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There’s no backing down when it comes to Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount
PHOENIX – In the battle of backs in Super Bowl XLIX, Marshawn Lynch is the smaller of the two, but runs so much bigger; while LeGarrette Blount is the bigger of the two, but has the moves of a smaller back.
“That’s a good assessment,” said Kevin Williams.
And Williams should know. The veteran defensive tackle is in his first season with the Seahawks, so he faced now-teammate Lynch as well as the well-traveled Blount during his Pro Bowl days with the Minnesota Vikings.
Or dinner, in this case, as Sunday’s Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium will kick off at 3:30 Seattle time, 4:30 local time and 6:30 New England time.
And the main course for each offense figures to be Lynch and the Patriots’ 250-pound Blount. Although Williams views it more as a case of prime rib versus roast beef.
“They are kind of similar,” Williams conceded, before adding, “But I don’t know. Marshawn, he gets a lot of yards after contact. He’s always chipping guys off, stiff-arming and slashing by guys. I think that would be the biggest difference, his yards after contact.
“And Blount, once you get some guys around him, they can get him down.”
The Seahawks have faced their share of bigger backs this season, with varying degrees of success. They allowed two 100-yard rushing performances – 159 to the Kansas City Chiefs’ 199-pound Jamaal Charles and 115 to the Dallas Cowboys’ 219-pound DeMarco Murray. Both came in two of the Seahawks’ four losses.
But they also held the 230-pound Eddie Lacy to 107 yards combined in two games against the Green Bay Packers and the 217-pound Frank Gore to a combined 57 yards in two games against the San Francisco 49ers. And the 208-pound LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles and the 218-pound Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins, also 1,000-yard rushers, combined for 79 against the Seahawks.
“I think he has a little more juke to him,” the Seahawks’ All-Pro middle linebacker said. “He’s able to stop on a dime. He has shifty moves, as if he is a smaller back. So you’ve just got to be ready because he can shake you and he can run you over. So you’re going to have to be perfect on tackling.”
With Blount, there’s also the intrigue factor. First, will he even start? Then, if he does, how much will Blount get the ball in the Patriots’ chameleon approach to offense?
In the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, Blount carried the ball 30 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns. But in the divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, Blount had three carries for 1 yard, as the Patriots ran the ball just 14 times for 13 yards. And then Patriots coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also have featured Jonas Gray and Shane Vereen as the lead back at times this season. Gray ran for 201 yards on 37 carries against the Colts at midseason, just before Blount was re-signed because Stevan Ridley was placed on injured reserve.
There will be no such mystery for the Patriots when it comes to the 215-pound Lynch.
In the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, Lynch ran for a career-high 157 yards on 25 carries – and he now has the top five rushing performances in franchise playoff history.
In this return trip to the stadium, Lynch will be running into a Patriots’ defense that allowed 218, 207, 191 and 153 rushing yards this season to the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears – and none of those teams even advanced to the postseason.
Lynch has gotten more attention this week for not talking to the media, and it’s unfair for a player who speaks so forcefully with his actions on the field.
“Marshawn makes you want to do your job better, I guess is the best way to put it,” center Max Unger said. “He runs so hard. I mean you watch him and you see the strain that he has every play.”
Blount, meanwhile, not only has talked, he said something he might regret about a Seahawks defense that has led the NFL in average points allowed the past three seasons and in average yards allowed the past two seasons.
“They’re not immortal,” Blount said on Media Day. “They can be beaten.
There is truth in Blount’s words. The Seahawks were beaten – four times, just like the Patriots. But with the pack of wild dogs that comprise the Seahawks’ defense, as All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman has described them, it might be best to let them lie entering the biggest game of the season.
Williams, meanwhile, has learned a few things about Lynch since becoming his teammate.
“He’s a crafty back,” Williams said. “You think he’s all power coming at you and just when you figure you’re going to get power, he gives you finesse. And when you think it’s going to be finesse, he drops his shoulder at you and lays the power.
“Marshawn has great balance, and he really keeps guys off balance when they’re trying to tackle him.”
As with the Patriots, the Seahawks have other offensive options. But as quarterback Russell Wilson put it this week, “The ultimate goal is to hand the ball off the best running back in the National Football League.” Read