Divisive? An “act” that’s wearing thin with the Seahawks?
On top of all that Marshawn Lynch did in the Seahawks’ 38-17 win over the New York Giants on Sunday — 21 carries for 140 yards and a career-best four rushing touchdowns — the supposedly separate, aloof running back was a calmly supportive teammate.
Two plays after another Lynch run got a second-quarter drive going, backup Robert Turbin got a carry, but fumbled. New York recovered near midfield. Turbin later said it was the second fumble he’s lost since 2009 when he was at Utah State.
He slinked off the field as Seattle’s defense ran on it. Lynch, who had been out for two plays, walked off the sideline onto the field. He met his primary backup at the yard-line numbers and gave him a succinct message in Lynch-ian language as vintage as his game Sunday.
Lynch wasn’t trippin’ over anything. Certainly not the trampled Giants.
Anyone who thinks the Seahawks are tired of Lynch’s “act,” as two national reports stated last month, should watch the replay of “Beast Mode” returning with a vengeance. They would learn how vital Lynch remains to this offense — and to this franchise’s hopes of returning to the Super Bowl.
Lynch thumped and bulldozed; he finished one run at the goal line with his dreadlocks flying after his helmet flew off. Russell Wilson trumped another off day passing with his third 100-yard rushing game this season. And Seattle, with 40 percent of its starting offensive line returning from injuries, romped to a team-record 350 yards while scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to break the stunned New York Giants at roaring CenturyLink Field.
All-Pro safety Earl Thomas got his first interception of the season to turn away the Giants and turn momentum late in the third quarter, when the game was tied at 17. Then the Seahawks (6-3) rolled up the rest of their 510 total yards to win their third consecutive game entering a rugged, six-game stretch that begins next weekend at the Kansas City Chiefs.
Seattle also improved to 26-5 when giving Lynch at least 20 carries in a game.
The Seahawks bested their previous rushing record of 320 yards set against the Houston Texans in 2005 on the march to the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance that season.
Wilson had his third two-interception game of his 31/2-season career while completing 10 of 17 passes for 172 yards. But he also had 107 yards rushing on 14 runs — and not mostly scrambles for his life, for a change. This is now the fourth time since 1961 an NFL quarterback has three 100-yard rushing games in a season.
But all Wilson and the Seahawks really needed was Lynch.
“We were getting into a rhythm,” said receiver Doug Baldwin, who had four catches for 31 yards, “feeling what it’s like to play Seahawks football again.”
Indeed, that was what this day was: reclaiming the offense’s, and team’s Super Bowl-winning identity of a 10 months ago. That was after a September of centering the offense around wide receiver Percy Harvin and then almost a full October of adjusting to abruptly trading their $11 million man to the New York Jets.
“I like where we’re going,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I told them that (Saturday) night that I think we’ve made a big shift in the last three weeks … I think we are playing the style of football that we want to play, and that we’re most comfortable with. And that’s really running the football and playing defense … and then see if the other teams can deal with this when we’re playing like that.
Specifically, Lynch is them.
“He’s our backbone,” said Alvin Bailey, Sunday’s left guard while James Carpenter was out with a sprained ankle.
“Couldn't imagine our offense without him. The way he runs, that's our attitude, what we feed off.”
Lynch turns 29 next spring. His current contract has this season and next remaining on it, at a cost to the Seahawks of $7 million in 2015 after he turns 29. It’s likely Seattle will at least ask for Lynch to re-negotiate the end of the deal. Some think the Seahawks will release him.
His teammates had a three-word consensus for that latter thought in their locker room Sunday: No freakin’ way.
“I never want him to leave,” All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said.
Thomas said he wants Lynch as a teammate “as long as he is playing football.”
“Even if you don't understand that guy,” Thomas said, “you gotta give him the ball so he can do what he do.”
Seahawks’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell did just that against the Giants. With historical results.
Lynch had four touches on Seattle’s first six plays — three runs and a 23-yard catch and run — for 39 of the 80 yards on the Seahawks’ game-opening drive. That ended with Lynch’s 1-yard TD.
Then, a relapse to some earlier games: Lynch had zero touches the next two drives. Wilson threw a first-pass interception on drive two at the Seattle 24 to set up the Giants’ tying touchdown. On Seattle’s third drive, Turbin replaced Lynch — and the Seahawks punted.
The fourth drive started with the Lynch 13-yard dash and then the pick-me-up for Turbin’s fumble.
“I told him, ‘OK, I’m not trippin’,’ ” Turbin said.
The only two drives that the Seahawks gave Lynch multiple rushes in the first half ended in touchdown runs by him. New York led 17-14 at halftime.
Lynch gained 28 yards on his first two carries after the break. But then Wilson threw a jump ball deep and too short for Doug Baldwin at the Giants 10-yard-line for his second interception. It was his fourth interception in 251 passes this season, and 13th in 658 regular-season throws over two seasons.
“We had two bad plays today,” Wilson said, one week after his sixth sub-50-percent passing day of his three-season career.
But the way Lynch and Wilson were running, the QB didn’t need to throw.
Bevell said some read-option plays are always in the game plan. But with the Giants collapsing on Lynch and then playing off to spy Wilson’s scramble plays he’s had all season, Bevell began calling read-options like this was the Oregon Ducks on a Saturday in Eugene.
With center Max Unger, an Oregon grad, playing for the first time since spraining his foot Oct. 6 in the win at the Washington Redskins and left tackle Russell Okung back from a groin strain that had him out of last week’s win over the Oakland Raiders, the Seahawks became the sixth NFL team in 14 years to have 350 yards rushing in a game.
Seattle averaged 7.78 yards rushing on its 45 carries. That’s the highest average of any of 52 games in franchise history it has run it at least 40 times.
Baldwin noted how competitive he and his fellow receivers are, but added: “When it comes down to it, if we’re rushing the ball and they can’t stop it, we’re going to keep rushing the ball to win the game.”
It was a 17-17 game with New York at the Seattle 39 in the final minute of the third quarter when Manning looked down the middle at tight end Larry Donnell then threw late outside right to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had lit up the Seahawks for five of his seven catches and 92 of his 108 yards receiving in the first half.
In the same south end zone in which Sherman tipped a Colin Kaepernick pass back to teammate Malcolm Smith to end January’s NFC title game against the San Francisco 49ers, Manning’s throw tipped off Beckham’s lone, outstretched hand.
“He only had one hand up because the other hand was grabbing me and pushing me down,” Sherman said.
The ball tipped back into the arms of the arriving Thomas five yards into the end zone, Smith style, before Thomas ran the interception back 47 yards to the Seattle 42. The Giants never again got closer than that to scoring.
“Sherm is playing his butt off,” Thomas said. “That’s why he’s the best corner in the league.”
It was Manning’s 13th interception in six career games against Seattle, by far his most against any NFL team outside the Giants’ NFC East.
On the ensuing drive, Christine Michael, who gained 71 yards after Turbin’s fumble in a bid to be Lynch’s primary backup, ran for 18 yards before Wilson had a scramble for 11. Lynch’s 17-yard run got the ball to the 3. Lynch, in a single-back formation, ran it in from there. His third TD run put the Seahawks ahead for good, 24-17 with 12:47 remaining.
With a lead late and knowing the opponent had to throw — the formula for the ferocious pass rush the Seahawks had last season — Seattle’s front four swarmed Manning. They hit him once then Michael Bennett sacked him on third down, one of two sacks for the Seahawks, for a timely three-and-out.
When Wilson fumbled at the end of a 17-yard run on another read option, Unger came up larger than his 305 pounds. The center pushed over a Giant who was scooping the ball up out of the pile, causing the linebacker to lose the ball. It bounded to Bailey behind the scrum, so Seattle maintained possession on a drive that ended with Lynch’s fourth TD, from 16 yards two plays later. That made it 31-17.
Cornerback Byron Maxwell, playing for the first time in four games after a calf strain, broke up Manning’s pass on fourth-and-5 at midfield with 5:46 left. Michael zoomed 45 yards on the next play. Then Wilson ran around right end on yet another read-option keeper for the final score.
Asked if getting flattened by 350 yards rushing was embarrassing for the Giants’ defense New York safety Antrel Rolle said, “It’s a little bit worse than embarrassing.”
It was a little bit better than great for the Seahawks to have Lynch-pin back in his primary role.
“He’s unbelievable. Unbelievable, man,” Baldwin said.
“Anytime he touches the ball something magical happens.”