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Monday metatarsal musings

Posted Dec 26, 2011

Or footnotes: A look at three things that worked in the Christmas Eve loss to the 49ers, and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for their season finale against the Cardinals.

From the soles of his Skittles-enhanced shoes, to the soul of what makes him a special player, Marshawn Lynch has been determined to carry the Seahawks as far as his constantly churning legs will take them.

That was, as it finally turned out, not far enough, as Saturday’s two-point loss to the NFC West Champion San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field ended the Seahawks’ hopes of advancing to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But it wasn’t for a lack of Lynch trying.

The Seahawks’ Skittles-munching back became the first player since the Packers’ Ryan Grant in 2009 to rush for 100 yards against the 49ers, with his 107-yard effort snapping a streak that had reached 36 games. Lynch also became the first player this season to score a rushing touchdown against the 49ers’ top-rated run defense, and his 4-yard run with less than seven minutes to play gave the Seahawks a 17-16 lead.

In his past eight games, Lynch has rushed for 855 of his 1,118 yards and nine of his 13 touchdowns. It only takes a few clicks of a calculator to figure out that pace over 16 games would produce a 1,700-yard, 18-TD season – and the only back in franchise history to compiles those kinds of numbers was Shaun Alexander during his league MVP season in 2005 (1,880 yards, 28 TDs).

Rookie wide receiver Doug Baldwin couldn’t have summed up just what Lynch has meant to the Seahawks any better after the disheartening loss on Christmas Eve.

“If Marshawn Lynch isn’t in the Pro Bowl, there’s something wrong with the voting system,” Baldwin said. “Plain and simple. I mean, he’s proved it week in and week out.”

Lynch is now seventh in the league and fourth in the NFC in rushing; tied for fifth in the league and tied for fourth in the league in scoring by non-kickers. The Eagles’ DeSean McCoy (1,309), 49ers’ Frank Gore (1,202) and Falcons’ Michael Turner (1,129) are the NFC backs with more yards than Lynch; while McCoy (20) is the only running back in the conference with more TDs.

Only three backs from each conference go to the Pro Bowl, and the squads will be announced tomorrow.

“That’s the way Marshawn Lynch plays all the time,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game. “I couldn’t say if there’s any difference from Game One to this game, or throughout his whole career. He’s just a great back.”

With that said, here’s a look at two other things that worked in the 19-17 loss to the 49ers on Christmas Eve, and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s season finale against the Cardinals in Arizona:

WHAT WORKED

Ricardo Lockette The rookie free agent made his first NFL catch in his first NFL game. It was his only catch, but what a catch it was – a 44-yarder on the second play of the game. And it set up Tarvaris Jackson’s 15-yard TD pass to Baldwin, as the Seahawks scored a touchdown on their opening possession for only the second time this season.

Everyone has been wondering what Lockette’s speed could bring to the passing game. Now we know.

“We planned that catch, so I had at least 1,000 times to think about it and when it came time to do it, it was just a piece of cake,” Lockette said.

The cake was tasty enough that the coaches should plan on doing it again.

Heath Farwell The former Pro Bowl special teams player was signed in late October after the Seahawks had lost too many special teams players to injuries. All Farwell has done in 10 games is make a team-leading 18 coverage tackles, and against the 49ers it was his blocked punt that set up Lynch’s go-ahead score.

Coach Pete Carroll looked at Farwell’s play as being symbolic of the entire team’s attitude this season.

“We will not back down,” he said of the Seahawks coming back after the 49ers had taken a 16-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. “We will not back off the confrontation, or the situation, or the style of play of anybody. We’re going to keep coming. When you do that and you believe that way, good things happen.

“It was an incredibly timely clutch play to make. He did it perfectly. He timed it exactly the way he wanted and he made a play that an All-Pro type of guy makes. It was big time.”

WHAT NEEDS WORK

Finishing – After taking that one-point lead on the Farwell-set up, Lynch-produced touchdown, the Seahawks allowed the 49ers to drive 40 yards to David Akers’ fourth field goal of the game – and league-record 42nd of the season. Then, they failed to get close enough to allow Steve Hauschka a chance to kick the 49ers back, despite reaching San Francisco 48-yard line and their own 34 on their final two possessions.

“It felt like we had the game,” Jackson said. “We felt like we were back in control, all we had to do was get a stop and get out there and finish the game.”

The run defense – Say what? This is the one element that has been a constant for the Seahawks most of the season. But Saturday, they allowed Frank Gore and rookie Kendall Hunter to combine for 156 of the 49ers’ 178 rushing yards, the most the Seahawks have allowed all season; and they averaged 4.5 yards on 40 rushing attempts.

The Seahawks came into the game allowing averages of 106.3 and 3.7.

“Their scheme is simple,” free safety Earl Thomas said. “We know they’re going to run the ball. They don’t want to put too much stress on their quarterback. But they had a good game plan. They were running away from the down safety, their offense was getting a good push on our D-line at first and we weren’t playing like we usually do on that side of the ball and it kind of hurt.”

The return game – Last season, Leon Washington broke three kickoff returns for touchdowns and almost added another score on an 84-yard punt return. This season, his longest kickoff return is a 54-yarder and his longest punt return a 37-yarder. It’s not from a lack of trying, as Washington has returned 41 kickoffs, some from deep in the end zone; and 37 punts. Only the Redskins’ Brandon Banks has more kickoff returns (49). Only five players have more punt returns.

“Leon was trying hard,” Carroll said of Washington’s efforts against the 49ers. “Those guys were battling with him, trying to split something, but they were really good. They were effective today. We weren’t able to neutralize that.”