Minnesota's Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing, and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch is second. Both are on pace to carry the ball more than 300 times this season.
RENTON — They are relics in a league where quarterbacks get the headlines and running backs are considered increasingly disposable.
Throwbacks in what is becoming a throw-first league.
Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch are an endangered species in today’s NFL, workhorses who don’t shy away from contact. In fact, they’re more likely to initiate it. Peterson and Lynch aren’t part of a running back committee so much as running backs their teams have committed to.
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Peterson leads the league in rushing yards with 775, Lynch is second with 757. It’s often said that NFL games come down to a matter of inches, but this Sunday when the Seahawks host the Vikings it will be more a matter of their feet.
“These are two great players in our league,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, “and it’ll be fun to watch them.”
They also have more in common than you might think.
“Probably just as far as being relentless,” Lynch said of the similarity.
They were the first two running backs chosen in the 2007 draft, Peterson No. 7 out of Oklahoma and Lynch picked five choices later by Buffalo. And in a league where the average career lasts less than four seasons, they both have made a living in the most inhospitable place on the field: running between the tackles.
“I think of both of those guys as angry runners who are really determined to get extra yards,” said Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator.
Bevell has coached both players, having been in Minnesota before coming to Seattle last season. Peterson became the gold standard at his position almost immediately, but this year he has come back after suffering a torn knee ligament in the second-to-last game of last season.
It was impressive that Peterson was even active for the first game this season, let alone as effective as he has been. The fact he leads the league in rushing less than one year removed from the injury is shocking to everyone except those who know him.
“He’s just a different type of guy,” said Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice, Peterson’s teammate in Minnesota. “I didn’t doubt for a second that he would be back to the Adrian Peterson he was before. He’s out here proving it now.”
Lynch’s comeback had to do with circumstance, not health. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards with the Bills each of his first two seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2008. But then his career veered off course in Buffalo, and he became an afterthought who wound up being traded by the Bills to Seattle for two picks in the second half of the draft.
For Lynch’s first year in Seattle, he pretty much ran in place. As Seattle prepared to play Baltimore in Game 9 last year, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called Lynch “definitely a top-two or -three running back in the National Football League.”
It’s OK if you snickered back then. At that point, Lynch had surpassed 100 yards rushing in exactly one of the 19 regular-season games he had played with the Seahawks. His 67-yard touchdown run in the playoffs was unforgettable. It was also an aberration that first year.
Well, he’s hit triple digits in nine of the 16 games since then, returning to the top of the league’s rushing leaders by lowering his head. “Yards after contact, that’s one of the ways that you judge backs,” said Leslie Frazier, Minnesota’s coach. “It’s rare that you see one guy bring him down.”
Same goes for Peterson, and while they won’t be facing each other Sunday, they are on a collision course, so to speak. And what would happen if two guys who run so hard actually did run into each other?
“It would be loud,” Bevell said.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @dannyoneil