Hawks wouldn't be same minus Beast Mode
December, 2, 2011
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch's fourth 100-yard game in his past five further helped his case for a new contract.SEATTLE -- The last time the Seattle Seahawks shelled out top dollar for a running back, Shaun Alexander went into Ceased Mode. The former MVP took the money and couldn't find anywhere to run. He was finished within a couple of years.
That cautionary tale came to mind Thursday night when Marshawn Lynch shifted into Beast Mode during the Seahawks' 31-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at CenturyLink Field.
The raw numbers Lynch is posting -- 148 yards against the Eagles, his fourth 100-yard game in five weeks -- are enough to justify a new contract once his current deal expires in the spring. But it's how Lynch produces that makes him less dispensable than the typical running back. His running style is the very foundation of the offense coach Pete Carroll has vowed to build around.
"When you see effort like that from Marshawn, you can't help but give it your all," center Max Unger said.
Take that inexplicable 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Lynch ran right, disappeared into a crowd and emerged face to face with the end zone. On first glance, it appeared Lynch must have torn through the Philly defense with bolt cutters and a blow torch. Replays showed that wasn't the case. It wasn't even clear whether a defender touched him.
"I couldn't figure it out myself," Eagles defensive end Trent Cole said. "When he popped out, I didn't know who had the ball."
Teammates' explanations for what happened were nearly as entertaining as the run itself.
"I don't know what happened," fullback Michael Robinson said. "My nose started bleeding, man. I hit, my nose bled, I looked up, he scored and I'm getting ready for kickoff. That is how it happens."
This, from right guard Paul McQuistan: "I think they just pirated on us [slanting to the inside] and then we kind of caught it in the wash and he just squirted out, just made his way through there like he does, so it was great."
Whatever happened in there, Lynch showed the determination that is defining his career in Seattle. His puzzling refusal to discuss that play or anything else was the only disappointment afterward.
So, Marshawn, on the first touchdown run, can you describe what happened in there?
Lynch: "Offensive line played a helluva game, Tarvaris [Jackson] did a helluva job managing the game, we came out victorious, everybody is happy. Now we're on to our break. Thank you. I appreciate it. Excuse me."
With that, he was gone. No one got in his way, either.
What to make of Lynch and what he might become in Seattle?
No back is likely to approach the sheer production Alexander provided during the most successful seasons in franchise history: 1,500 yards and nearly 20 touchdowns per season for five years ending with Seattle's 2005 Super Bowl season. But it's safe to say which back opposing secondaries would prefer to see coming their way.
"They want nothing to do with Marshawn coming through there," left guard Robert Gallery said.
Lynch appears headed for a 1,200-yard season with double-digit touchdowns, numbers that could spike if Lynch sustains his latest production. The team lost left tackle Russell Okung to a potentially serious pectoral injury late in the game Thursday night. Running lanes might narrow without Okung, but as Lynch has demonstrated repeatedly, he requires only a little room to wedge his way through a defense.
When the Seahawks acquired Lynch from Buffalo last season, they also acquired the contract he signed as the 12th overall choice of the 2007 draft. That deal ran through 2012, but the final year voided. That means Lynch will hit the market this coming offseason unless the Seahawks use the franchise tag on him or the sides reach an agreement on a new deal.
It's not too early to consider the possibilities. As always, shelf life is the leading concern for running backs.
Alexander was 28 years old and had 2,005 career touches when the Seahawks signed him to a deal paying him $15 million in the first year. He turned 29 before the next season, started only 20 more games and never exceeded 896 yards rushing in a season.
Lynch will turn 26 before next season. He'll have about 1,300 touches at that point in his career. It's tough to know what Lynch's aggressive running style will mean for his longevity. The Seahawks need to keep him around as long as he's running the way he did Thursday night.
If the 15-yard run confounded, the 40-yarder Lynch broke for another touchdown had a revelatory feel. Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel appeared to have the angle on Lynch, but he couldn't catch him. Lynch, listed at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, ran at closer to 240 pounds late last season. He's a power back, but not a slow one. And his receiving skills, on display during a 20-yard touchdown reception against Washington last week, are probably underrated.
Robinson, the Seahawks' fullback, drew on his days with San Francisco, where he blocked for Frank Gore.
"They both are dynamic, they both can run, they can block, they can catch," Robinson said. "And people don't realize it, but Marshawn has hands, man. In college, he ran bubble screens and everything. The man can catch the ball. They are very similar. Marshawn runs a little bit harder -- you know, more physical, he's bigger. They are both great backs, and it's been an honor to play with both of them."
With Lynch pounding away on the ground, Jackson completed 13 of 16 passes for 190 yards. The Seahawks played Carroll's brand of football. They forced turnovers, they protected the football, they picked their spots in the passing game and they ran it.
Lynch, who entered the game leading the NFL in yards after contact since Week 9, surely widened the gap.
"Every carry he gets is like his last carry," Jackson said.