RENTON, Wash. – Marshawn Lynch’s tremor-causing playoff touchdown run two years ago against New Orleans has been viewed millions of times on YouTube.
It will be hard for Lynch to ever top that stunning run during which he broke more than a half-dozen tackles on his way to a 67-yard touchdown that induced enough frenzy inside the Seahawks’ stadium that seismic activity was registered.
Still, his better playoff performance might have been last Sunday in Seattle’s wild-card victory over Washington.
Seattle needed all of Lynch’s 132 yards rushing, and especially his 27-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, to dispatch the Redskins. His sidestep cut that left Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall grasping at air allowed him to get to the outside on the touchdown run and was another sign of Lynch’s shiftiness, which sometimes gets lost because of his brute power.
Lynch’s performance on Sunday tied the franchise record for most yards rushing in a playoff game and bettered what he did against the Saints by 1 yard. He rushed for 99 yards in the second half and overcame a costly fumble at the Washington 1 on the first drive of the second half that could have shaken others. Not Lynch.
“You don’t ever have to worry about his mindset,” Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said after the game. “He got to the sideline, he was upset about it, and he just said, ‘Give it to me again. Keep feeding me.’”
Lynch is coming off the finest regular season of his career, yet he ended up getting overshadowed by the rise of quarterback Russell Wilson.
Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards in the regular season and was named to the Pro Bowl as a reserve behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. His yardage total was good for third in the NFL and he was one of just eight backs to post double digits in TDs rushing. Lynch was fifth in the league with 639 of his yards coming after first contact and was third in the league in yards rushing in the fourth quarter with 354.
And he ran for all those yards despite taking most of the second half off in blowout victories late in the season against Buffalo and Arizona. Lynch had a combined 21 carries in those two games, but still rolled up 241 yards.
Lynch became the beneficiary of Seattle incorporating more of the zone-read run game into its offense in the second-half of the season. Sometimes he was the decoy who allowed Wilson the opportunity to run untouched around the end. Other times, Lynch got the handoff and a head start while defensive linemen were figuring out if Wilson was keeping the ball.
“He has grown quite a bit, and in the last two years he has really owned it. It was a little sticky at first, and his consistency wasn’t as sharp as it is now,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He basically gets it right almost all of the time now. He trusts the reads, he trusts the principles and philosophy of the run game and he’s been maxing out pretty much for a couple of years now.”
That system was on display again against the Redskins. While Lynch got the bulk of the yards, Wilson added another 67 yards rushing.
Twice, including on Lynch’s TD run in the fourth quarter, Wilson was out ahead of his running back serving as a blocker.
“I don’t worry about Russell. What do you want me to do, tell him to get out of the way?” Carroll joked. “He’s OK. It’s not like he’s laying bone-crushing blocks, you know?”
When Lynch got to the divisional round two years ago against Chicago, he was held to just 2 yards rushing on four carries in what remains the least productive game of his nearly two-plus seasons with the Seahawks.
Now he gets a chance to atone for that when the Seahawks travel to Atlanta on Sunday and face a Falcons run defense that was leaky during the regular season. Atlanta finished the year ranked 21st at stopping the run and gave up at least 140 yards rushing in each of its three losses.
The team that gave the Falcons the most fits was Carolina and mobile quarterback Cam Newton. The Panthers and their zone-read offensive system rushed for a combined 394 yards and averaged nearly 6 yards per carry in two games.
“We’ve grown and become more together and more in tune with our QB and what he can do and all that,” Carroll said. “We’re a pretty hard team to beat right now.”