For XLIX, Seattle Needs Beast Mode in Best Mode

Tuesday January 20th, 2015

RENTON, Wash. — Marshawn Lynch walked slowly through the front door of the Seahawks’ training facility here Monday, shortly before 1 p.m. Slowly. Very slowly. Ski cap on, trousers way down, looking very much like he wanted to be invisible. He walked behind the front desk of the Seahawks’ building, and the receptionist rose to greet him. “So good to see you!" she said. They hugged, and he walked away, into a team meeting.

I had every intention of writing about the importance of Russell Wilson to Seattle’s quest to become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles, but let’s face it: New England’s secondary, the clinging and physical coverage of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington, is not going to be a good fit for Wilson to have a big day. Andrew Luck didn’t against New England. Joe Flacco didn’t (well, at the end, he certainly didn’t). Not saying Wilson can’t, but just saying Seattle will have a better chance with the workhorse, Lynch, as the keystone to the offensive game.

Three things about Wilson, before I get to Lynch:

1. Lots of you have wondered, on Twitter and talk shows and emails to me, about the hit Wilson took in the first half after one of his four interceptions Sunday in the NFC title game. Wilson got whipsawed, and was hit hard in the side of the helmet, and it looked like he might have been concussed—or at least hit hard enough to warrant a trip to the locker room to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol. I saw Wilson in the locker room after the game and asked, “Were you hurt on that play? Were you examined by someone after the hit? “I’m good," he said. “I was clear as day. I’m clear as day now.” A few minutes later I asked offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who was with Wilson on the sidelines beginning to review plays from the previous series, about the incident. “The doctor looked at him, looked at his eyes, and Russell told him, ‘I’m fine, I’m clear.’ ” So take that for what it’s worth. Ninety minutes after the game I conversed with Wilson and nothing seemed different.

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2. Wilson, overall, did not play well Sunday. As I wrote Monday, his quarterback rating for the first 55 minutes of the game was 7.0, and for the last nine minutes it was perfect—158.3. If you’re a positive person, that says Wilson knows how to rise to the occasion; if you’re a negative person (or a realist), you might say, “How’d he make all those bad throws earlier in the game?” Good question. But the thing that struck me, and what apparently struck Pete Carroll overnight, was how Wilson, even after his fourth interception, didn’t think the game was over. Asked how his quarterback stays positive, Carroll said, “He has an inner conversation that only something good will happen."

3. Carroll, clearly, is a big fan of Tom Brady, who holds the NFL record now for wins and touchdown passes as a quarterback in the playoffs. “He’s the all-time, all-time championship guy," Carroll said. But Carroll handed his quarterback job to the precocious Wilson in 2012, and all Wilson has done since is start for three seasons, lead the team to two Super Bowls, beat Peyton Manning in one, and go 10-0 against teams with quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls. Not bad for the 75th player picked in the 2012 draft. Wilson and Brady (pick No. 199 in 2000), Carroll said, “have a real commonality. They’re both winners.”

As for Lynch, it now seems comical that the Seahawks ever considered the idea of deciding to part with him after this season. If Lynch chooses to retire, that’s one thing. But Seattle dumping him for cap or chemistry reasons seems absurd right now.

Seattle is entirely reliant on Lynch. The team’s efforts to get Robert Turbin or Christine Michael more involved in the running game have been well-intentioned but never have ended well. Lynch has averaged 109 total yards in Seattle’s seven playoff games since Wilson arrived. And many have said, “Wilson would be nothing without Lynch.” That’s a narrow view of the Seattle offense, but it’s certain that Lynch will be needed to do more against New England this time than he did the last time the two teams met. The Seahawks won that 2012 meeting 24-23, but Lynch was held to 41 yards on 15 carries.

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In New England's two playof wins, Flacco and Luck were held to 51 percent passing, with four touchdowns and four picks. In Arizona in 12 days, Seattle would be wise to roll out Wilson and have his legs serve the team more than his arm. This is going to be a game for the rushing of Lynch and, to a lesser degree, Wilson. That would be fine with Wilson, who never met a stat he cared about. Except one. You can guess what it is.


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