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Leaning on Lynch

Posted Oct 26, 2012

Giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch is obviously the best thing the Seahawks offense can do, but it needs to do even more if it is going to sustain more drives and produce more points.

Marshawn Lynch hasn’t just carried the ball more than every back in the NFL besides Arian Foster; he also has touched the ball on 38 percent of the Seahawks’ offensive plays in their first seven games.

But the number that is even more telling when it comes to the impact the team’s Beast Mode back has on the offense and the entire team is that he has been stopped for losses only eight times in those 157 touches – 147 carries, compared to 168 for Foster; and 10 receptions.

That helps explain why the Seahawks lean on Lynch so heavily, and also prompts the following question as they prepare for Sunday’s game against Lions in Detroit: Why don’t the Seahawks just get the ball to Lynch on every play?

“It’s tempting,” center Max Unger said. “Just because of the way he plays.”

Tempting? Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell does that one better.

“I don’t think it is a temptation, I think we do that,” he said with a laugh. “We just turn around and hand it to him as much as we can. There are a lot of good things that happen when Marshawn has the ball. He gets us going offensively because of how strong he is, how angry he runs.

“It kind of brings some fire to our offense and gets us going.”

In the right direction. The more-productive flip side to Lynch being stopped behind the line of scrimmage eight times is that he has broken 12 double-digit runs – including a 36-yarder in the Week 2 win over the Dallas Cowboys and an 18-yarder for a touchdown in the Week 4 loss to the Rams in St. Louis.

Scratch a little deeper and you’ll find that three of Lynch’s minus-yardage runs came in the Week 6 upset of the New England Patriots against a defense that was stacked to stop him – or at least slow him down. That also was one of the two games where Lynch did not have a run of at least 10 yards.

All this forward progress has Lynch tied for third in the league is rushing with the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson – just 7 yards behind Foster (659) and six shy of the Washington Redskins’ Alfred Morris (658); and fourth in total yards (735) behind Peterson (787), the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice (769) and Foster (736).

He’s also averaging 4.4 yards per carry, which would tie his single-season bests from 2011 and 2010 and also is almost half-a-yard better than his career average (4.0). 

DRIVEN TO SUCCEED

A look at the Seahawks’ longest scoring drives this season, in terms of number of plays and number of yards:

Most Plays
No.OpponentResult
13 Rams Field goal
12 Cowboys Touchdown run
12 Panthers Field goal
11 Cowboys Field goal
10 49ers Field goal
Most Yards
No.OpponentResult
90 Cowboys Touchdown pass
88 Cowboys Touchdown run
85 Patriots Touchdown pass
83 Patriots Touchdown pass
80 Rams Touchdown run

So, why not just ride Lynch as far as his ridiculously strong legs can carry an offense that remains a work in progress under rookie quarterback Russell Wilson

“As long as you’re moving the chains and as long as you’re getting first downs, that’s good,” Bevell said.

Lynch does that, too. He has produced 33 first downs – 28 rushing and five receiving – which ties him for fifth in the NFC and 10th in the league.

But even as tough as Lynch is as a runner, it’s a tough way to sustain long scoring drives.

“It’s hard in this league to get 10-15 play drives and finish those drive with scores,” Bevell said. “Teams would take you doing that all the time, trying to have 10-15 play drives, because at some point you’re not going to make it all the way.

“What I’m saying with that is obviously we’ve got to have those explosive plays. You’ve got to be able to find somewhere to get a big chunk.”

The Seahawks have five scoring drives that lasted at least 10 plays (see chart). Four ended with field goals, while the fifth was capped by Lynch’s 3-yard TD run against the Cowboys in Week 2. They also have five scoring drives that covered at least 80 yards. Three have ended with Wilson TD passes – and two of those came in the win over the Patriots – while the other two ended with Lynch scoring runs.

So Bevell has a point when it comes to scoring points. It takes a productive mix of Lynch runs and Wilson completions to put together longer scoring drives that also last longer. 

“We really have to expand off that and turn those explosive runs into good field position for us,” Unger said. “We can’t go out there and pop a 30-yard run and then go three-and-out the next set of chains. We have to capitalize on explosive run plays and being able to score touchdowns off that.”

The Seahawks’ offense has scored 10 touchdowns. Only the Kansas City Chiefs (nine) and Jacksonville Jaguars (eight) have scored fewer, and they’re combined record is 2-10.  The Seahawks are 4-3 and looking to climb to 5-3 at the midway point of Pete Carroll’s third season as coach. To do that, they’ll have to outscore the Lions, who were held to seven points in Monday night’s loss to the Bears in Chicago but also have scored 41, 27 and 26 points in other games.

“We need to score more points, obviously, and the way in which we do that really is on our plate,” Unger said. “The O-line needs to give the quarterback more time to throw and get Marshawn loose more.”And do it all on a more sustained basis.