Leaning on Marshawn Lynch

Posted Sep 28, 2013

With everything the Texans’ defense can, and will, throw at the Seahawks during Sunday’s game in Houston, Marshawn Lynch the blocker might be almost as important as Marshawn Lynch the runner.

HOUSTON – After all the things Marshawn Lynch has done for the Seahawks, and all the times they have needed him, it’s likely they’ve never needed more all the things their Beast Mode back can provide.

In Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium, the Seahawks will be facing a Wade Phillips-coordinated defense that not only blitzes as much as 80 percent of the time, but features reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing.

Watt will lineup just about anywhere along the line, while Cushing will blitz just about anytime from his inside linebacker position.

So the Seahawks will need Lynch the blocker as much as Lynch the runner if they’re going to post the first 4-0 start in franchise history.

“Obviously the running backs do a great job of blocking, and Marshawn Lynch leads it all with his ability to move his feet and his ability to be so physical,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “At the point of attack, he can face a defensive lineman to a linebacker to a defensive back. He’s got it all, and that’s what makes Marshawn so talented across the board.

“Obviously he can run the football really well, he can catch really well, but you can’t underestimate his ability to block, as well.”

It’s just that blocking is not the first thing that comes to mind when you mention Lynch. It’s at the back of a long line that starts with his 1,204-yard, 12-touchdown rushing performance in 2011; and his 1,590-yard, 11-TD season rushing performance last year; and the 51 receptions he has during those two seasons; and, of course, his electrifying 67-yard TD run that iced the wild-card playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl New Orleans Saints in 2010 and sparked a 12th Man roar that caused seismic activity near CenturyLink Field.

“If you’re part of anything we’re doing, you’ve got to be a complete back,” said Sherman Smith, the Seahawks’ original running back who now coaches the position on Pete Carroll’s staff. “If you go in there and you’re a liability without the football, then you’re a liability. So you’ve got to be able to do it with and without the football.”

Like Marshawn Lynch.

Smith is quick to point out that Lynch can improve his blocking, but then he wouldn’t be a player-turned-coach if he didn’t. Even great players have room for improvement.

“Marshawn gets after it. He’s a physical blocker,” Smith said. “He definitely can get better; you’re not going to deny that. But the effort is there, there’s no doubt about it. The want-to and the can-do are there. But he can always do it better.”

Another way Lynch can help his team and his quarterback against the Texans is to go full Beast Mode on them. The Texans are allowing averages of 91.3 rushing yards a game and 3.3 yards a carry, which rank ninth and fifth in the NFL – with the league averages being 106.4 and 4.1. And Lynch will be running behind a line that already is missing Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, could be without right tackle Breno Giacomini and will have All-Pro center Max Unger at less than 100 percent because of injuries.

But Lynch has done more with less in the past.

This season, with opposing defenses stacking their fronts to confront Lynch, the Seahawks’ running game has yet to hit its stride. Lynch has 210 rushing yards in three games and is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. As a team, the Seahawks rank eighth in the league with 132.7-yard average.

After getting just 43 yards on 17 carries in the season opener against the Carolina Panthers, Lynch ran for 98 of the toughest yards you’ve seen in a while and two touchdowns on 28 carries in the home opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Last week, he had 69 yards on 17 carries.

Asked to characterize the running game to this point, Smith said, “We’re 3-0, so it’s been good enough to get us to 3-0. But I think we’re going to get better at it. We’ll get more consistent and do things better.”

Sunday would be a good time to start moving in that direction.