RENTON — An old geologic sensor, submerged into the ground over which the Kingdome stood, went off Jan. 8, 2011.
The sensor is part of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, positioned to catch tectonic shifts or seismic activity that may endanger the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
John Vidale, the network’s director, noticed the sudden but moderate rise in activity that Saturday. A small seismic event had taken place for about 90 seconds. The crescendo of noise within CenturyLink Field was echoed by the spike in vertical lines from the sensor’s readout.
The birth of Beast Mode had been a ground-rattling occurrence.
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Marshawn Lynch’s evasive, bullying and stupefying 67-yard touchdown run against the defending world champion New Orleans Saints in a 2011 wild-card playoff game was symbolic for him and the Seahawks. For the first time since he ran through the Saints’ defense, Lynch and Seattle will face New Orleans on Monday.
Prior to that memorable run, Lynch had arrived in Seattle three months earlier in a trade with the Buffalo Bills. Fullback Michael Robinson asked then-Seahawks running back Justin Forsett, who knew Lynch from their time together at Cal, for the lowdown.
“He said if you want to laugh and joke, Marshawn is the guy for you,” Robinson said.
There was public clowning to support Forsett’s assessment. Lynch had danced with Cal cheerleaders and took an injury cart for a spin following an overtime win against Washington in Berkeley, Calif.
Lynch and Robinson hit it off, and today Robinson is still his lead blocker, consigliere and, at the moment, roommate.
Robinson remembers the moment well. He was squatting with both hands on his hips at the Seahawks’ 33-yard line at the start of the play. Lynch was 3 yards behind him. Matt Hasselbeck was under center. The Seahawks were leading 34-30 with 3:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Lynch was stuffed going off right tackle the prior play. The Seahawks lined up to run 70 power to the other side on second-and-10. Television play-by-play man Tom Hammond calmly said just before the snap, “Crowd silent now ”
What followed, in a variety of ways, was not how the play was planned.
Lynch headed toward left guard Tyler Polumbus and saw numerous road blocks.
“We blocked it totally wrong,” Robinson said. “There was like five unblocked guys.”
As Polumbus crashed down on the nose tackle. Robinson shot through where the hole was supposed to be. Lynch cut back to his right and New Orleans linebacker Scott Shanle was the first to get his hands on him.
After getting loose from Shanle, Will Smith dove at Lynch from behind, ineffectively flailing at his ankles.
Then Lynch collided with offensive lineman Chris Spencer. Three yards into the play, it was a mess.
After pushing past Spencer, Darren Sharper and Remi Ayodele tried to converge on Lynch, each grabbing for a leg. It didn’t stop him.
That’s when the screams began. Hammond perked up, and exclaimed, “Oh, look at this run!” Still, 60 yards remained.
Lynch was on the move and his head began to bob as he planted each foot in the ground with power befitting a mastodon.
Saints cornerback Jabari Greer slid off Lynch all the way to his feet and finally, there was some space in front of him. Cornerback Tracy Porter approached from Lynch’s left side.
Now almost at top speed, Lynch grabbed Porter and shoved him 4 yards down field and onto his behind with his left arm.
Lynch doesn’t talk to the media anymore. When he did, he sat down with NFL Films to breakdown the run. He called what he did to Porter — hurling a 188-pound man almost 12 feet while on the move — a “little baby stiff-arm.”
By this time, Polumbus had passed Lynch, running for all he was worth.
“I looked back and he was breaking a few tackles,” Polumbus said. “I just started sprinting down the field and everything went from there.
“I had no clue what he was doing. I knew he was still on his feet, so as long as he was still on his feet I kept running downfield trying make a block for him.”
Hasselbeck, lineman Sean Locklear and wide receiver Mike Williams were in the blocking mix now for Lynch.
All-Pro left tackle Russell Okung had stopped.
“If you look in the highlights, you won’t see me celebrating in there,” Okung said. “I just really stopped and was watching what he was doing. I was amazed.”
Polumbus gave safety Roman Harper a shove just before the goal line, Lynch cut back inside a touch, then launched himself backward into the end zone while grabbing his groin with his left hand and victoriously thrusting the football into the air with his right.
The ground shook.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees stoically tugged on his helmet. He knew the season had likely just ended.
“I mean, it was ridiculous,” Brees said. “It was one of the best runs that I’ve ever seen.”
Okung went home in the offseason and could only shake his head when friends and other players in the league asked him about the run. He calls it the best he’s witnessed.
Polumbus said he’ll remember it the rest of his life.
Robinson, who agrees with those sentiments, smiled.
“He is symbolic of how we like to play: aggressive, hitter’s mentality, strain, give all you got,” Robinson said.
Even for a cut-up like Lynch, that’s no joke.