Lynch rushes for 122 yards, bulls over San Francisco on 1-yard touchdown run in best game of season.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Seahawks will tell you they rediscovered their groove on Thursday. Found their inner warrior. Played their way.

That meant unleashing stout, punishing defense, of course. It meant taking a lead and strangling it into submission, rather than letting it slip away.

But mainly, it meant Beast Mode was back.

Marshawn Lynch being Marshawn Lynch, his reawakening as a difference maker in Seattle’s 20-3 win over the 49ers came with a quirky side note. Lynch doesn’t do normal, so of course he was puking on the sideline in the first quarter, right after he took over the game on Seattle’s opening drive to fuel a tone-setting touchdown.

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“He’s always sick on the sidelines,’’ shrugged wide receiver Doug Baldwin. “He’s a big baby.”

Let the record show that Baldwin said that affectionately, teasingly.

“He’s a big teddy bear,’’ Baldwin amended. “Quote me on it.”

But also quote Baldwin on this: When Lynch is running recklessly, like he did Thursday to the tune of 122 yards on 27 carries, it fuels the Seahawks like nothing else, he stressed. Beast Mode in motion has been the essence of Seattle’s dominance these past few years at the top of the league.

“That is Seahawks football,’’ Baldwin said. “We go with Marshawn. He leads the way. The style in which he runs, and the style in which he leads in the huddle, that’s what’s important to us. And that’s what helps us get where we want to be. We’re going to go as far as he takes us.”

For the first time in his Seattle tenure, there have been questions about how far that would be. Lynch is getting to that age when running backs mysteriously, but almost inevitably, recede. The injuries, nagging and otherwise, have mounted ominously this year, including a bum hamstring that knocked him out for 2½ games earlier in the season.

Rookie Thomas Rawls rattled off 169 yards against the Bengals in Lynch’s absence, and is an able backup. But as offensive lineman Russell Okung said, after praising the “tough streak” of Rawls, “there’s only one Beast Mode.”

And that Beast Mode is the one that makes opponents pay the price for every stop, that ignites his teammates on offense, and makes Seattle’s defenders want to take his combination of intimidation and aggression right back on the field with them.

“A lot of guys get 100 yards but don’t punish a team,’’ said defensive end Michael Bennett. “He punishes a team.”

On the Seahawks opening scoring drive of 61 yards, Lynch provided 38 of them, including a touchdown run straight over the top of the pile of bodies at the line of scrimmage. The 49ers never really recovered.

“You have a game plan, and then when you come out and execute and go right down the field and score, it really opens everything up,’’ said tight end Luke Willson. “You have to figure they’re scrambling trying to adjust to you guys.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the sheer energy Lynch exerted on that drive, which included five tough runs from the San Francisco 3 or closer, depleted Lynch. But not permanently. After purging in a trash can during Seattle’s next possession, Lynch returned for more of the same, dragging tacklers and bowling over linebackers, as the Seahawks grinded out the desperately needed win.

Lynch, of course, wasn’t around to talk about his exploits. That’s as much a part of Lynch’s repertoire as yards after contact. Before the locker room even opened to the media, Lynch emerged fully dressed, lugging a red backpack and heading into the night.

But his teammates spoke eloquently, as they love to do, about what an electrified Lynch means to them.

“He’s a warrior,’’ said running back Fred Jackson. “Even when he can’t get out there and perform the way he wants to in the beginning, he’s going to come back and give you everything he has. And it was very evident tonight.

“Any time you get a guy out there running like that, the whole sideline feeds off that.”

“I thought he was incredible,’’ added Willson. “He played unbelievable, broke a lot of tackles. It’s very cool to see when he’s running like that. It fuels our whole team.”

All this is new to a rookie like Tyler Lockett, but he was soaking it all in.

“I think it speaks volumes,’’ he said. “We have a tremendous amount of running backs on our team. As hard as Marshawn runs every time, you know even when he gets contact, he might get 3, 4, 5 more yards. We always want to be able to stay alive with our blocking and get him better ways to get the first down.”

It was vintage Lynch – “just normal Marshawn,’’ said fullback Will Tukuafu. And just in the nick of time for a team that needed its beast of burden.

Still some work to do
The Seahawks have started 3-4 seven times before this season. In none of those instances did they make the playoffs:
Year Finished
1978 9-7
1982 4-5*
1989 7-9
1990 9-7
1991 7-9
1994 6-10
2001 9-7
*Strike-shortened season
Most rushing TDs since 2011
Beast Mode dominates the list.
Player, team TDs
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks 50
Adrian Peterson, Vikings 37
Cam Newton, Panthers 36
Source: ESPN Stats & Info