It was apparent from virtually his first touch (of 27 carries, a season high) that Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls had an extra spring in his step. He was vibrant and explosive, taking every crease presented to him and bursting through with a purpose.
Recently, Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls heard from Marshawn Lynch, who wanted to make sure his successor’s mind was right heading into the playoffs.
On Saturday, Rawls unleashed the kind of tough, relentless and bruising running attack that Lynch made the Seahawks’ trademark in years, and playoffs, past.
It’s not surprising, then, that after the Seahawks’ 26-6 victory over the Lions — in which Rawls broke Lynch’s Seattle playoff rushing record with 161 yards — the consensus was that finally, in the nick of time, the Seahawks had rediscovered their essence.
“This felt like old times,” said Richard Sherman.
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“I’ve told you before: Everything runs through our run game,” said Doug Baldwin.
“We have a chance to really put our formula together the way we want to, and I’m hoping this is a great indication of that, and Thomas is right in the middle of it,” said Pete Carroll.
It took a breakout effort by Seattle’s much-maligned offensive line to open the holes that sprung Rawls. As tackle Garry Gilliam said: “No one else in this country believes in our offensive line, so why not us? Why not go out and show them who we are, who we know we can be, and put this team on our back, if we need to.”
It was apparent from virtually his first touch (of 27 carries, a season high) that Rawls had an extra spring in his step. He was vibrant and explosive, taking every crease presented to him and bursting through with a purpose. After a three-game stretch in which he gained just 56 yards on 37 carries, Rawls played with a spirit and aplomb that was contagious.
“I wasn’t here last year (in the playoffs),” he said. “I broke my ankle, and was sitting on the couch. I said, when I got to this point, I was going to do what I had to do.”
Last year’s broken ankle became this year’s broken fibula, wiping out much of Rawls’ season. But Carroll sees the promise of the immediate future, not the frustration of the past, when he assesses Rawls.
“We’ve been patiently waiting for the opportunity for it to pop, and it finally did,” he said. “This is when it matters. He’s healthy, although he got beat down a little tonight. This is the guy we fell in love with last year and haven’t seen a lot of. It just hasn’t happened. But who cares? We’ve got a game this week, and we’re still playing.”
It was Rawls’ toughness at Western Michigan that jumped out at Carroll and Seahawks’ evaluators, but they weren’t sure if it would translate to the pro game. After last year’s preseason, they still didn’t know. But once a Lynch injury gave Rawls his chance, he vindicated their faith by rushing for 830 yards, with games of 209, 169, 104 and 101 yards, before the injury wiped out the remainder of his season.
“His aggressiveness and attitude running the football is exactly what we want to stand for,’’ Carroll said. “It’s been difficult for him this season, of course, because he broke his leg in Game 2. It’s been a horrible season for him. Because he had so much he wanted to do. His expectations were so high. But all of that doesn’t matter any more. Now it’s time to keep going, and I’m thrilled for him. He needs to feel this, feel the support and love and, really, the success, so he can feel himself.”
Rest assured, Rawls felt it all, and he gave it right back. He is a boisterous presence on the field, particularly after his 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that put the game safely out of reach.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m still a kid from Flint, Michigan, with heart and toughness. When I get excited, I jump around a lot and try to show it and express it. Our offensive line loves it when I jump up and give a head butt. I’m grateful just to touch the football. I’m even more grateful to get to the end zone.”
Rawls’ success was the offensive line’s success, as well, and the two elements were in perfect synch. That bodes well for the future, though Atlanta will provide a tougher test next Saturday. Gilliam said there was no huge change in schemes or plays; more like an epiphany of will and commitment by the o-linemen — or perhaps just a weariness at being the team’s scapegoat.
“Nothing magic,” Gilliam said. “It was just a matter of going out and having the (guts) to do it.”
Rawls said all that was conveyed, wordlessly, throughout the course of the game.
“It’s kind of silent in the huddle,” he said. “We have this thing where we give each other a look, look each other in the eye. It’s a whole different connection, deeper. There’s a lot of feeling, a real connection you’ve got to maintain. You can’t put it into words.”
Rawls didn’t have to. He put it into action. Lynch needn’t have worried. Rawls’ mind, and body, were both right, at just the right time.
|Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls had rushed for 123 yards combined over Seattle’s final four regular-season games:|