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All three phases, one big win
Marshawn Lynch might have put the finishing touches on the Seahawks’ stunning upset of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but it all started with a conversation the coaching staff had with Michael Robinson on Monday.
“They told me Monday, they said, ‘Mike, you’re on 52 (Ravens’ Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis). He’s going to be yours all game,’ ” Robinson, the team’s fullback, offered after the now 3-6 Seahawks slapped the 6-3 Ravens with a 22-17 loss before a near-delirious crowd of 66,522 at CenturyLink Field.
With the lead-blocking Robinson paving a lot of the way, Lynch ran for 109 yards against a Ravens’ defense that entered the game ranked second in the NFL and allowing an average of 86.8 rushing yards. And Lynch saved his best for last, touching the ball seven consecutive times as the Seahawks first burned the clock and then let it run out on their improbable victory.
With the Seahawks’ holding that 22-17 lead, and after Tarvaris Jackson threaded a third-and-5 pass between defenders to wide receiver Golden Tate for a 24-yard gain to the Seahawks’ 49-yard line, the offense leaned on Lynch. He gained 4 yards and then 1, before his extra effort on third-and-5 gained 8 yards after Lynch took a short pass from Jackson. With the clock running, so was Lynch – as he went for 2, 8, 7 and finally 5 yards to produce two more first downs.
This victory to kick off the second half of the season was not a two-man show, or even a 22-man show as the Seahawks lost six players during the game: right guard John Moffitt to a knee injury; wide receivers Sidney Rice and Dou Baldwin and strong safety Kam Chancellor to concussions; and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and safety Atari Bigby to hamstring injuries.
This victory also came despite the Seahawks being flagged 13 times for 100 yards in penalties – both season highs for a team that has been battling penalty problems since the preseason.
But the Seahawks overcame it all – the loss of key players, the rash of penalties and the heavily favored Ravens – by playing their best all-around game of the season.
Steve Hauschka tied the franchise record by kicking five field goals and his mates on special teams set up two of them by forcing (Robinson and rookie Malcolm Smith) and then recovering (Ben Obomanu and Bigby) fumbles on kickoffs to give the Seahawks the ball at the Ravens’ 19- and 18-yard lines.
The defense set up a third when middle linebacker David Hawthorne intercepted a Joe Flacco pass that was tipped by fellow linebacker K.J. Wright and returned it 34 yards to the Ravens’ 4.
Those efforts allowed the Seahawks to a lead (19-7) into the locker room at the half for the first time this season and then stretch it to 22-7.
But it was Lynch who was there when needed, repeatedly and especially at the end.
He scored the Seahawks’ only touchdown, on a 1-yard run in the first quarter. It was his fifth consecutive game with a TD, the first time a Seahawk has done that since Shaun Alexander in 2005. He cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier for the second week in a row, making him the first Seahawk to do that since Julius Jones in 2008.
Lynch also was the first player out of the locker room, and unavailable for comment. But that was OK, too, because his teammates were more than happy to speak of him – if not for him – after he compiled 167 combined yards rushing and receiving.
“I’ve said it before, ‘The man walks aggressively,’ ” Robinson said. “I mean, everything about him is moving forward, being aggressive and trying to gain yardage. You’ve got to love that. All he was talking about in the middle of that last drive was somebody get him some Skittles.
“That’s the way the guy is. He’s a fun guy. I love blocking for the guy.”
One of Lynch’s final touches provided a highlight-reel move to elude Lewis.
“He made a great play,” Jackson said. “He made it look like he was out there in the backyard playing against some of his cousins or something.”
But he wasn’t. Lynch did his damage against one of the best, most-respected and, at times, even-feared defenses in the NFL.
The team’s public relations staff tracked Lynch down, and provided this typically Lynch assessment of his big afternoon: “It wasn’t me, to be honest. The goal for every game is to run the ball. That’s pretty much why they wanted (assistant head coach Tom) Cable to come here. He just took his time with us, up front and the running backs. We go hand in hand to get that thing going and now it seems like we’re understanding what it is he wants and how the run game should look.”
As coach Pete Carroll always says, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And the Seahawks finished off the Ravens with that final clocking-killing 12-play, 62-yard drive when they shifted in “four-minute” mode to go with the “Beast Mode” efforts of their running back.
“That’s what the National Football League is all about,” Robinson said. “They knew we were going to run it. Everybody in the stadium knew we were going to run it. And they knew who was getting the ball. And we were still able to move the ball forward.”
And Lynch did most of his damage by running right where you’re not supposed to be able to against the Ravens – up the gut, where 349-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody, Lewis and All-Pro safety Ed Reed have earned their reputations.
“I was coming off to the sideline and they were telling me, ‘Get your butt in the huddle,’ ” Lynch said. “So I got back in there. I was looking at the offensive line and told them, ‘This is on us.’ It doesn’t go any further than us.
“I said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ They said, ‘Run.’ No problem. I got in there and pushed the pile for about a 7-yard gain. Guard came back to me and said, ‘I just felt you pushing me.’ And I said, ‘You were pulling me.’ We just worked together and it was great.”
That it was. Which brings us back to the job Robinson did against Lewis, and the number Lynch did on the Ravens’ defense.
“Marshawn played really well, as advertised,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who had said that Lynch was one of the top two or three backs in the league during the week. “He played a heck of a game. I thought they blocked real well.
“Marshawn was the key for them.”
Just as the coaches planned it all week.
“Marshawn played really well,” Carroll said. “But I know he’d be the first to tell you about the offensive line. It was a terrific job.”
And it all added up to one terrific upset for the Seahawks. Read