The run never should have reached epic status.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Shanle was there, shedding a missed block, and squared up on Marshawn Lynch in his only running lane. At best, Lynch should have gained a couple of yards to bring up a key third down with less than 3½ minutes to go in last Saturday’s game.
Then “Beast Mode” showed up, and what seemed to be a nominal short-gain suddenly became the greatest run in Seattle Seahawks history.
“More people have been talking to me about the run than the win,” Lynch said.
Days after Lynch’s game-clinching, tackle-breaking, 67-yard touchdown against the Saints in the first round of the NFC playoffs, the run is still the dominant topic of conversation. Talk radio is full of it, asking listeners to provide a name for the electrifying dash. YouTube has hundreds of varieties of the film, some with more than a half-million views in just a handful of days. The video has been set to the sound effects from “Super Mario Bros.” and imitated using the 1980s video game “Tecmo Bowl.”
Heck, Lynch’s run even caused a seismic event to be recorded by sensors just outside of Qwest Field.
Suddenly the Seahawks, set to face the Bears in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game on Sunday in Chicago, are receiving a little notoriety, and not because they’re sticking around the playoffs with a losing record.
“You just knew when it happened, everybody that was there, this was really a unique thing that just happened in front of us, and we’re grateful for being around it when it happened,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
When Lynch arrived in Seattle after an October trade with the Buffalo Bills, he brought along the “Beast Mode” moniker. It was a symbol of his rugged, run-at-all-costs style that resonates with fans.
Lynch’s ability to run between the tackles also was the perfect complement that Carroll was looking for in his run game, countering the veteran’s bruising with the edge speed of fellow backs Justin Forsett and Leon Washington.
But the Seahawks’ run game was a joke most of the season. Unable to find any consistency with its offensive line, Seattle averaged just 89 rushing yards per game and, much of the season, was on pace to have the worst run game in franchise history.
The Seahawks’ success in running started to turn in the regular-season finale, when they gained 141 yards on the ground, with Lynch rambling for 75 after registering six carries for minus-1 yards in the first half.
That performance was muted by what Lynch did with just one carry against the Saints.
“Not to take anything away from the run, but the biggest highlight for me was that we won the game,” Lynch said.
Lynch had a pretty good game going against New Orleans even before his now-famous dash. Although most of the offensive punch in this game plan called on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s passing, Lynch was averaging 3.6 yards per carry before taking a second-and-10 handoff with about 3:37 left.
The next 15 seconds was one highlight moment after another.
“It was ‘Beast Mode’ at its finest,” Seattle wide receiver Mike Williams said.
Of anyone, Shanle had the best attempt at stopping the play. But Lynch bounced off Shanle and stepped away from an ankle-tackle attempt by Will Smith.
About 8 yards past the line of scrimmage, Remi Ayodele and Darren Sharper slipped right off Lynch as he accelerated for first-down yardage. Jabari Greer tried grabbing Lynch from behind, around his arms, at midfield, but he slid down to his feet, and the running back scampered away.
Then came the stiff-arm — and what a stiff-arm it was.
Tracy Porter forever will be part of playoff history after his interception return for a touchdown clinched the Saints’ victory over the Indianapolis Colts in last year’s Super Bowl. Now he has a bookend moment that counters the interception.
Porter first engaged Lynch around the Saints’ 38-yard line but made the mistake of trying to tackle him around the shoulders. Lynch’s stiff-arm was so vicious, he sent Porter sprawling five yards.
By this point, Lynch’s teammates had caught up. Williams was downfield, as was guard Tyler Polumbus and Sean Locklear. Even Hasselbeck was there. Lynch avoided Alex Brown’s attempt from behind at the 15, then cut back toward the middle of the field behind a block from Polumbus and finally stepped over Roman Harper’s flailing attempt at the goal line, leaping backward into the end zone.
“The most impressive thing about the run to me is he actually scored,” Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson said. “A lot of times, you see runs like that, and he might stiff-arm the guy, but somebody comes and tackles him eventually.”
Lynch said he has heard from plenty of old friends in the days since the Seahawks’ upset of the Saints, a fact he believes has been lost in the specter of his electrifying run. But Lynch is thrilled to be in the playoffs for the first time in his career after already being back home in Oakland by this point in each of his first three NFL seasons.
And he has the added label of causing a small tremor when the Qwest Field stands shook at the end of Lynch’s run.
“(It was) a real great feeling, especially for my first one and for us to win and then win in the fashion we did,” Lynch said. “… I heard that we caused a little earthquake, so that’s pretty cool.”