Lynch was the story of the week, from whether he would even travel with the Seahawks to whether he would play. Lynch did, in fact, play, but the game got out of hand so early that Lynch never was a big part of the offense.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Running back Marshawn Lynch wasn’t much of a factor Sunday in the Seahawks’ 31-24 divisional playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers, but he never had a chance to be.

If this is the end of Lynch’s tenure with the Seahawks — and that is the question hanging over any talk about Lynch — then it ended without a bang.

Lynch carried the ball six times for 20 yards. He had only one carry in the second half because the Seahawks were down so big they couldn’t afford to run the ball.


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The times he did carry the ball, he didn’t have much space. On a couple of carries, Lynch looked like his classic self, dragging and bullying tacklers. But most of the time he was hit or bottled up around the line of scrimmage, including his first carry when he was dropped for a loss of 3 yards.

“He didn’t get much of a chance,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He didn’t get the opportunities at all to get going. Even the first run, we cut a guy loose in the backfield, he didn’t even have a shot. He tried hard.’’

Lynch hadn’t played in two months after having abdominal surgery in late November. And this week was shrouded in mystery and suspense, two hallmarks of the Lynch era, after Lynch didn’t make the trip to Minnesota for the Seahawks’ first playoff game.

The simple act of getting on the team bus Friday drew intense interest.

But Lynch’s future with the Seahawks is in doubt. The Seahawks could save $6.5 million by releasing him, and Lynch has considered retiring after each of the past two seasons.

Lynch will be 30 at the start of next season, and the Seahawks were delighted with his backup, rookie Thomas Rawls, before Rawls suffered a season-ending ankle injury. It long has been thought that whenever this season ended, it would also end Lynch’s storied, and at times chaotic, career in Seattle.

When asked about the possibility of this being Lynch’s final game, his teammates spoke in their typical glowing terms.

“I’ll remember him being a Beast,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. ”Beast Mode. That’s trademark now. If he’s strapping up his pads, he’s going to give you everything he’s got.”

Said receiver Jermaine Kearse: “Just his style of play. I’ve never seen somebody play that position the way he did. I don’t think there’s no one quite like Marshawn.”