Sharing the load, and the experience

Posted Jan 6, 2011

Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch –teammates and best friends – have shared a lot. Saturday, they’ll add playing in the postseason for the first time when the Seahawks host the Saints at Qwest Field.

Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch have shared a lot in the past half dozen years.

A friendship that began while playing together at Cal and has turned into a brotherly love relationship. NFL careers that began on opposite coasts. Even Forsett’s wedding, where Lynch was a groomsman. And, this season, the Seahawks’ running game.

Saturday, they will experience the NFL playoffs for the first time when the Seahawks host the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in a 1:30 p.m. wild-card game at Qwest Field.

Lynch is the bigger (5 feet 11, 215 pounds), more physical presence that coach Pete Carroll said he wanted the day he was hired last January, and finally got when the Seahawks obtained Lynch in an October trade with the Buffalo Bills – the team that selected him  with 12th pick overall in the 2007 draft. He grew up in Oakland before going to Cal.

Forsett is smaller (5-8, 198), but explosive and elusive. The Seahawks selected him in the seventh round of the 2008 draft, lost him briefly to the Indianapolis Colts and then re-signed him. He grew up in Texas before making his way to Cal, where he met his wife – Angela, the daughter of former NBA player Paul Pressey, an All-American volleyball player for the Golden Bears and now a member of the U.S. National team.

Together, they managed to rush for almost 1,100 yards this season – 573 from Lynch on 165 carries for a 3.5-yard average and six touchdowns; 523 from Forsett on 118 carries for a 4.4-yard average and two TDs. But the Seahawks ranked a disappointing 31st in the league, averaging 89 rushing yards.

Like the rest of this 7-9 team, however, Forsett and Lynch are heading to the playoffs – and, for them, it’s the first time.

After his first three NFL seasons, Lynch was back home in Oakland by this time – wondering and wishing.

“This is a lot different,” he said. “It’s a feeling that I always wanted to feel. I’m glad I got to experience it.”

Is the feeling as good as he anticipated? “It’s better. It’s better,” Lynch said. “It’s a great feeling. And then to be able to share it with the guys that I’m sharing it with, and the situation and circumstance that we fought through and was able to make it and be able to be in this position to be where we are right now.”

One of those guys, of course, is Forsett.

“It means a lot to both of us,” Forsett said. “It’s an opportunity that we’ve been waiting on and we’re just excited to go out there and play. We’re blessed, and we’ve just got to seize the opportunity.”

One thing these two haven’t shared is the Pro Bowl. Lynch went in 2008, after rushing for 1,036 yards and catching 47 passes for the Bills.

“I experienced the Pro Bowl, and it was wonderful, it was great,” Lynch said. “I’ve never experienced the playoffs, so this is a huge opportunity for me.”

One Lynch and Forsett are sharing because the running game came up huge in the second half of Sunday night’s division-clinching victory over the St. Louis Rams at Qwest. The Seahawks finished with 141 yards – their third-highest rushing total of the season and most since running for a season-high 161 in the Week 13 win over the Carolina Panthers. They got 119 of it in the second half – 61 in the third quarter and 58 in the fourth, including 34 on 10 carries during a clock-consuming drive to Olindo Mare’s third field goal that chewed up almost half the quarter.

“Those guys up front really had their mind set that they wanted to run the ball,” Lynch said. “So it made it easier for us.”

Especially those guys on the right side of the line – guard Mike Gibson, tackle Sean Locklear and tight end Chris Barker, who fractured a hip in the game and was placed on injured reserve this week.

“In the locker room we talked about it,” offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said. “We had a couple players step up and say, ‘Run behind me.’ And that’s what we did. They just mentally took upon themselves to take us to the next game.”

Lynch gained 74 of his 75 yards running to that right side, and all came in the second half. Forsett ran for 24 of his 28 yards in the second half.

“We could tell we were wearing them down,” Forsett said. “The O-line did a heckuva job just taking advantage of them and we were running free.”

It was a mindset that Bates had been waiting to see.

“The running game is about attitude,” Bates said. “It’s about playing together. It’s about being dirty and nasty and winning the fight.

“You watch late in the fourth quarter and we were moving that pile, we were moving the line of scrimmage. It was a pretty thing to see. The last time it looked like that was in Week One against San Francisco to end the game.”

Bates cracked a smile before adding, “So Week One to Week 17. Next year we’ll work on the middle part.”