Marshawn Lynch against his old blokes Bobby Wagner and the Seahawks in London.
Bring on the woofin’.
“I expect him to talk a lot of trash,” Wagner said before Sunday’s game between Seattle (2-3) and Lynch’s Oakland Raiders (1-4) in front of almost 90,000 people inside historic, sold-out Wembley Stadium.
Yes, the Seahawks’ All-Pro linebacker is anticipating garbage in this sprawling, bustling city that seems almost impeccably clean. Wagner and Lynch, now a Raiders’ running back, won a Super Bowl four years ago whilst they were teammates with the Seahawks.
“When we were playing with each other, he was always talking about he was going to run me over,” Wagner said. “But we never got a chance to go against each other. This will be his opportunity.
“I’m definitely going to try to catch him slipping a couple of times. He thinks we’re going to go low. I’m not going to go low. I’m going to go high on him, maybe give him a forearm.
“It might be a flag, though.”
Wagner is the only one of Lynch’s former Seahawks teammates left playing for Seattle’s defense, now that All-Pro safety Earl Thomas is on injured reserve with a broken leg likely having played his last game for the team and Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright remains out following knee surgery in August.
Wright could make his season debut Oct. 28 at Detroit, the Seahawks’ next game after their upcoming bye week.
The promise of Wagner running down then into Lynch, who is still beloved among veterans in Seattle’s locker room, and Lynch talking smack back is adding spice to Sunday’s regular-season game like none other in Seahawks’ history. So are the thousands of Seattle fans who have traveled here for Sunday’s game from the Pacific Northwest, elsewhere in the United States, from Europe and within the United Kingdom.
“I think there is a lot of value in playing a game like this,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “First of all, the game of football and the National Football League is spreading worldwide, which you can definitely tell and see in all the energy for us, the Seattle Seahawks, being here.
“The game is really expanding around the world. I think in terms for us and the Seahawks, just to be able to go and break outside of our walls every once in a while, go outside, come all the way out here to London; it’s about a nine-hour flight for us to get here. We’re going to feel the energy on Sunday and we know that. The stadium is going to be pretty loud.
“I’s going to be exciting to play in of the most historic stadiums of all time, in all of sports. It’s an honor to come out here to London and play out here and to be a part of that game and to be a part of the spreading of the game of football, not just for the National Football League, but for the world.”
The Seahawks fans have been all over London this weekend. From Parliament to PIccadilly Square, Buckingham Palace to the majestic bridge most tourists here think is London Bridge (but is the Tower Bridge), Seahawks fans have been parading around town in packs chanting “SEA! HAWKS!”
Wilson saw many British citizens are Seahawks fans when he visited London a few months ago on a promotional tour for Sunday’s game.
“That’s one thing that I noticed in a big, big way last time I came, in the summer, was just how many Seahawks fans were here and how much energy was around us coming here,” Wilson said. “We’re expecting, as always, the Seahawks fans are going to travel really, really well. We believe we travel probably the best that there is in football, American football, that is.
“It’s going to be pretty exciting.”
Britons have indeed noticed all the Seahawks fans chanting and roaring through London’s streets, and they’ve been amused. And impressed.
Of course, most of the 80,000-plus inside famed Wembley on Sunday will be from the U.K. The Telegraph of London reported that according to StubHub, demand for the London games “is up an incredible 333 percent in five years, and 40 percent on last season.”
This week’s run up to the first of three NFL London games this season has the locals once again assessing the likelihood of the league placing a team here permanently. Some English reports say an NFL team based in London is no longer an if, as it was in the early days of the league playing games in England starting in 20017, but a when.
What would the Seahawks think of an NFL team in London?
“I mean, as long as we’ve got a bye week afterwards, I think it’d be cool.” Wagner said.
And, yes, Seattle has a bye next week after returning home early Monday from this game.
The Seahawks flew nine hours on a nonstop chartered jumbo jet Wednesday night Seattle time into Thursday afternoon London time. They practiced soon affer landing, then went on a team outing of Topgolf, a game of hitting a microchipped golf ball at giant, dartboard-like targets on an outfield. Accuracy and distance win, to stay awake until later Thursday evening. That was to get the players on an Englishman’s sleep schedule for Sunday’s game.
Who was the best Seahawks Topgolfer?
“There were some guys who could really swing it. (Backup tackle) George Fant was one of the guys who could hit it pretty far,” Wilson said. “He hit it pretty good. Justin Britt hit it pretty good a couple times.
“I was swinging pretty good. I hadn’t been swinging it in a while. I got some points playing Topgolf.”
The Raiders did not arrive in London until Friday afternoon.
Sunday’s game could come down to how well the Seahawks continue to assert their will to run the ball on an Oakland defense that is ranked 30 out of 32 teams. Seattle has had three consecutive games with a 100-yard rusher for the first time since the end of the 2012 season, when Lynch ran for 100 in five straight games into the playoffs. Chris Carson is well past the hip injury he that kept him out of the win at Arizona two weeks ago, and gave Mike Davis his opportunity to run for 100 yards. Carson did it the week before that, in Seattle’s win over Dallas, then last week in the 33-31 loss to the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams.
If the Seahawks can establish the run again, this time on a notoriously loose Wembley pitch likely to be soften more by rain Sunday, Wilson may have better opportunities to throw than he has yet this season. The Raiders and new-old coach Jon Gruden traded All-Pro pass rusher Kahlil Mack to Chicago just before this season, and no team has pressured opposing quarterback less often than Oakland through five games.
Because of that, and with QBs having more time to throw against them, the Raiders are next-to-last in the league in yards allowed per pass play.
“We’re improving. We’re getting better,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “And they can all feel it. We have set a style in motion a while back that we have kind of felt like we’re starting to capture now, that makes everybody feel kind of in a good way that we’re moving and we’re getting better.
“Now we need to see if we can keep going. ... It’s really about playing really tough and physical and running the football well and playing good defensive teams. That’s what we’re trying to get done and we’re aware of that. We were really disappointed that it didn’t contribute to a win last week, but we still could feel the style, so that’s important to us.
“We’re going to try and make a big push here through the middle of the season, see if we can get going by the halfway point. ...Getting back to .500 is really important right now.”
The Seahawks signed tight end Tyrone Swoops from the practice squad on Saturday, adding to what was a thin position group with Nick Vannett’s back ailing him this past week. Swoops had been practicing with the team in London all week.
To make room on the roster they waived wide receiver Keenan Reynolds.