Investing in Lynch pays dividends for Hawks

SEAHAWKS: Concerns over $31 million contract for hard-charging runner seem unfounded so far

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comOctober 3, 2012 

If you thought Marshawn Lynch would turn soft and unproductive after inking a big contract this offseason, take a look at the NFL rushing leaders.

Lynch is at the top of the list.

The Seattle Seahawks running back has 423 yards on 92 carries and has scored two rushing touchdowns. Lynch is averaging a robust 4.6 yards per carry, has twice run for more than 100 yards in a game and is on pace to rush for a career-best 1,692 yards this season.

He finished with a near season-high 118 yards on 20 carries in Seattle’s 19-13 loss to St. Louis on Sunday.

Last season, Lynch posted career highs of 1,202 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns, earning his second Pro Bowl selection.

If Lynch finishes with at least 1,000 yards this season, he’ll be the first Seattle runner since Shaun Alexander in 2004-05 to run for at least 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

When Seattle signed the 26-year-old Lynch to a four-year, $31 million deal, including $17 million guaranteed, there were concerns about his durability long-term because of his bruising running style.

So far, Lynch has continued to eat up chunks of yards with the physical, relentless way he runs.

“The effort he plays with is infectious,” tight end Zach Miller said. “It makes all of the linemen want to block harder for him, and a lot of times he is carrying a lot of guys, breaking I don’t know how many tackles he breaks – but I know it’s at least one a play.”

Added coach Pete Carroll: “Marshawn continues to be just rock solid for us. He’s doing everything we want.”

Much has been made of his team’s struggles passing the ball, but Lynch remains the identity of the offense and the focal point of opposing teams’ preparation.

The Seahawks have run the ball 56 percent of the time overall and even more on first down (66 percent). They are averaging 4.8 yards per play on first down, which sets them up for manageable second and third downs.

“These are workable numbers – these are on-schedule type of numbers, as far as the early downs,” Carroll said. “And we’ve mixed the runs and passes, so we just need to get better.”

A key problem has been third downs. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has helped the offense convert third downs just 28 percent of the time, 27th overall in the league. He has completed 11 of 27 passes for 77 yards on third downs.

“This is a very hard part of the game for all young quarterbacks – it’s red zone and third downs,” Carroll said. “That’s where it gets most difficult, and we need to get better in both areas.”

SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT

CAROLINA PANTHERS

10 a.m., Sunday, Bank of America Stadium

Against the Seahawks: Seattle and Carolina are tied, 2-2, in the all-time series during the regular season. Seattle defeated the Panthers, 21-10, on Jan. 22, 2006, in the NFC Championship Game to reach Super Bowl XL in the only time these two teams met in the postseason. In their most recent meeting, the Seahawks defeated the Panthers, 31-14, on Dec. 5, 2010, at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks are 0-2 on the road against the Panthers, including a 13-10 loss the last time Seattle traveled to Charlotte, on Dec. 16, 2007.

Stats and stuff: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has had somewhat of a sophomore slump. Last season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year is No. 16 in the league in passing yards, with 1,013. He’s completed 68 of 107 passes (63.6 percent) for four touchdowns and five interceptions, giving him a passer rating of 87.5. Newton’s average of 9.47 yards per attempt is the highest in the league, however. He also is tied for the team lead in rushing, with 167 yards on 33 carries (5.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. … Running back DeAngelo Williams has 167 yards on 42 carries (4.0 yards per carry). … Tight end Greg Olsen leads Carolina in receptions with 20. He has 256 yards receiving and one touchdown. … Wide receiver Steve Smith is ninth in the league in receiving yards with 348 on 17 catches. … Running back Jonathan Stewart, a former star at Timberline High School in Lacey, is third on the team in rushing, with 91 yards on 21 carries (4.3 yards per carry). … Carolina allows an average of 134.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks 25th in the league. … The Panthers have a minus-6 turnover differential, tied for third-worst in the league. … Former Washington State offensive lineman Zack Williams is on Carolina’s practice squad.

Quotable: “There were a lot of good things, a lot of things we’re going to build off and use as we go forward. The bad part is that we had a very good football team against the ropes, and we didn’t finish them off.” – Carolina head coach Ron Rivera on his team losing at NFC South divison rival Atlanta, 30-28, on Sunday after squandering a 24-14 second-half lead. PANTHERS’ SCHEDULE

Sept. 9 Buccaneers 16, Panthers 10

Sept. 16 Panthers 35, Saints 27

Sept. 20 Giants 36, Panthers 7

Sept. 30 Falcons 30, Panthers 28

Sunday Seattle

Oct. 14 Bye

Oct. 21 Dallas

Oct. 28 at Chicago

Nov. 4 at Washington

Nov. 11 Denver

Nov. 18 Tampa Bay

Nov. 26 at Philadelphia

Dec. 2 at Kansas City

Dec. 9 Atlanta

Dec. 16 at San Diego

Dec. 23 Oakland

Dec. 30 at New Orleans

eric.williams@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams eric.williams@thenewstribune.com

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