Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to play in Sunday’s NFC divisonal playoff game, but it’s unlikely he can carry his team.
We know Marshawn Lynch arrived in Charlotte, but we don’t know if he’ll show up.
The Seahawks running back says he’s ready, but his team needs to be ready for Plan B.
You can’t deny Lynch’s playoff history — the six 100-yard performances, the nine touchdowns in 10 games, and the Beast Quake that triggers aftershocks to this day. But you also can’t deny that it’s been almost a year since he has been truly great.
Sunday, Lynch is expected to be in uniform for the first time since his abdominal surgery in late November. A staple of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl teams has returned at the most critical point of the season.
It’s a fun time for fans, but they should temper their optimism. Beast Mode will likely carry the ball — but it’s unlikely he’ll carry the team.
A couple of weeks ago, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked if he was concerned that Lynch’s extended absence might hinder the running back when he first returned. Carroll politely dismissed the notion by noting Marshawn’s football smarts and veteran savvy.
Hey, there is no doubt that Lynch’s in-game IQ is every bit as responsible for his success as his strength and agility. But come on — this is the NFL. Even the greats need some time to adjust to Sunday speed.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s .669 winning percentage is one of the best in league history, but of the six times he has played after having missed the previous game due to injury, he has won just twice. Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, meanwhile, had just two receptions for 12 yards upon his return from a broken foot that kept him out for six weeks this season.
And if we’re talking about in-game IQ and veteran savvy, what about a certain basketball player named Michael Jordan, who went 7 for 28 in his first game back from his first retirement?
There are always going to be exceptions, but it takes time to adjust no matter how special a player you are. Which brings up the next question.
Is Lynch still a special player?
As even Marshawn admitted during an appearance on “Conan,” a running back’s shelf life is bite-sized. At 29, Lynch is the same age LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander were when their rushing numbers nosedived.
And while he has been banged up for most of the season (back, hamstring, calf, etc.), Lynch only managed 417 yards in the seven games he played this year — gaining just 3.8 yards per carry. Is this really a guy who is going to bulldoze his way through the Panthers’ defense and open up the Seahawks’ passing game?
Look, I’m not going to dismiss anything when it comes to Beast Mode. The one game in which Marshawn looked completely healthy this year, he lit up the San Francisco 49ers for 122 rushing yards on 27 carries. And just last January he ran for 157 yards on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, followed by 102 yards vs. New England in the Super Bowl.
The man doesn’t shy away from the moment. If he says he’s ready, he means it. But will his body cooperate? Because this is by far the most time he has ever missed.
After the Seahawks lost to the Rams three weeks ago, I wrote that Seattle is only going as far as Marshawn Lynch will take them — and I’m not sure I’ve changed my stance. As these playoff opponents get tougher, the Seahawks are going to need to establish the run to keep defenses guessing, and I’m not sure fellow running back Christine Michael is good enough to do that.
I don’t think Seattle can win three games with a mediocre Marshawn, but they may have to win one vs. Carolina. In Lynch’s first game back from injury, it may be on his teammates to make sure it’s not his last game as a Seahawk.