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It shook CenturyLink Field. It was the roar of the crowd after Marshawn Lynch’s now infamous 67-yard touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints in the 2010 NFC Wild Card.
Nearly a year before that game, Seattle named Pete Carroll their head coach and John Schneider their general manager. The duo proceeded to gut the franchise, searching all corners for talent. In their first draft together, Carroll and Schneider used first-round draft picks on safety Earl Thomas and left tackle Russell Okung. Cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson were third and fifth-round picks, respectively. Their best pass rushers, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, came via free agency. Receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin were undrafted free agents.
Lynch arrived via trade from the Buffalo Bills in September of 2010. The Seahawks gave up fourth and fifth-round picks. His beginnings in Seattle weren’t great. The former first-round pick ran for just 573 yards and six touchdowns in his first 12 games donning Seattle colors, well below the totals we’ve come accustom to seeing. However, his performance against the Saints in that wild card game foreshadowed things to come.
Lynch carried the Seahawks to victory, rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. His 67-yad touchdown run cemented Seattle’s victory in the fourth quarter. It was clear Carroll and Schneider found their running back of the future.
Flash forward to the present day and Lynch remains the offense‘s core player. Wilson receives most of the publicity, sure, but Lynch is the player defenses fear. If Wilson is the face of the team, then Lynch is its heart.
Nowhere was that more clear than in this year's NFC Championship, when offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell refused to abandon the run even with his team trailing by 12 with less than five minutes remaining.
Lynch ran for 77 yard in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a 24-yard touchdown run that put Seattle in front for the first time. He finished the game with 157 yards and a touchdown, the kind of championship game performance that cements Hall of Fame careers. In fact, this type of performance has become the norm for Lynch in the postseason.
He rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries against Washington in a 2012 wild card game. A year later, he ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints in the divisional round, and added 109 yards and one touchdown against San Francisco in the NFC Championship. Overall, he has 815 yards and eight touchdowns in nine postseason games.
This Saturday, Hall of Fame voters will debate the candidacy of former Denver running back Terrell Davis. His candidacy is a bit controversial because he only had three great seasons (1996-98), but his supporters argue that he was the most important player on the ‘90s Broncos. Even more so than legendary quarterback John Elway.
You know what they have a point. Davis was the focus of Denver’s offense during that time, rushing for 1,140 yards in eight postseason games. His career culminated in a 2,000-yard season in 1998, a year in which Denver successfully won their second straight Super Bowl.
Lynch may not have a 2,000-yard season, but he’s one victory away from being the center point of the first NFC team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the 1992-93 Dallas Cowboys. If you’re going to make a Hall of Fame case for Davis because of his importance to the Broncos, then you’d better make the same case for Lynch when the time comes to debate his candidacy, as he’s just as important to the Seahawks of the 2010s. Moreover, unlike Davis, he has a very real possibility of finishing his career with 10,000 rushing yards.
A lot is riding on Sunday’s game for Lynch. The quiet, yet sometimes bizarre running back could solidify himself as a future Hall of Famer with a Super Bowl MVP performance.
It also may be his last game in Seattle. Last off-season, Lynch and the Seahawks had a dispute over his contract. The two sides are likely heading for another dispute this off-season, which could result in Seattle releasing their star running back, or it’s possible Lynch decides to retire. Making matters more complicated is Wilson’s impending pay raise. The Seahawks reportedly are prepared to sign him to a long-term contract this off-season that will pay him over $20 million per year. It’s unlikely they’ll give Lynch a raise, as a result.
Even if this is Lynch's final game with the Seahawks, his legacy remains intact with Seattle sports. It‘s been a wild ride, starting with an earthquake against the Saints in 2010, and potentially ending with consecutive Super Bowl titles.