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Two backs tough as nails

Sun., Nov. 17, 2013, midnight

Lynch, Peterson among NFL’s finest

A game in which Seattle is favored by two touchdowns over the Minnesota Vikings might be more interesting for a long-awaited debut and a suddenly-emerging debate.

The debut would be that of receiver Percy Harvin, healthy and likely to play for the first time since being traded to Seattle from the Vikings last March.

The debate, meanwhile, would be asking which of the two marquee running backs is better – Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch or Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.

It’s a question that might have come with an obvious answer a year ago when Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards, just shy of the NFL record of 2,105 by Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams in 1984.

This season, though, it’s one that some around the league say takes a little more thinking.

“I’m going to say this – they are 1-2 in my book and the separation is nowhere near what it is in the majority of people’s minds,” said Heath Evans, a former fullback with the Seahawks, Patriots and Saints and now an analyst for the NFL Network.

Evans, in fact, said this week that if he were drafting an expansion team and could have only one, “I would take Marshawn Lynch for protection reasons alone.”

Evans says, in his view, when it comes to strictly running the football, Peterson “is the best that’s ever played the game.”

Lynch, though, Evans said, is a better blocker and more of a threat as a receiver.

“He is just as complete as they come,” he said.

All players, to be sure, are dependent on those around them for success, and undoubtedly Lynch is working with a better quarterback and overall offense.

That said, the stats reveal little difference this season.

Lynch has 871 yards in 10 games, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Peterson has 786 yards in nine games, averaging 4.5 per carry.

Pro Football Focus rates Peterson first in the NFL in yards after contact at 572, with Lynch second at 518. PFF has Lynch first in missed tackles forced with 56, Peterson second at 49.

Seattle defensive players spent the week being asked to compare the two, and the consensus that emerged was of Lynch as more physical, Peterson a little more explosive.

“I think they’re both powerful runners,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “They both run very violently, they run hard, they take on contact, they initiate contact and they usually shed off contact. I think Adrian Peterson runs to go, I think Marshawn runs to run through people. He runs to find people to run through.”

For Seattle, facing Peterson will also help to answer whether the Seahawks have truly solved the run-defense issues that crept up against St. Louis and Tampa Bay (which rushed for a combined 405 yards). Seattle rebounded to hold Atlanta to 64 yards rushing last week in a 33-10 victory over the Falcons.

“I think the biggest thing we recaptured was that you could really see some knock-back hits and the physical style of play that we like to play with,” said defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. “I think that’s what showed through the most.”

Thomas said the Seahawks got back to being disciplined and swarming to the ball.

“The good thing to see on tape is everybody making tackles,” he said.

“It’s not just one person. That’s a good feeling.”

So, he anticipates, will be watching Harvin.

“That’s a game-changer,” Thomas said.


 

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