RENTON — While the Seahawks had a really extensive — and fun and interesting — history with Marshawn Lynch heading into the game last weekend against the 49ers, it wasn’t clear what Seattle was getting in this version of the now 33-year-old Lynch, who hadn’t played in 14 months.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” coach Pete Carroll said of Lynch’s much-ballyhooed return against the 49ers.
Now they do.
Lynch played better than his numbers — 32 yards on 12 carries — might indicate, impressing the team with some bursts in the second half, particularly back-to-back runs for 23 yards that set up Seattle’s first touchdown in the third quarter.
And he was poised to get the ball to score the winning touchdown at the 1-yard line in the final seconds before the much-discussed delay-of-game penalty moved the Seahawks back.
With Lynch now having another full week of practice under his belt, Carroll says he will be an even bigger part of the team’s game plan Sunday for the wild-card playoff matchup at Philadelphia.
“He can do everything we are doing,” Carroll said. “He’s got the whole game plan.”
Lynch had had just four practices before the 49ers game, and that might have played a part in the infamous delay penalty. Seattle was in two-minute drive mode on the final series, which requires lots of at-the-line communication and for the running back to get the proper calls to pass protect, if needed. And with a different offensive coordinator and offensive terminology from Lynch’s first stint with the Seahawks, Seattle hadn’t had time to get Lynch fully up to speed.
That Lynch hadn’t been expecting to be in for that drive helped lead to the personnel change issues that contributed to the delay.
But none of that should be an issue this week.
What the Seahawks now also know is how rookie Travis Homer will react to being called on to start and also carry a heavy share of the load. The sixth-round draft choice out of Miami responded with 62 yards on 10 carries as well as five receptions on five targets.
And that has Carroll again feeling comfortable that the team has the kind of 1-2 punch that has always been the team’s preferred mode of offensive operation.
It was something Seattle was getting late in the season with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, maybe best illustrated during the 17-9 victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia on Nov. 24. In that game, when Carson got off to a sluggish start, the team turned to Penny, who responded with a career-high 129 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that put the game away.
Season-ending injuries to Penny and Carson forced Seattle to sign Lynch (as well as Robert Turbin) and elevate Homer to starting status.
The Homer-Lynch-Turbin trio had a total of just eight carries for the 2019 season (all by Homer) heading into last week leading even the ever-optimistic Carroll to wonder how it would all come together.
“It really does feel different than it was a week ago at this time,” Carroll said. “We feel confident that we have a really nice mix in our style of runs from our guys. So it’s a different feeling that we know what we’ve got this time around.”
Exactly how that will manifest itself Sunday in terms of carries is hard to know — Carroll obviously wasn’t going to divulge that this week.
And it won’t be easy to get any running game going against an Eagles team that ranked third in the NFL against the run this year at 90.1 per game (though Seattle did in the first meeting with 174), especially with left tackle Duane Brown ruled out after having minor knee surgery last week.
The assumption is Homer will again start with Carroll on Friday again singing his praises. Homer had 50 snaps last week to Lynch’s 23 (Turbin did not play on offense but did see action on special teams).
“We know what he looks like,” Carroll said of Homer. “We know how he fits the offense. We just have a better feel for him now and just need (to get him) more shots at our opponent. He played really, really well.”
But the team also now knows it can depend on Lynch.
Carroll had speculated last week that it was the week AFTER Lynch played his first game that might be the toughest for him in terms of his physical recovery from his first significant football action since Oct. 14, 2018 (when Lynch suffered a season-ending groin injury playing for Oakland in a game against Seattle played in London).
But Lynch handled it just fine and was not limited in practice this week.
“He had a really good week,” Carroll said. “It seemed like it was smooth for him all the way throughout. He felt really good all the way through the practices. Took all the reps that he needed to take. I’m a little surprised at that. I thought maybe it would take more of a toll in the first game but it didn’t. So we are in good shape going in.”