Rawls rushes for 106 yards, two touchdowns and gets a surprise sideline visit from former teammate Marshawn Lynch.
Thomas Rawls has surprisingly nimble feet for a man of his stature.
The Seahawks’ second-year running back isn’t stout, exactly. Rawls is just solid, thick, blessed with a low center of gravity that is advantageous in his line of work.
He’s patient, too – he gets those feet chopping, waiting for a crease to open up.
He felt especially limber when he woke up on Sunday morning before Seattle’s night game against the Carolina Panthers, Rawls’ third since returning from injury.
“I was feeling loose. I felt different. I was feeling lighter on my feet,” Rawls said. “I felt like I could make some cuts that I wasn’t making at first – just trusting my eyes and my vision and those big boys up front.”
Rawls ran through, over and around the Panthers during Seattle’s 40-7 rout of Carolina on Sunday night at CenturyLink Field.
Rawls rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, adding just three more yards after the break. A significant chunk of that yardage came on one play, when he gashed Carolina up the middle for a 45-yard score early in the second quarter.
He posted those stats despite having missed the final six minutes and change of the first half after taking a hard shot from Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. Rawls was taken to the locker room to undergo concussion protocol, returning to action only on the other side of halftime. He was less dominant after intermission, but he didn’t need to be.
Marshawn Lynch picked an appropriate night to make a cameo appearance on the Seahawks sideline, checking in on a player who he mentored during their single season together.
“He didn’t tell me,” said Rawls, who also had his father and uncles at CenturyLink. “Usually, (Lynch) sends me a text to let me know when he’s in town. I was so excited when I saw him, man.”
Comparisons between the heir apparent and his predecessor are inevitable, if slightly unfair to Rawls. They are subtly different rushers, and Lynch left behind a legacy in Seattle that will be hard to even approach.
There is something familiar, however, about the primal roar Rawls’ long runs evoked from the CenturyLink crowd.
“He’s a beast,” Seattle center Justin Britt said of Rawls. “They call him ‘The Train’ for a reason. When Thomas is out there giving us the juice and running the way that he does, it really boosts our enthusiasm and our energy – just like Marshawn did when he was here. Just to have a back who is willing to throw his body out there and fight for extra yardage, it shows how much he loves his brothers.
“That definitely set the tone for the day. We just kept it going.”
Rawls suffered a hairline fracture in his fibula Week 2 in Los Angeles. The Seahawks will hope that he’s previously just been shaking off rust, and that this pile-driving version of Rawls is his true default setting.
“If you go back over the past couple of games, you probably didn’t see the cuts I was making today,” Rawls said. “It just comes from hard work and preparation.”
With confidence came that preternatural patience, waiting for the running lanes to open up and for his blockers to clear a path downfield.
“I don’t have to forcibly take a game,” Rawls said. “I can let a game come to me. My body is the machine, and I believe that God gives us all the tools to be able to go out there. A lot of us are chosen for these gifts. We just have to accept those gifts. I went out there clear-minded and focused.”
With Rawls rolling and Russell Wilson sharp, the Seattle offense was borderline unstoppable. They put up 309 total yards in the first half alone – en route to a season-high 534 on the night — coasting to a 23-7 halftime lead despite having to settle for three field goals.
Rawls laid the groundwork, feet chopping and shoulders squared, setting the tone early for the beatdown that was to follow.