo Bowl.”

Heck, Lynch’s run even caused a seismic event to be recorded by sensors just outside of Qwest Field.

Suddenly the Seahawks, set to face the Bears in the NFC divisional playoff Sunday in Chicago, are getting a little notoriety, and not because they’re sticking around the playoffs even with a losing record.

“You just knew when it happened, everybody that was there, this was really a unique thing that just happened in front of us and we’re grateful for being around it when it happened,” coach Pete Carroll said.

When Lynch arrived in Seattle in October after a trade with Buffalo, he brought along the “Beast Mode” moniker. It was a symbol of his rugged, run-at-all-costs style that resonates with fans. His ability to run between the tackles was also the perfect complement that Carroll was looking for in his run game, countering Lynch’s bruising with the edge speed of backs Justin Forsett and Leon Washington.

But for most of the season, Seattle’s run game was a joke. Unable to find any consistency with its offensive line, Seattle averaged just 89 yards per game in the regular season and for much of the year was on pace to have the worst run game in franchise history.

Their success running started to turn in the season finale when the Seahawks rushed for 141 yards as a team and Lynch rambled for 75 yards after having six carries for (minus)-1 yards in the first half.

That performance was muted by what Lynch did with just one carry against the Saints.

“Not to take anything away from the run, but the biggest highlight for me was that we won the game,” Lynch said.

Lynch already had a pretty good game going against New Orleans even before his now-famous dash. Even though most of the offensive punch in this game plan called on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s passing, Lynch was averaging 3.6 yards per carry before taking a second-and-10 handoff with about 3:37 left.

The next 15 seconds were one highlight moment after another.

“It was ‘Beast Mode’ at its finest,” Seattle receiver Mike Williams said.

Of anyone, Shanle had the best attempt at stopping the play. But Lynch bounced off Shanle and stepped away from an ankle tackle attempt of Will Smith.

About 8 yards past the line of scrimmage, Remi Ayodele and Darren Sharper both slipped right off Lynch as he accelerated for first down yardage. At midfield, Jabari Greer tried grabbing Lynch from behind around his arms, but slid all the way down to his feet and Lynch scampered away.

Then came the stiff-arm, and what a stiff-arm it was.

Tracy Porter will forever be part of postseason history after his interception return for a touchdown clinched the Saints win over the Colts in last year’s Super Bowl. But now he has a bookend moment that counters the interception.

Porter first engaged Lynch around the Saints’ 38 but made the mistake of trying to tackle Lynch around the shoulders. Lynch’s stiff-arm was so viscous, he sent Porter sprawling 5 yards.

By this point, Lynch’s teammates had caught up. Williams was downfield, as was guard Tyler Polumbus and Sean Locklear. Even Hasselbeck was there. Lynch avoided Alex Brown’s attempt from behind at the 15, then cut back toward the middle of the field behind a block from Polumbus at the 15 and finally stepped over Roman Harper’s flailing attempt at the goal line, leaping backward into the end zone.

“(It was) a real great feeling, especially for my first one and for us to win and then win in the fashion we did,” Lynch said. “… I heard that we caused a little earthquake so that’s pretty cool.”

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