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Marshawn Lynch has a big fan in Baltimore. Turns out, it’s John Harbaugh.
The Ravens’ coach was asked Wednesday about this week’s game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field and his effusive praise for Lynch went beyond the usual platitudes served up by opposing coaches.
“Obviously, it starts with Marshawn,” Harbaugh said.
OK, fair enough. Lynch did rush for a season-high 135 yards Sunday against a Dallas Cowboys defense that had been allowing an average of 93.9 rushing yards. He also scored on a 4-yard run, giving Lynch a TD in each of the past four games he has played in – a feat no Seahawks back had accomplished since Shaun Alexander during his league MVP season in 2005.
Then Harbaugh offered, “He’s definitely a Top 2 or 3 running back in the National Football League.”
That assessment caught even Lynch by surprise.
“I guess you say, ‘Thank you,’ to that. I guess,” the Seahawks’ leading rusher said. “It’s always helpful and it’s always good to come from a coach you’re about to play – they know that as well.”
Harbaugh finished by adding, “He’s a violent runner. You go back and look at that playoff game against the Saints last year when he took the game over with his running style. It’s just incredible.”
Harbaugh was referring to, of course, Lynch’s electrifying 67-yard TD run that iced the Seahawks’ stunning upset of the defending Super Bowl champions in a wild-card game in January – and capped Lynch’s 133-yard rushing performance on a day when his scoring run set off as a celebration that triggered seismic activity near the stadium.
Told of Harbaugh using the term “violent,” Lynch broke into one his sly smiles. This is the guy, after all, who has dubbed his won’t-be-denied running style as “Beast Mode.”
“The only thing I can say about that is, that just goes to show that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed,” Lynch said.
And getting the Seahawks’ running game going this season has been hard work. In fact, Lynch’s 135 yards against the Cowboys almost equaled his combined total from the first four games (141). He then ran for 98 yards in the Week 5 upset of the New York Giants, only to miss the next game against the Cleveland Browns because of back spasms and follow that with 24 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals.
But even when his blocking wasn’t always there, Lynch’s determined – almost demented – effort was. Some of his best runs this season have come when he has gained a yard or two on plays where he should have lost two or three yards.
“That’s the way he is. That’s the type of guy he is,” fullback and lead-blocker Michael Robinson said. “He walks aggressively. Marshawn does everything he does aggressively.
“That’s what you like about him.”
As for Harbaugh labeling Lynch’s running style as “violent,” that elicited a tell-me-about-it expression from Robinson.
“That’s why they call him ‘The Beast,’ ” he said. “You always feel Marshawn, especially as a lead-blocker. You can hear him – bip, bip, bip – behind you. You either need to get out of the way or be prepared to have him up your back.”
Fellow running back Justin Forsett also knows a few things about that. He and Lynch were teammates at the University of California and remain best friends.
“That has always been Marshawn’s M.O. – just a guy who runs physical, very violent, very hard to bring down,” Forsett said. “Marshawn definitely has a little aura around him.”
Against the Cowboys, things began to fall into place for the Seahawks’ running game. The coaches had made running the ball a priority in practice last week. Then, the young offensive line and Lynch went out and executed the plan the plan on Sunday.
“It’s not any one of them, it’s all of them,” said Tom Cable, the assistant head coach and offensive line coach. “Marshawn did a great job of reading, and then guys were blocking and fitting helmets the right way and working better as a unit. So it was just kind of a collective deal.”
Speaking of helmets, Forsett offered, “We were able to get some downhill runs early. You could see that Marshawn was coming out one-on-one against those guys and just laying his helmet and shoulder on guys, and that’s when guys were getting their helmets knocked off.
“And you don’t want that problem.”
Suddenly, being part of the Seahawks running game was fun again, as they slapped the question marks into exclamation points.
“You can feel it when Marshawn gets like that,” center Max Unger said. “He was going, and we had a nice little rhythm going.
“From the first play, just the way he ran the ball was awesome.”
And one good carry deserved another, and then a few more, until Lynch had carried the ball a season-high 23 times – and the team 30 times, also a season high.
“We all want to do well and have positive things happen,” Lynch said. “It doesn’t always go that way. But after the game, if you can have at least four or five players from that team saying, ‘You know what? That guy was hard to tackle. Or, that guy does this really well,’ they start to respect you around the league.”
Lynch came to Seattle with that respect, having been voted to the AFC Pro Bowl squad in 2008 and rushing for 1,115 yards in 2007 while playing for the Buffalo Bills. But since being traded to the Seahawks last October, he hadn’t run for 100 yards in a regular-season game until last Sunday.
“When I came here, my name was Marshawn Lynch,” he said. “Now I get called ‘Beast Mode’ everywhere I go. So I guess that’s how it goes.”