My roommate is not much of an NFL fan. He likes football, but he much prefers college football. He'll root for the Seahawks, but he's a not a fan that's going to follow the players or the games. I'm sure there are a lot of people just like this.
Last night though, while watching the Seahawks beat the Rams, it was easy to tell that he was at least becoming a huge fan of one player in particular: Marshawn Lynch. And, I'm sure there are a lot of people just like this.
It kept happening over and over again. Lynch would take a hand-off, he'd scramble for more yards than you'd expect him to, and no matter what kind of a fan you are, you'd say "Wow."
First play: Lynch to the left side, pushed out of bounds after a 13 yard gain.
Second quarter: Lynch fights for four yards when it looks like he's stopped in the backfield.
Third quarter: Lynch scrambles up the middle to the Rams 10 for 12 yards.
Fourth quarter: Lynch runs up the left side for a 16 yard touchdown.
"Holy shit. Wow."
This season, we've seen the maturation of Marshawn Lynch. If you've watched every game for the last two years, then you've found out what "Beast Mode" really means, because that's really the best way to describe how Lynch runs.
I am not trying to give Lynch yet another nickname right now, but I can't help but think of him as "Mr. Plus 3." He consistently gets extra yardage on each run, providing just an extra yard, or two, or 67, on seemingly every run. He has the most exciting "No Gain" runs in the NFL, and with a patchwork offensive line, that's an amazing quality to have right now.
Marshawn Lynch doesn't just not go stag to parties, he brings at least three extra ladies with him.
When the Hawks acquired Lynch last October, fans didn't really know what they were getting. Would we be getting the Marshawn Lynch that was the 12th overall pick in 2007? The Pro Bowl running back from 2008? Or the player that had lost his job to Fred Jackson and immediately fell out of favor with Buffalo?
The first immediate thought for me is that it's rarely good to get a player that has fallen out of favor with his current team. Just using logic, I can deduce that NFL owners like money. They get more money when they win. They will overlook a lot of things about a player if it helps them win because Good Play = Wins = $$$$.
Lynch was well on his way to living up to his "Money Lynch" moniker after two years in the league. Back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons to start his career, 15 touchdowns, over four yards per carry, not yet 23 years old.
Then things seemed to change.
I'm not saying that a 2009 gun charge that led to a three-game suspension derailed Lynch's career because we have no way of knowing that. But the difference in his performance and production after the incident was remarkably worse than his performance before it.
Jackson was running better than Lynch and when Marshawn returned, he was now going to be sharing the ball. He had 61 carries in his first four games that year, and then 59 carries in the final nine. He scored twice, he averaged 3.75 yards per carry, he topped 70 yards just once.
That's why he didn't cost much in the way of picks when Seattle acquired him last year. That's why I was intrigued but not excited. That's why I wasn't surprised when his performance during the 2010 season was anything more than "ho hum."
Then BeastQuake happened.
I'm not saying that BeastQuake rerailed Lynch's career because we have no way of knowing that. But the difference in his performance and production after he broke off the greatest run in playoff history is so much better than what he was doing in Seattle before. He owed Seattle this kind of performance in order to perform renovations on the city after the Saints game.
The change in the stat sheet didn't happen right away this season. Lynch ran for 141 yards on 46 carries in the first four games for just 3.06 yards per carry. Was BeastQuake just an anomaly?
Yes, of course it was an anomaly. There are a handful of runs that go over 60 yards, but we saw Lynch turn a run that was going nowhere into a game-sealing playoff touchdown with broken tackle after broken tackle. It was incredible. But even if that was anomaly, was "Beast Mode" ever going to show up again?
Yes. Absolutely yes. Hell yes.
Over his last eight games, Lynch has run for 828 yards on 179 carries for a very nice 4.63 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns. It's not just the numbers though, which are very impressive, it's watching him play. It's so much fun to watch him play.
Last night Steven Jackson had a 50 yard reception. It was the longest play of the game for either team. It was a nice play. There was also not a Seahawk in sight when he took the screen pass for 50 yards. He didn't "scramble" for it. He didn't break a tackle for it. It was just "here's the ball and here's wide open spaces."
Lynch rarely has wide open spaces. It's the struggle of Marshawn Lynch that's so enjoyable to watch. It's seeing a player who is given little to work with and then when first contact is made, makes his body shake, wiggle, and vibrate like a cheap motel bed just doing whatever he can to get another yard. Sometimes it "only" results in an extra yard or two, sometimes it results in a 30 yards and a touchdown.
I'm excited that over the last two weeks, a national audience has gotten to witness real "Beast Mode." I'm worried that he is an impending free agent and he that he seemed to lose that mode in Buffalo. I hope that Seattle re-signs him and that he stays motivated to keep fighting for that "Plus 3" for the rest of his career, because "Beast Mode" is one of the best running backs in the NFL.
This version of Lynch is a version that will help Seattle get back to the playoffs and beyond. He's making fans out of people that weren't before, like my roommate. On a weekly basis, he's putting on display what it really means to play like a "beast." DeMarco Murray runs like a gazelle. Kevin Smith runs like a squirrel. Marshawn Lynch can be described as nothing other than a "beast."
Beast Mode, Skittles, Money, I don't care what you call him, as long as we can keep watching him do this as a Seahawk for a long time.
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