If ever there were a day to put rational thinking on hold and embrace the power of hope, it would be Easter. Whenever that is. But if ever there were a day to suspend doubt, wallow in nostalgia, will yourself into jolliness, and find happiness in mass culture, it would be Christmas. Today let us not doubt whether Marshawn Lynch is still capable, remember when he was the beating heart of the greatest era of Seahawks football, piece through his brief 2018 season for proof of juice, and shrewdly feature in our post likely the most searched athlete in the NFL. Yes, let us all unwrap the gift of Beast Mode through words and pictures but mostly pictures, because if college has taught me anything, it’s that 90% of Americans under 25 are functionally illiterate.
Now, more for the purposes of hype than analysis, let’s look at Lynch’s 10-yard touchdown run from week 1 of the 2018 season. In which Marshawn drags John Johnson across three yards of the Oakland Coliseum.
Every single Raiders lineman wins his assignment. The result is optimal run blocking.
All four defensive linemen are turned and more or less out of the play. Rams linebacker Cory Littleton (58) is not yet blocked by Raiders center Rodney Hudson (61). The first step to Lynch scoring is eliminating Littleton.
He keeps Hudson squared up to Littleton by running to the leftmost edge of the hole. If he prematurely cuts right either Littleton breaks free or Hudson risks committing a holding penalty.
Now for the sauce.
Lynch cuts left. This seems strange. He doesn’t need to further set up his block. Depth isn’t properly conveyed in the above image, but if we look at another angle, we can see Hudson’s block is square.
Cutting left would be cutting into Aaron Donald. So what does Lynch see that isn’t immediately apparent? Lamarcus Joyner.
Dig the input lag on Joyner, circled, as Lynch cuts right.
Joyner’s chasing the last move, and that shadow juke against a distant opponent, apart from being clever, will prove essential to Lynch scoring. Joyner will engage too late and too high from a position of disadvantage.
Constantly perfecting his position to aid blockers, constantly adjusting his momentum to attack space, Lynch wends a serpentine path.
Johnson (43) spears Aaron Donald attempting to tackle Lynch. Escaping this threat and facing four DBs with five yards to go, Lynch enters the end game of his run.
Only two Rams are contacting Lynch. Marqui Christian, who can be seen beneath and in front of Lynch his shoulders nearly squared to the sideline, has no leverage and will be run through. Johnson, owner of the rag doll legs spilling from the nascent scrum, has latched onto Lynch’s right ankle.
Joyner, between (21) Aqib Talib and (87) Jared Cook, has flitted left and right pursuing Lynch.
He shoulder tackles Lynch’s right shoulder. Christian and Joyner will each fruitlessly tackle a shoulder eventually becoming a kind of substructure Lynch will ride on and fall over into the end zone.
Kelechi Osemele runs over and rids the pile of Donald. This frees Lynch to continue driving into and eventually though Christian and Joyner.
Hudson rallies to help push Lynch.
A super computer couldn’t model all the relevant force vectors.
1) Littleton is surfing the crowd like Eddie Vedder in the video for “Even Flow.”
2) Peeking between Joyner and Brockers can be seen Christian’s helmet tilted right. He’s toppling.
3) And here’s Johnson, all 220 pounds of him, latched onto Lynch’s right leg. As Hudson, Gabe Jackson and eventually Kolton Miller all join together to push Lynch forward, Lynch will progress in a series of one-legged hops: His left leg hopping forward; his right leg, though not touching the turf, drawing up to drag Johnson foot by foot. Johnson’s view is what I assume Kurtz meant when he said “The horror! The horror!”
For another perspective, television analyst Jason Witten offers this commentary: “You question if I had any Skittles left in his pocket?” I didn’t before. Now I am almost too curious.
I’m not gonna attempt some kind of dour scouting report. No one knows. No one needs to know. That’s part of the fun, and whatever Lynch contributes, booyah.
However good he still is, however much he may contribute to Seattle beating the San Francisco 49ers and beyond, whatever his utility to me as a Seahawks fan, Marshawn Lynch plays beautiful ball. It’s great having you back and a merry New Year to you too, Marshawn.